Mariano Benlliure sculpture of Spanish Admiral Álvaro de Bazán sits in Madrid's Plaza de la Villa.
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Madrid is Spain’s capital and Europe’s third largest city. Given that scope, it’s no surprise people can eat quite well while exploring landmarks like Museo Nacional Del Prado, Parque del Retiro and Plaza Mayor. Find 16 places to eat and drink in Madrid, listed alphabetically. As tour guide Sean Retana said, “The sooner you make Spain part of your life, the better.”
5. Chocolateria San Ginés
On a side street by the historic Church of San Ginés, people snake down the block for churros and hot chocolate. Chocolateria San Ginés dates to 1894 and still features dapper servers in white coats, sidewalk seats, and a dining room with marbles tables and green photo-lined walls. Churros are ridged, crisp and have good give. Porras are thicker, un-ridged, and soak up more fryer oil. Both styles are brilliant when dipped in rich, pudding-like chocolate.
MUST ORDER: Chocolate y Churros, Chocolate y Porras
6. El Imperio
One of Madrid’s most hallowed temples of mushroom cookery is El Imperio, which has thrived for over three decades in the city’s Chamberí neighborhood. The corner cafe from León born owners features white clothed tables, a marble-rimmed counter, and mushrooms stenciled on windows, and featured on wall-mounted posters. In season, you’re likely to find 10 types of mushrooms on display, including Boletus, Lengua de Vaca, and Niscalos, which are all fair game. Lengua de Vaca, cow’s tongue mushrooms, are especially satisfying, firm and tan, with sweetness from stir-fried onion and garlic. Calçots aren’t mushrooms, but they are damn good, cooked a la plancha, finished with olive oil and sea salt, and served with Romesco. Cardillos, dandelion stems, are equally savory, scrambled with eggs and served in a cazuela.
MUST ORDER: Calçots a la Plancha,, Cardillos Silvestres, Lengua de Vaca
7. Fábrica Maravillas
This fashionable brewpub from a Chicago expat debuted in Madrid’s trendy Malasaña neighborhood in 2012, featuring a stainless steel bar, high-top wood and glass tables, a moss-framed window, and frosted brick walls planted with customers’ pennies. American-style IPAs are prevalent, and may even course through a bar-top Randall. During my visit, they ran Citra, Cascade and Mosaic hops through the rig to accentuate their FL(IPA). Saison is also a beautiful beer, citrusy, with a dry finish. According to my friend Randy Clemens, who suggested FM, “They had to become classified as a yeast importer just to get stuff from White Labs.” The results were worth the added effort.
MUST ORDER: (FL)IPA, Valverde Saison
8. Federal Café
This stylish cafe near Museo ABC in Conde Duque built on the success of a sister establishment in Barcelona. This park-side coffeehouse features a glass front, marble tables and pastry counter, white walls sporting rattlesnake diagrams, and wood counters facing the narrow street. The owners clearly spared no expense, as evidenced by the Heath Ceramics and sleek La Marzocco three-group espresso machine. Drinks that emanate from said machine are worth ordering, whether it’s a Cafe con Leche, Cappuccino, or Short Black. Of course, not everybody craves caffeine. Given that, they blend juices like Batido Verde de Tommy, a green slurry of apple, cucumber, celery, chia seeds, spinach and lime. LSD is even trippier, a dandelion soy latte. Federal also has a full food program, including gachas (warm oat bran) graced with chai mascarpone and candied walnuts, along with several toasts, none better than rye bread with avocado, lemon and black sesame seeds.
MUST ORDER: Batido Verde de Tommy, Cafe con Leche, Gachas, LSD, Rye Toast, Short Black
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