Where the Locals Eat in Madrid: An Insider’s Food Guide

Eat Like a Local in Madrid

Madrid is every foodie’s dream destination. Late dinners, great wines, tasty aperitifs — you can’t go wrong here. Especially if you eat where the locals eat. 

Let’s uncover the secrets of how to eat like a local in Madrid with the biggest experts in the game — Madrid’s local foodies. They know their neighborhoods, have the appetite, and the experience of everyday life in the city full of gastronomic gems. Stick to their tips and you’ll make sure you come home with a real taste of Madrid.

Anyone hungry? Our Madrid food guide features a table full of tips… 

Eat like a local #1: Paulina

Paulina is a sustainable traveler blogging at Paulina on the Road. Her favorite bars in Madrid, are the ones that are a bit hidden and still managed by the local population… often for many generations. They might not look very inviting at first sight, but trust me, they have the best food! And all of this at unbeatable prices. On top, you will be supporting a small business, which is one of the most important parts of sustainable travel.

Favorite restaurants and neighborhoods to visit for food? Some of my favorite restaurants are Los Galayos when I want to enjoy typical Madrid food, Cafe Comercial for a cup of coffee and Sala de Despiece for something unusual. The best neighborhoods for great food are in my opinion, Malasaña for lunch or dinner with friends, La Latina for Tapas and Chamberi for new, hipster bars.

Can you recommend any “hidden gems” of the Madrid food scene? I love the restaurants in Parque la Dehesa. The food is great, they are known for their barbecue-style meat and you’ll hardly find any tourists here.

The good thing is that in Madrid you can eat very well for not much money. On top, the scene is growing a lot and always changing. You can come back to Madrid after one month and you’ll stumble upon plenty of new bars. A must-eat are churros, callos, suckling pig and heading to the markets.

Eat Like a Local in Madrid

Eat like a local #2: Diego

Diego from Madrid and You, one of the most recognized Madrid private tours agency, is a convinced foodie. He is always looking for new places to share with their customers.

His favorite local restaurant with Spanish cuisine would be El Quenco de Pepa, even though it’s a little bit far away from the main center. He invites us to discover secret tapas like the Spanish omelet at Casa Dani (Mercado de la Paz – traditional market in the Salamanca neighborhood) or try the bull tale at Casa Alberto.

To discover our tapas type of social/gastronomic experience, please do not forget to go to Cava Baja Street and enjoy going to several places where you can eat one tapa with one Spanish wine.

Eat like a local #3: Natalia

Natalia is a real food lover. Her blog, Kusina Madrid, was also recently featured in the list of 50 Best Madrid Blogs to Follow in 2020. Let’s read some of her personal favorites in Madrid.

Some of my favorite restaurants are called “centenarios” or restaurants that are over a hundred years old that are still thriving today, my favorites of these are the Posada de la Villa (which has a massive central woodfire oven at the heart of the restaurant, still serving the house specialty of roast lamb after over 3 centuries. Then there’s great tapas and vermut at Bodega Ricla, also over a hundred years old, which used to be a shelter during the war, and of course, Lhardy, a classic that looks like it’s been frozen in time and serves traditional Spanish food such as cocido madrileña (chickpea and meat stew).

For more contemporary places, I am a huge fan of Casa Benigna, a Valencian restaurant that’s practically a speakeasy, because it’s so hidden in the shadows of a tiny street in the Prosperidad neighbourhood. Madrid has over recent years opened up to great global cuisine, such as Trikki Nueva Orleans, which serves authentic Cajun and Creole cuisine, and Sabor Nusantara, the first and only Indonesian restaurant in the city, owned by a very sweet and welcoming family from Jakarta.

Madrid Food Tips from Locals

Eat like a local #4: Morena

Morena has one of the most tasty-looking blogs in all Madrid and writes at La Madrid Morena. Here are her local recommendations.

As Italian restaurant, Gioia, because it includes in its menu the perfect synthesis between traditional flavors and new innovative dishes, especially in textures and plating. Toma Café, because they take the preparation of this drink very seriously, from the raw material used to its perfect serve through the machines.

In the Retiro, one of the neighborhoods to take into account to eat well in Madrid, I recommend Taberna y Media. Cocido, torreznos or cheesecake are some of its essentials to savor the most traditional Madrid, though always with a modern touch.

