I live in central Madrid so my tapas bar recommendations will weigh most heavily on the places that I frequent or that I like. Or that are notable, historical or otherwise special. I am not going to do an exhaustive list as Madrid has more restaurants/bars per capita than any other city in the world. The goal is to show you were the locals go, or at least some of them!
La Latina: This area is just down from the Plaza Mayor in central Madrid, it also has its own metro stop called La Latina. The area is known for its wine bars offering excellent Spanish wines and innovative tapas. Also in the same area are many famous restaurants offering traditional Madrid fare. From the Plaza Mayor head down the steps to Cuchilleros, cross Segovia and continue on Cava Baja. All along it are great eating establishments and at the end is a lovely set of plazas and outdoor terraces, Pl. de los Carros and San Andres.
- Tempranillo -Cava Baja, 38. I like their pride in Spanish wines, they have a wall full of bottles and a sign that says they serve “Solo Vino Español” The selection is great, its one of the few places I have been to in Madrid that will serve a wine from the Priorat by the glass. Tasty tapas as well. Go soon after it opens at 8pm if you want one of the tables, its very popular, which maybe is why the barmen don’t go out of their way to make you comfortable. Also open in the day 12:00 to 4pm. Tel. 91 364 1532
- La Concha – Cava Baja, 7. A light, airy Mediterranean feel, La Concha is a small and friendly wine bar with a nice selection of Spanish wines, cava, and sophisticated tapas. Tel. 91 365 0551
- La Chata – Cava Baja, 24. Tapas bar and restaurant recommended by Gary. Also a good selection of traditional food and as their tiles claim: jamón de jabugo.Tel. 913 661 458
Casa Lucas – Cava Baja, 30. This wine bar offers a good selection of wines by the glass and its tapas are imaginative and traditional at the same time. Try their “Madrid” tapa with scrambled egg and morcilla. Friendly service. Tel. 913 650 804
- Casa Lucio – Cava Baja, 35. Tel. 913 653 252. One of THE well-known Madrid standards. Casa Lucio serves up quality traditional Madrileño dishes. Frequented by the famous and not-famous, royalty and commoners, locals and tourists alike. Try their huevos rotos, tripe, ham, and more in this traditional, simple yet elegant restaurant. Reservations are a good idea. www.casalucio.es
Almendro 13 – C/Almendro, 13. Around the corner from Cava Baja. El Almendro is very popular, its everyone’s favorite for the informal tasty tapas, especially “huevos rotos” and their “rosca” sandwiches. No red wine or coke, they serve only clear drinks beer, white wine and dry sherry.
Juana La Loca – Plaza Puerta de Moros 4. In the heart of La Latina near this stylish bar/restaurant with Basque style pintxos has a good price to quality ratio, although its not cheap. They claim Gwyneth Paltrow ate here, but the reason I go is for their pintxo of tortilla española with carmalized onions with a glass of Cava. Their other tapas with a modern, inovative and international flair are very tasty as well. Tel. 91 364 0525
- Almacen de Vinos – Calle Calatrava, 21. Also called Taberna Gerardo this historical bar has two huge vats which used to hold wine that would be sold to the locals. Now it serves great tapas and a nice variety of Spanish wines. Friendly staff who will help you choose what to order.
Puerta Del Sol: This area is quite touristy but thats not a reason to stay away, there are lots of good tapas bars around also frequented by locals. The area between Puerta del Sol and Plaza Santa is full of practically nothing else but tapas bars and more bars.
- Casa Labra - Calle Tetuan, 12. Right next to the Corte Inglés building just off the plaza Puerta del Sol is a bar we go to drink little glasses of beer (cañas) or vermouth and more importantly to enjoy the house specialty for which the bar is famous, cod croquettes and fried cod pieces. Its also one of the older bars in the city and known for having been the place the Socialist party was founded in 1860. Order and pay for your tapas as you enter then drinks at the bar. (Save the wine tasting for another place, trust me.)
- El Abuelo – Calle Victoria, 12. Since 1906 El Abuelo, which is named for the sweet wine it serves from Alicante, has served its specialty, grilled shrimp and prawns. There are no stools which is good because the place is always packed.
- Casa Alhambra – Calle Victoria, 9. This bar is a monument to the Alhambra in Granada and its beautiful inside and out with its painted tiles. Traditional tapas if a bit touristy considering the location.
- La Venencia – Calle Echagaray, 7. Wonderful old time atmosphere, no frills and fantastico sherry.
- Taberna de Antonio Sánchez – C/ Meson de Paredes, 13. South from the plaza Tirso de Molina we find this historic “tavern” dating back to 1830, famous for the bullfighters, flamenco artists who frequented it during the years. Boasts traditional tapas such as the Tortilla de San Isidro, tripe, morcilla with rasins and the ubiquitous Madrid dish, broken eggs over potatoes.
Plaza Mayor area:
- Mesón de la Guitarra – Cava de San Miguel, 13. Its my favorite “cave” under the Plaza Mayor and has a great warm and fun atmosphere. Authentic brick walls and most nights have a live guitarrist. Go for the sangria, fried chorizo and tortilla española.
- Bodegas Ricla – Calle Cuchilleros, 6. An authentic bar dating from 1910 has standing room only and lots of character. Try the “Canapé de bacalao” or “boquerones en vinagre.”
- El Torre del Oro – In the Plaza Mayor, this is the famous bullfighting bar, complete with bull heads and gory pictures of bullfights. Its touristy and not cheap compared to other places but its also got a feeling that says, “Welcome to Spain!”
Opera and Royal Palace area:
- El Anciano Rey de los Vinos – Calle Bailén, 19. Opened in 1907 and still maintains the tiles and decoration of the time. Aparantly Alfonso XIII liked to stop by for a wine. There is beer and vermouth on tap and various tapas. If you are in the mood for someting sweet try the “torrijas” which are like American french toast and are wonderful. Its located just across the street from the Cathedral la Almudena and a great place to relax in the outdoor terrace after a visit to the Royal Palace.
- Casa Ciriaco – Calle Mayor 84, Around the corner from El Anciano Rey de los Vinos is this Madrid standard dating from 1897. The walls are decorated with celebrities through the ages who frequented the place which includes royalty, writers, painters, etc. Many traditional tapas and its also a restaurant for sit down meals. A real, Madrid experience.
- La Cruzada – Calle Amnestía 8, It’s the oldest bar in Madrid but just retains the bar from that era. A great wine bar offering fine wines by the glass and classy and inventive tapas and raciones. Also has a small dining room with tables for raciones. Tel. 91 548 0131