The tradition of eating tapas can be pinpointed to the Andalusia region of Spain. In the old days, little bites of food were served with the sherry of the area to soak up the alcohol.
In fact, the government even began mandating bars to serve a little something to eat in order to soak up the high alcohol content.
In typical Madrid fashion, travelers must take part in a tapa type pub-crawl while in the capital city.
A tapa type pub-crawl is the everyday act of strolling from one bar to another before eating dinner at the late hour of 10PM.
A traditional tapas crawl consists of eating tapas at tascas and tabernas and drinking a few glasses of sangria, beer and/or wine. Visitors arriving on flights to Madrid should be prepared to strap on their walking shoes and hit up these tapas bars for a fulfilling time and delicious cure to any traveler’s hunger or thirst.
Casa Alberto: If you were going to munch on tapas anywhere in Madrid, wouldn’t you want to do so right where Cervantes might have? Casa Alberto stands in a building the famous Spanish writer supposedly spent time. Regardless of whether he ate tapas or not, the old, atmospheric taberna dates back to 1827. Amidst antique wood paneled decoration, bullfighting memorabilia and paintings, you can dine on some of the city’s best classic tapas such as jamón, fried squid, Manchego cheese, chorizo in cider sauce and croquetas.
La Casa del Abuelo: If you are hungry for prawns in your tapas, La Casa del Abuelo is the place to be in Madrid. This seafood lover’s dream sizzles with heaps and heaps of prawns. Be sure to try gambas a la plancha, otherwise grilled shrimp. Wash it down with a class of sweet El Abuelo red wine.
Taberna del Alabardero: This fine, antiquated taberna in Madrid serves up some of the city’s best tapas staples and more experimental tapas. Taberna del Alabardero is especially celebrated for its montaditos de jamón, small rolls of cured ham. While the prices might be higher than some of Madrid’s other tapas bars, the price is right for tapas such as croquetas or rabo de toro, bull’s tail.
Casa Labra: Another one of the city’s older tapas bars, Casa Labra began in 1860. It is all about the cod tapas here. Be sure to try the croquetas de bacalao, deep fried cod croquettes. Casa Labra sits near Puerto del Sol, making it one of the oldest and most popular tapas bars in the city. The establishment has been a favorite for some time especially for poet Federico Garcia Lorca and the 19th century Socialist party in Madrid.
Tapas Tip: Traditional tapas come free with a drink. While that can be harder and harder to find in Spain’s capital city, there are still bars that will throw down a few dishes with your beer. A good rule of thumb about Spanish tapas is to avoid the heavily touristy areas for the tapas won’t be as tasty and will be far pricier. If you spot a bar with loads of napkins on the floor and loud locals, chances are the tapas are tasty here.
…While tapas are a truly Spanish tradition, they are becoming more popular State-side. Check out our recent post on the best tapas spots in Las Vegas.
CC Flickr photo credit: Erazo-Fischer