Let’s talk about everyone’s favorite part of traveling- the food! People always want to know the details of what we ate, where we ate, how often we ate, etc!
If you like trying a TON of different foods, the Spanish culture is right up your alley. The Spanish embrace the “tapa” culture indulging lots of little plates of different foods. In Madrid, there are tons of mercados (markets) around town that specialize in just that. Here are a couple from around the city, but there are 15-20 of them with varying price points and types of food!
Platea was our favorite market, in the way that it looked visually. It was beautiful! This market is made in an old theatre. It is a little more pricey to buy food from these stands, but my gosh it is stunning!
Three floors! Two floors of amazing food stands and a cocktail bar at the top 🙂
Mercado de San Anton:
This mercado was most convenient for us, right near our house! There were less gourmet dishes here but more fruit, vegetables, grains, and small local dishes. In fact, we had empanadas here on our first afternoon in Madrid!
Mercado de San Miguel:
This one is the big kahuna. If you plan on visiting, you should know it is quite large and always insanely packed. It is so, so crowded. There are people eating little plates of food on the floor, at the counters, and crammed into the dining section like sardines.
That being said, if you go in with the right mindset, it can be a delightful afternoon. Brad and I decided we wanted to try a bunch of different dishes for lunch one day. We set a budget (it can add up fast!) and just brought cash. We wanted to try tons of different little foods, some Spanish, some not.
Here is a look at our little lunch adventure:
We started with a sure favorite. As I mentioned before, the Spanish are kind of known for their cured pork. There are these big ham legs all over town in all kinds of stores. They have different spices, ages, and cuts of pork. In a lot of local stores, they sell little pieces of pork in a little paper cone (like a snow cone) for a few bucks, and that seems to be the snack of choice for most people.
So, we began with these mini fuets, little bites of cured sausage. They were amazing. So tasty! And great to snack on while you walk around and decide on your next bite.
This isn’t the best photo, but hey, there were like 1300 people around me ha. A croquetta is a little fried morsel in this shape that is usually filled with mashed potatoes and another filling (a ham, or veggie, or seafood.) We had tried croquettas at another restaurant a few days prior, and Brad hated them. I thought they were alright, but nothing special. But we both decided to give croquettas another try. Thank God we did! These were SO GOOD. Little balls of ham and potatoes all warm and creamy. Delicious! (But a little pricey at 1 euro for one croquetta, about the size of a hushpuppy.)
These pork empanadas were awesomeeee. I wish I could have a little mini empanada with my lunch everyday! The meat was so yummy and the pastry was just enough. Oh yeah, and we also added a non Spanish treat on the side- a few shrimp tempuras. Mmmm!!
Don’t know if these have a specific Spanish name, but they were basically little crostinis (toasted bread) with different fishes and sauces on them.
Brad got this little salmon crostini and loved having a little seafood bite- He loves raw fish!
I, on the other hand, am not so keen on raw fish, and went for a shrimp and pineapple crostini. It was good, but difficult to eat ha. These one bite items always tend to be a little too big for me to eat in one bite, and silly to eat in two. Ahh the conundrum! 🙂
Ok, this one is definitely Italian, but they were making these personal pizzas right in front of us and they smelled so good! We got one with Chorizo on it at least- so that’s Spanish 😉
How could we not get ourselves a big ol’ bowl of Paella!? This was the second Paella we had tried in Spain and it was so good! There were a bunch of different kind of meats in it and they served a pretty good sized bowl for 4 euro. It was creamy and hearty and hit the spot.
Our last dish of the day was in the form of a desert. It was definitely not Spanish, but there was no resisting ! This incredible looking pistachio baklava was as good as it looks. Looking at it makes me want some right now…
There was also a guy walking around with a try full of wine to serve. Ha, pretty cool 😉
We didn’t get these at the San Miguel Market, but they are worth sharing anyway. These are typical Christmas treats, but seem to be available year-round if you find the right bakery. We were searching for them to try the different kinds! There are the plain, unglazed ones called tantos (stupid), glazed sugary ones called listas (smart), powdered (‘grandmothers’), and covered in some sort of merengue.
We bought one of each and shared them, and honestly, they were the only thing we tried in all of Madrid that we hated. Ha! They were soooo dry and plain and sucked all the saliva out of your mouth. We were so disappointed. The only one that wasn’t completely dry was the “lista” (smart) one, but it was covered in a STRONG lemon sugary flavor.
All in all, we have had fun ordering lots of tapas at restaurants and mercados and trying out the Spanish culture 😉
I will leave you with this picture from our first ever lunch in Madrid, and our first ever Paella. BUEN PROVECHO!