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Chowing in Madrid for six months - feedback on the itinerary?

Hey 'hounds,

I'm about to embark on my study abroad semester in Madrid - I'll be there in about five days, and will stay until June. I've tried to look at some past threads on the board, so I'd really appreciate any input you may have about the places I've put on the to-chow list - any updates on the food, whether another place would be better, etc. Some spots are from guidebooks, so I'm not sure how reliable those would be...

General tabernas/tapas places:
- Casa del Abuelo (for gambas al ajillo)
- La Ardosa
- La Bola
- Los Gabrieles
- El Sobrino del Botín
- Taberna Almendio
- Taberna Antonio Sanchez
- Viva Madrid
- La Barbuja Que Rie (for fabada and cidra)
- Casa Mira (for sweets, especially turrón)
- Las Bravas (for patatas bravas...is this more of a tourist trap?)
- Casa Albert
- Casa Lucas
- Cerveceria Cervantes
- Los Gatos (for boquerones)
- Museo del Jamón (for iberico ham)
- La Toscana
- El Tempanilla

On the Cava Baja, I've gotten recs for:
- Giangrossi (artisanal helado)
- El Viajero (the 3rd-floor terrace and canhas)
- Tapa Sentao (cheese churros)

For chocolate con churros (worthy of its own category) my plan - following butterfly's rec - is to go to Chocolateria San Ginés and get chocolate to go, then have it with churros from Múñiz...

For places that resemble actual restaurants:
- Kawara (cheap Japanese, though I'm not sure whether I'd crave it that badly (I'm originally from NYC, and we have enough Japanese food here)
- Pausa
- Ribeira Do Miño (Galician seafood)
- and a Chinese restaurant, name unknown, near the Plaza España metro...the entrance is apparently at the corner of an underground parking lot. It seems like a great chow-ish find, though the details I have (from a friend's vague rec) aren't too promising.

ANY feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!

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  1. Do you know what neighborhoods you will be living in and/or spending most of your time in? That might help to narrow things down.

    Some of the places on your list aren't bad, but skew touristy and aren't necessarily worth going out of your way for if you live here, because every neighborhood has spots that serve similar food--for example, Las Bravas, Cervecería Cervantes, La burbuja que rie, Casa del Abuelo (I don't like this last place at all--their wine is inexusably foul and good gambas are a dime a dozen here)... Some are more for atmosphere, not food--El Viajero, Los Gabrieles (not even sure it is still open...).

    For Chinese, I like Buenaventura on c/Silva, 25 (northern Chinese dumplings, hot pots, soups)--order from the menu toward the front. There's another hole-in-the-wall place nearby on c/Silva that I like that's on the block between Plaza de la Luna and Gran Via on the west side. The place in the parking lot under Plaza de España isn't bad for noodle soups. You get to it by going down the stairs in the northeast corner. There's also a chinese grocer down there.

    And a few corrections on spellings, just so you have an easier time finding the places:

    - Taberna Almendro (near la Cava Baja)
    - La Burbuja Que Rie (for fabada and sidra)
    - El Tempranillo (on la Cava Baja)

    It really isn't hard to find good food here--as long as you can adjust your stomach to eat the right things at the right times (you'll soon learn that unlike in the US, there is a time and a place for everything...). If you have any non-chowish questions, you can contact me off the board at m at alpha60 dot com. You will love it here.

    2 Replies
    1. re: butterfly

      Wow, thanks - especially for steering me away from the touristy spots; guess that's why I figured chowhound would be better than guidebooks alone. I'm based in NYC (and I'm Chinese), so the rec for the underground Chinese restaurant was more for novelty than anything else...I may opt to just forego Chinese food altogether while I'm there, since I have it all the time at home, but I'm saving those recs just in case I get a sudden craving.

      I really love Spanish food (or at least the pseudo-tapas we have here in the states) and I'm not a picky eater, so the only thing I'm truly concerned about is that I haven't heard much of anything about vegetables and fruits. Though a diet consisting entirely of seafood, paella, and patatas bravas sounds irresistable...

      I'll be staying with a host family, but won't get the details (location, etc.) until I arrive in a few days. I know that the group orientation, which is this Wednesday until Saturday, will be at the Hotel Regina (on c/Alcala, 19). I think that's near the Puerta del Sol area, so that should be fun!

      Thanks again, and I'm sure I'll be bothering you at some point or another :)

      1. re: butterfly

        Update on the Chinese food: found the underground place in the parking lot (Plaza de Espana) - thanks for the clear directions - really great place, very popular and very small. The soup dumplings are not the traditional soup dumplings that we have in the states, and resembled wonton soup more than anything else, but were good. The hand-pulled noodles (think it's "handmade noodles" on the menu) are impressive. The pyramid-shaped sticky rice was the only real disappointment on the menu - very bland and lacking in the usual variety of ingredients one would find inside.

        They were out of the "new year's cake" when I went, but I was told it was savory and not sweet. As far as I know, traditional new year's "cake" is usually a brown-ish paste dipped in egg and cooked on the wok, and IS sweet...anyone know what their version is like?

      2. I agree about Abuelo. I went on the first couple of visits as it was opposite Orejo Del Oro, but now that's closed there is no reason to go at all. The best gambas I had in Madrid were at a small place on the way to Ventas, but I will have to dig out the name

        Los Gabrieles was closed last time I was there at the end of September and being gutted.

        Venecia on the same street, although on the trail now, is still one of my favourite sherry bars.

        I also recommend Fide in Ponzano ( specialises in tapa from tins and jars ) and Bonar De Leon near Plaza Espana.


        1. Hola otra vez, I'm in the colonia Parque de San Juan Bautista (Ave. de la Paz on the metro). Doesn't seem like it's much of a fooding area, but thought it wouldn't hurt to update. Spain is INCREDIBLE.

