Madrid is littered with centuries’ old buildings and offers the architect and the foodie a welcoming respite from walking through the no-shade sun drenched Indian summer or sleet-ridden wintered worn streets and plazas.
Croquetas and Bacalao from Casa Labra
Since the Middle Ages travelers reached Madrid by horse or stagecoach in anticipation of the taverns that awaited them. Today, smack dab in the epicenter of Puerta del Sol, one can still quench the thirst and hunger assumed by far and wide travel. Established in 1860, and frequented by the Spanish Workers’ Socialist Party founded in this very spot 1879, Casa Labra continues to dish out hot meals and tap out draft beers.
Don’t be fooled by the appearance of this restaurant/bar/food-stop listed in almost every guide book on Earth, in fact it’s a Madrid institution. Whether or not you have been introduced to salted and dried cod fish, you’ll quickly learn that bacalao is an essential element of a Spaniard’s diet. This place specializes in it; frying up some of most famous cod fritters and cod croquettes this side of the Atlantic. In standard Madrid fashion, it’s open late and fills up fast, so be prepared to queue.
Calle de Tetuán 12
Madrid Spain 28013
Tapas at Mercado de San Miguel
Finding a shop to make your sandwich on the premises while you browse the gefilte fish and bagel offerings will not be a discovery in Madrid, at least not in this day and age. That being said there are popular and historic markets speckled throughout the city that appease locals and guiris alike with an array of tapas and bite-size finger foods to enjoy along the bar, or wherever you can manage to elbow your own personal space. El Mercado de San Miguel, an iconic 20th century steel covered market, is just the spot for this Madrid experience. And since you can pretty much drink anywhere in Spain, it’s also an excellent location to pair your snack with a glass of wine (vino del paà s). On Sundays – unlike most storefronts – the Mercado de San Miguel is busier than ever.
Arrive early for a unique “brunch” of raw shucked oysters and cava (the Catalan equivalent to champagne), plates full of jamón ibérico and Manchego cheese or even pick out your fish from one of the vendors and watch them prepare it onsite. However, there is much more than meets the belly; gourmets can browse the gastronomic bookstore, the architecture (modeled after the original Les Halles Paris) impresses any Ebenezer Scrooge and the ambiance of people’s excitement to be sharing what they love best – company and food – rises above all.
Plaza de San Miguel
Madrid Spain 28005
Dessert or Breakfast Pastries at Horno del Pozo
Spaniards may claim to be fit and healthy, abiding strictly to a Mediterranean or a fresh food lifestyle, but truth be told they are huge sweet enthusiasts. Breakfast generally consists of a coffee with milk and sugar or a hot chocolate with some sort of pastry. Also let it be known that the entire country takes an essentially mandatory snack time break at 5pm, the merienda, which is a calorie packed way of tiding over growling stomachs until the late Spanish dinner at 10pm. This mini-meal is almost always a sweet – especially for children – and could be a muffin, a small bag of cookies, or a bread roll smeared with Nocilla (the Spanish branded version of Nutella).
More and more, as industrialized products “facilitate” our lives, the once homemade sweets mentioned above are now being processed, packaged and sold in Costco-style sized bags for quick, easy and mindless consumption. To find a bakery that continuously puts the time and effort into baking treats worthy of calorie consumption is getting more difficult. That said, Horno del Pozo is a living example of tradition frozen in time, the year 1830 to be exact. Walking past the shop will put our glycemic indices on high – in a good way. Walking past without entering however, would be a crime. Marvel at the well kept marble counter, chat with the owners, steal a peek at the antique cash register (still in use!) and certainly grab a treat for the road.
Calle Pozo 8
Madrid Spain 28012
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