Tapas in Madrid – Bar el Gallego
Spain is know world wide for its “tapas” which means “to cover.” Tapas originated in Andalusia, the southern Mediterranean coastal region of Spain. There bar owners would serve a drink of sherry with a slice of bread on top to “cover” the glass to keep out fruitflies. Overtime a slice of ham, cheese, or other foods were added on top of the bread. Today tapas can be very simple and free, or incredibly elaborate with complex flavor for a reasonable price. Since the Spanish like to eat dinner after 10 pm, and as late as midnight, bar hopping and eating tapas to hold you over until dinner has become a both a tradition, and as well as a chance to catch up with friends and family at a quaint corner plaza bar.
Tapas or pinchos, meaning toothpick (pintxos if they are from the Bosque region), have come become a way for each region to show off its culinary perspective as well as its local agricultural specialties. In the interior of Spain, near the olive plantations, your tapas might feature a delightful tapenade, while in southern Spain it likely includes something from the sea, and in the northern Basque country where you will find several Michelin rated restaurants, your pintxos may include some of the best lamb cheese with Iberian ham covered with a light, but perfect sauce.
Calle Cava De San Miguel
At night Meson if full and bustling
Just outside the south west corner of Plaza Mayor is Calle Cava de San Miguel. This area is known by Madrileños (residents of Madrid) as the prime area for a collection of the best tapas restaurants in Madrid. While in Spain, do what the Spanish do. Start at one bar, have a drink and one or two tapas, and then move to another restaurant. Each will have its own specialty, and the fun is in exploring, sampling, and of course, most of all enjoying your time with your friends.
Chueca (Gay District)
If you are near the Gran Via Metro stop, or in the gay district of Chueca, and you want to try some authentic Spanish tapas, go to El Tigre in Chueca. El Tigre has two locations now – Calle de las Infantas, 28 (same street as HOT bar) and Calle de Hortaleza (across the street but near Mel’s Diner). The original El Tige on las Infantas was frequently so busy you could never get in it. The locals in Madrid pack this place after work. The prices are very reasonable and the quality of food is very good. If you can’t make it to the San Miguel area, check out El Tigre.