          So far I've been to Chocolateria San Gines and Giangrossi - not many other places that are chow-worthy, but Giangrossi was great and the chocolateria was absolutely delicious. Thanks again for the recs, and I look forward to more chowing :)

          1. I know of one place near the Avenida de la Paz metro:

            Casa d'a Troya
            Emiliano Barral, 14

            It's a traditional gallego place specializing in seafood. Definitely worth checking out. I don't know the area too well, but I think there should be some good stuff nearby around the Alfonso XIII and Prosperidad stops (one/two stops down your line), as well.

            Here's one for Prosperidad:

            CASA EMILIO.- C/ López de Hoyos, 98

            I've never been, but it's on a list that I have of places to check out...

            1 Reply
            1. re: butterfly

              Muchas gracias, I'm so excited to go exploring - there seems to be endless amounts of Madrid (and Spain, of course) to wander around, which is amazing. I don't think I've ever eaten so well in my life. Will report back!

            2. I had one real meal when I was in Madrid (I was only there a few days) and it was at Botin. That was 10 years ago and I can still taste the black sausage and roast suckling pig.

              1. First, I am very jealous. Did a semester in Madrid 3 yrs ago and had the best time. Make sure to get your travelling in as well. But if you like coffees, teas chocolate and a great little dessert place (take a girl) go to "el jardin secreto". It is near calle princessa on calle san bernardino. Also there is a great place in the subway station, the stop by universidad cumpletansa, for orejas (sweet pastry, looks like a giant ear). I would stay away from museo de jamon and other touristy places.. Also make sure to go to the supermarkets and el corte ingles. And find the local "bar" near your "home." They will serve breakfast and dinner and have an idea of great places in the neighborhood. And most importantly make friends with spainards in your classes, they are full of useful information.

                2 Replies
                1. re: ajr524

                  Slow progress being made, but I still haven't been to the Museo del Jamon. El Jardin Secreto was really charming but couldn't take the large group of americanas I was with...will try again some other time, maybe with a madrileño (yep, I am a girl actually, but agree that it is a great date place). Haven't been to the Corte Inglés yet, though I might explore it soon (before the rebajas are over)...

                  Found a GREAT tapas place the other day, called Maceiras (?) on c/Huertas - really great seafood, a good cheese plate, and lots of wine. I actually opted for a white, for the first time since I've been in Spain, and it was really good; wonder why I still am surprised by how good everything is here.

                  We were recommended a place called Leche de Pantera, near the metro Argüelles, where they serve giant glasses of drinks and the place looks like a cave...no idea how that will work out, but hope it'll be interesting.

                  I start studying at the Autónoma next month, so I do hope to meet a lot of Spaniards!

                  1. re: theannerska

                    I lived less than a 10 min walk from leche de pantera...its basically a college-type bar with very large drinks to share with friends. It is def fun and make sure to get the milk-based drink. Very interesting way they pour it...will let you see it when u get there. Glad you found Jardin Secreto.

                2. Ribero (the galician place) is not touristy. You have to take a number at the bar and wait to be seated. I went back in October and we were the only gringos there. They have great octopus and a seafood platter that is HUGE!

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: jcmods

                    Just in case anyone wants to do a search, the correct spelling for this place is Ribeira Do Miño. It's near metro Tribunal (between Chueca and Malasaña) on Santa Brígida.

                    P.S. No gringos in Spain, just guiris...

                    1. re: butterfly

                      Haha! Though the guiris are really something else...I'm Chinese so I've long given up on any hope of "blending in."

                      Can't wait to try Ribeira Do Miño.

                      Had great sushi at Sushi Itto the other night (I think it's on Recoletos?), which seems like a very popular destination - some friends and I just stumbled on it after having drinks and (very good) oysters in a bar across the street.

                      1. re: butterfly

                        Tried it tonight - the seafood platter is GREAT and the place was packed. Decent bottle of ribeiro and definitely get the queimada gallega for dessert (you'll see...). The table next to us was a larger party, and so had more stomach space for some pimientos, pulpo and almejas...I was very jealous. Will have to try those next time. Didn't get a good look at the menu, but everything seems to be reasonably priced too...

                    2. Bump:

                      La Gata de Flora, just off c/Fuencarral, for great Italian at great prices. A friend and I shared an appetizer and two entrees - a pasta salad, bowl of spaghetti with oil and garlic (simple but really delicious), and a pizza with pulpo. The bill was 22e total. It's packed all the time, so bigger parties would need reservations. Definitely worth a trip!

                      1. hey, now that you have been in Madrid for awhile I am sure you have learned about your list. First off, Los gabrieles closed down, which is too bad since it was a really cool bar on calle Echegaray. Ribeiro do Miño, like jcmods said, is really really good and no frills and defintiely NOT touristy. great seafood and lots of it! Las Bravas is now a chain but the original place is still good with excellent papas bravas. La Burbuja que Rie is okay, but the BESt place for authentic FABADA is Casa Portal on Calle Doctor Castelo, or Casa Lastra near Anton Martin metro. You are right about casa de Abuelo for gambas but El Botin is too expensive and now very touristy and you cant smoke there!!! Thne there is this really cool autentico place near Anton martin as well that is a great and chep place to eat for lunch, if you dont mind bullfighters and bullfighting parafernelia, Chanquetes....Enjoy

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: lizardo9

                          lizardo9, thanks for your recs. I've tried to append some of my impressions from the recs on this thread, though I definitely haven't made as much progress as I've wanted to - our program matched us with host families, so I've been lucky enough to experience real Spanish homecooking. It's my last month here, so I'm mapping out some tapas routes and doing the best I can to get in one last bite of jamon...will post more soon!