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Madrid: Student-ish Budget but want great food

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My girlfriend and I are going to Madrid in a week, and have budgeted ~200 euros per person for 5 days of eating, Sunday-Thursday (leave early on Friday morning). At about 40 euros/day per person, that's not a large budget, but hopefully will allow us to have some great food and splurge on a nice meal once or twice.

We're not that familiar with Spanish food (much more familiar with all types of asian), but we love food, eat all types, and are quite adventurous. Given our short time, we'd really hate to waste a meal on so-so food. What we're looking for:

1. Great "typical" Spanish cuisine.
2. Outstanding dishes and/or restaurants on/off the beaten path (tend not to like touristy places)
3. Any good food in any environment (street, museum cafe, etc.)

A few specific questions:
1. We arrive around Sunday noon. It seems like there are few restaurants open on Sunday -- any simple good options for Sunday late afternoon/early evening dining for two jetlagged individuals? Maybe some great pork soup...?
2. We will be in Toledo Monday and part of Tuesday and were thinking of going to Locum or La Abadia. Thoughts? Alternatives?
3. Going to El Escorial on Thursday for a day trip, any good eating near there? (would hate to waste a meal on mediocre food!)
3. Is good asador within our price range?
4. For tapas, we were going to go to an area, probably La Latina, and just walk around and find places with lots of people and order what seems to be popular and/or looks good. Does that sound right? And how much can we expect to spend? (Just FYI, I tend to have bad reactions to alcohol, but my GF can drink)
5. Any "typical" Spanish dishes we absolutely must try?
6. Restaurants we were looking at: Principe de Viana, La Repanocha, maybe Arce (though it may prohibitively crimp our remaining budget)

Thanks in advance for your advice! Also, we would love to meet up with any hounds who wouldn't mind sharing some great food or food finds. :)

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  1. Sundays, the best place to enjoy some wine and simple Spanish foods (raciones, tostas, etc) is La Latina - you´ll see the metro stop off the light green line. Raciones (larger tapas) are usually less than 10 euros, and tostas are around 3 euros. I have not been satisfied by any of the basque places in La Latina, so as much as I like Basque cuisine, I would avoid. Save it for San Sebastian (mmm) There´s also a restaurant there that´s famous for its fried eggs... the name escapes me, Juevos de __ , but a little research will get you there. There are a ton of great wine bars in this area, such as one called Tempranillo.

    Maceiras is a place on Calle Huertas that is kind of touristy, but worth it for some truly delicious Gallegan food. I recommend the pulpo gallega and the arroz marinada.

    Arce sounds great, but I haven´t been there myself, due to the student budget issue. One fun place, that´s not Spanish but a Scandinavian vodka bar (if you get Spanish´d out by the end) is Olsen.

    I´ll write again if I have more suggestions.

    Beware of Toledo... very touristy, and hard to find good, reasonably priced food.

    Buen aproveche!

    5 Replies
    1. re: caitlintherese

      Huevos de Lucio - I don´t love the place but wahtever its decent and obviously go for the huevos estrellados with morcilla or chistorra

      Maceiras - this place is a zoo, yes its touristy, but its solid and dirt dirt cheap. When you order the rice don´t order for the amount of people you have on the table. Say you are 4, you should order rice for 2, trust me. Navajas are really good here, but be prepared to wait for a table and its cash only

      I like la trucha too, its not great, but again solid for pimientos del padron, adobo, alcachofas, and wahtever you want fried will probably be good

      Right by la latina you will find the best secret madrid has. By la plaza Cascorro there will be a bar in the corner called cerveceria cruz, where you will be treated to the best navajas and berberechos in your life at bar prices.

      1. re: caitlintherese

        La Burbuja Que Rie @ c/Angel 16. For Asturiano food. Primarily, a great fabada and cider (thought they don't do the pour form above cider schtick). Cheap too. A good Sunday night option.

        1. re: MOREKASHA

          Wow! Thanks for the suggestions! So what I have down is

          Sunday -- afternoon, walk around La Latina for tapas or Huevos de Lucio (get the huevos estrellados with morcilla or chistorra, evening, go to La Burbuja Que Rie for fabada and cider.

          Cerveceria cruz sounds awesome -- razor clams and cockles!! Mmmmm... and Maceiras is going to be on our list to go too.

          Any great menu del dias?
          Anything in season right now that are *TO DIE FOR*? Mushrooms, seafood?
          Any particular jamon dishes/places we should try? What about suckling pig?

          1. re: daveinmd

            Dave,

            After I get off the plane, check in to my hotel, and clean up I go out. I head straight for a local branch (there are many) of the world's greatest museum, El Museo d'Jamon. I always get a plate of Bellota, the great ham made from free range, black hoofed pigs that feed only on acorns. It is not a cheap plate and they won't sell 1/2 a racion. But.....this is the splurge worth every $. After that, I am in a great mood, never mind the jet lag, lousy plane, lousy airplane "food". I can then start to decompress and enjoy Madrid for all it's glories.

            1. re: MOREKASHA

              With that kind of recommendation, we definitely need to check it out! :) Thanks!!

      2. hi dave, since youre arriving sunday you should head straight to the Rastro (fleamarket). The bars and restaurants around there have great brunch, and actual real local paella. It's extremely inexpensive and very tasy. sorry i can't remember the name of the specific bar/restaurant.
        also there's a sidreria restaurant in lavapies with excellent cider-sangria and the best platter of strips of steak (best ive had in spain) with fries and pimientos de padron (the little fried peppers with salt) to share. It was 24 Euro for the platter but a big big delicious feed.
        The restaurant is on calle de argumosa, near the lavapies metro.
        Also check out http://www.way2stay.com/usefullinks-M...
        with some food suggestions.
        bon provecha

        1. Woops. Pardon the spelling error. (Huevos)

          I'm trying this restaurant tonight : http://estayrestaurante.com/

          It's pretty pijo (posh), but I hear the tapas are official and prices aren't too steap. I'll let you know how it goes :)

          1. We're leaving today for Madrid... we're really looking forward to checking out all your suggestions!! Thanks!!