Madrid - La Latina/Plaza de la Paja
I'll be in Madrid for 4 days in about 3 weeks and am planning to rent an apartment in the Opera/La Latina area. I studied there several years ago and lived in La Latina and our regular hangout was La Muralla on c/Puerta de Moros. I would like to get recommendations on any unusual, new, interesting places in the area (I know about El Viajero). I am particularly interested in any great bakeries in the area for breakfast, good coffee, or a nice place to hang out and read a book during the day. Also, is there any notable Middle Eastern (not Moroccan) food in Madrid that's worth a trek?
I've noted the posts on wine bars through a search on the site.
I'll be alone for this quick escape, so something suitable for a solo female is appreciated.
Thank you all for your recommendations. I ended up doing quite a lot of walking and didn't spend too much time in La Latina. Nevertheless, I did manage to go for tapas on Sunday afternoon with my friend who lives there.
We visited a place called Revuelta near Plaza Mayor for fried cod. It was rather heavy and bit too salty for my taste though. The place was packed. Next we walked along Cava Baja to a Basque place that starts with a T.... Anyway, they had a few selections, but my friend said that their little hamburger topped with an egg was their best. It was ok.
My favorite place was Juana la Loca on Puerta de Moros. We had a fantastic raviolo filled with sauteed eggplant and a tortilla with caramlized onions. We ended the day at Delic, which I'd skip next time. It seems like a cool place for Madrid, but since I live in San Francisco I can get some good American desserts here. My friend was disappointed when I showed her how the bartender was preparing mojitos with bottled lime juice. She said that someone used to sit at the bar and juice many many limes for mojitos before.
I reviewed another tapas bar called Monte Castelo on another post. I also went to El Cantabrico in Salamanca for the best canas and potato chips according to my friend. I also visited Sergi Arola's D'E on Velazquez and Goya. It was a nice break from heavy tapas, but again they serve food that I could find in San Francisco.
My big splurge was dinner at Dassa Bassa. The chef greeted us and enticed us into ordering cocktails, which were American style and at 12 euros each I almost declined one. Nevertheless, the food was quite good (I had the cochinillo that was presented exactly like the roasted pig at Eleven Madison Park in NYC).
La Mallorquina had the best coffee as well. I tried to go to La Santiaguesa, but I didn't stay because there's no where to sit.
That's the quick review - thanks again for everyone's input!
I also recommend El Riojano, Mayor 10, a beautiful old pastry shop with seating in the back. I think La Santiaguesa has the best pastry in Madrid but sadly it does not have seating. Giangrossi is a new chain of ice cream/pastry shops with designer furniture. The one on Cava Baja is excellent but all are on the expensive side.
Giangrossi isn't really an expensive place to have coffee, it's pretty much the same as any other place where you can sit down and it's very, very quiet in the morning, unlike many other places. Another cafe very close to la Plaza de la Paja that I forgot to mention is El Café del Nuncio.
I live in La Latina. My favorite bakery nearby is La Tahona on c/Humilladero, 11. But most bakeries here don't have places to sit down, they are strictly take out. Here are a few places where you can sit down and have coffee and a pastry in the morning: Giangrossi, Angelika (both on the Cava Baja), Delic (Plaza de la Paja), and a the little Argentine place on the south side of the Mercado de la Cebada, near the Calle de Toledo. Also a little place further down, La Cabra en el Tejado at calle de Santa Ana, 29. As for reading, there are a million different terrazas open now that the weather is nice. When it's really sunny, I like the shadier one if Plaza de Cascorro.
If you want to go a bit further, there are two bakeries that do have tearooms: La Mallorquina (in the Puerta del Sol) and El Riojano (on the Calle Mayor). Another good bakery is La Santiaguesa further down the Calle Mayor.
El Viajero doesn't have the greatest food (it's more of a "bar de copas"). You'll see lots of new places all around La Latina on the Cava Baja, Cava Alta, calle Almendro, Humilladero, etc. Quite a few places have nice lunch menus (menús del día) if you want to avoid the night time mobs.