Tapas & Drinks in Madrid and Sevilla
I'm from the States and will be heading out to Madrid and Sevilla on 26/5/07. I don't want to make a fool of myself..so I must ask..what's the proper way to "Tapiar"? When we walk into a restaurant, will it be self explanatory or will we look like deer in headlights and not know what to do??? I speak Spanish, so I doubt the language will be too much of a barrier. Although our Spanish is not the same, I'm sure we'll be ok. I do have to say I will be staying away from the "orejas." Any bit of advice would help. We are also spending the day in Toledo. Any restaurant recommendations? Also, I know Sangria is the total tourist thing to order, so I won't be ordering that. What's a good typical Spanish drink? Thanks!
Walk into the first moderately but not overly crowded place you come upon, so you can get to the bar easily but aren't the only people in the place looking all deer-eyed. Order a vino tinto. The bartender will pour you something cheap and red and you will be surprised at how not-at-all-bad it is. Never order white wine in Spain. It is possible to find good ones but the risks far outweigh the dangers. If there is a tap dispensing vermut (vermouth) definitely definitely definitely order one or three or six.
Once you're properly lubricated, the whole process of getting tapas becomes much easier. You can eat what the bartender tossed at you (if he did) and head out to the next place. Or if something looks good from the menu (often on the wall behind the bar) order some. Take advantage of your touristical nature and ask the bartender about things on the menu you've never heard of ("what are 'gallinejas'?" can get things off to a good start). Don't let your american instincts keep you from trying new things. Orejas are actually pretty good. And things like morcilla, mollejas, and those big plates of deep fried sardines can be truly and uniquely delicious.
When you get to Sevilla, you're getting close to the epicenter of sherries and fortified wines. Magic words like "fino", "oloroso", "malaga", and most especially "palo cortado" will cause glasses filled with wonderful liquids to appear in front of you.
Walk in, head held high, walk up to the bar and greet one and all. Smile, and address the bartender, and say, "¿Que nos recomiende?
Or look over the assortment atop the bar or in the barside glass case and pick out something that looks good.
You can hardly go wrong with shrimp in any form, there's various types of cuttlefish: sepie, calamares, chipiriones, in different preparations. Tortilla de Patatas is ok, but by the time your visit is over, you will be sick of it.
Pimientos de Padrón are nippy, fresh green capsicums, fried in oil and sprinkled with salt. Some Patatas Bravas can be very good. I prefer Patatas Ali--Oli (A thick, garlic mayonnaise.)
In addition to the usual drinks, there's sometimes Vermut de Barril, and a selection of sherries.
Pincho morunos (spicy pork kebabs) may vary a lot in salt levels. Beware!
IMO, Ensaladilla Rusa is to be avoided.
"OUR" Favorite tapas bar: http://www.pbase.com/panos/image/6377061
a clara - beer with fanta limon is delicious and refreshing
tinto de verano - red wine spritizer is pretty good too
just so you know the verb is tapear
calle baja and calle alta in la latina in madrid are loaded with bars and always lively, it's a great place to wander getting some jamon serrano here, membrillo and manchego there...
Just to make searching easier... the streets are la Cava Baja and Cava Alta.
These streets aren't necessarily *always* lively... While many places are open at lunchtime (2-4ish), but it's pretty sleepy at this time during weekdays. The real tapas hours are much later between 9-11:30ish (Tuesday-Saturday). The terrazas (outdoor dining) might be open earlier in good weather (which we are NOT having right now), but foodwise they aren't as good as the bars. Sunday, post-Rastro (2-5ish) is another great time to go de tapeo in La Latina as everything is open and there are lots of people out and about. many places close Sunday night and Monday.
The best strategy I know for a good tapeo is to order a drink--copa de vino, caña (small glass of beer), manzanilla, clara de limón, lo que sea--and see what you get for free. Most places have a chalkboard with the wines by the glass listed. This is an excellent way to try good wines cheap. In the meantime, scope out what others are ordering and follow suit. If no one is eating, then it's either not the right time or you are in a "bar de copas," not a place with good food.