I like both street food and restaurants, and if I had to recommend a good place to try one of the best hot dogs in Madrid, I would definitely highlight those at PaperBoy, especially for its international flair.

Madrid Food Tips from Locals

Eat like a local #5: Susana

Have you heard of Desbravando Madrid blog? Susana, the owner, lists some local tips on where to go and what do in Madrid there on a regular basis. But does she know food, as well? You bet she does! Here are some of her secret tips.

If you’re coming to Madrid, you MUST try the local food. Set aside the Mexican, Italian or Chinese restaurants you’ve heard about and go for the Spanish ones! Did you know Spaniards don’t eat only tapas and paella? If you really want to blend in and try typical Spanish flavors, go for a ‘cocido madrileño‘ (mixed boiled meats and veggies with chickpeas and jamon), some ‘callos‘ (cow’s tripe stew) or pork delicatessens such as ‘oreja a la plancha’ (grilled pig’s ear) and ‘torreznos‘ (deep-fried bacon).

If you prefer fish or seafood, you’ll never get it wrong with ‘calamares‘ (fried squid rings), ‘navajas a la plancha‘ (grilled razor clams), ‘chipirones‘ (fried baby squids) and ‘boquerones‘ and ‘anchoas‘ (anchovies in olive oil or vinegar).

Eat like a local #6: Diana

No, we didn’t forget about vegan souls! Diana from Madrid Vegan Travel has some tips for those of you who search for alternative options during their trip to Madrid. Read thoroughly and make some notes!

What are your favorite food stops for vegans in Madrid? Why do you recommend these places? Veganism in Madrid is been blooming for the last 5 years, so now you can find more than 40 vegan restaurants in the city. Hard to choose if you don’t know them! If I were a traveler I would go on our vegan tapas tour to make sure I don’t miss the real stuff and the best vegan tapas! So, in 3 hours you get to know the best vegan restaurants in the city, taste selected tapas and meet local vegans. A whole immersion experience in the vegan scene of Madrid!

Are there any neighborhoods specifically known for the great food scene? Malasaña is a reference for the vegan food in Madrid. This trendy neighborhood that never sleeps, is full of great stories and legends. Each bar has its own wonderful personality, and the secret recipe for the most delicious tapas and “raciones”, therefore you will understand why Madrilenians are crazy about tapas in Malasaña district!

How would you describe Madrid vegan food scene? Are there any specialties worth tasting? The vegan food scene is huge in Madrid, a country where almost 10% of the population claim to be flexitarian or veggie. Some traditional veganized dishes are, for instance, vegan calamari from Mad Mad Vegan restaurant, patatas bravas and pisto from Veganians, Spanish tortilla de patata from Viva Chapata.

Madrid Food Tips from Locals

Eat like a local #7: Adriana

Adriana has moved to Madrid in 2012 and she’s the author of the blog Esto es Malasaña where she also shares an opinion about local eateries and interesting spots to visit in this vibrant city. Let’s read some of her Madrid food tips, shall we?

One place that I always recommend to people who come to Madrid for the first time and decide to stay in the Malasaña neighborhood is the Vacaciones Cocktail Bar. It’s my favorite place ideal for breakfast or brunch, where you can also enjoy informal meals or dinners accompanied by delicious cocktails or fruit smoothies.

It will be difficult for you not to find the type of gastronomy that you like if you visit Madrid, but there is a very Spanish tradition that you should not miss trying and that is to “ir de tapas: La Latina, Chamberí or Lavapiés are some of the neighborhoods where you will find many options to have a wine with a tapa and the markets of San Fernando, La Cebada or Mostenses, although well known, leave the tourist circuit and are quite an experience to enjoy the most authentic Madrid.

Madrid Food Tips from Locals

One of the joys of traveling is experiencing the local cuisine. If you’re looking for the real authentic experience, step one is to find those non-touristy places where locals like to hang out. And thanks to our local foodies you don’t have to worry about this step in Madrid anymore. Did we miss any must-visit restaurant, coffee houses, or any other gastronomic hidden gem in Madrid? Let us know.

By the way, if you’re looking for more inspiration and tips on things to do and places to visit in Madrid, visit our guide to 50 Best Madrid Blogs and Websites You Should Know About. See you in Madrid, folks!