23 May, 2011

Finding Cheap, Good Food in Madrid

Eating out in Spain can be an expensive proposition. With tons of restaurants in the major tourist zones in Madrid (Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol, etc), if one isn't careful then it is easy to spend lots of money. 

Luckily, your cheapskate traveler has done some legwork in figuring out how to eat good food in Madrid for less euros. Here are a few strategies. 

Go for the menu del dia. Most restaurants offer a fixed-price daily menu during lunch time. This typically costs 9 or 10 euros, and includes two courses, bread, a drink (wine, beer or water), and coffee or dessert. If this sounds like a lot of food, well that's the idea. The dishes below aren't too shabby for the price, eh? Now you know why the Spaniards need a siesta after lunch.

Get free food. Yes, sometimes there are free things in life. At most tapas bars, ordering a drink comes with a plate of tapas, usually olives, or potato chips. 

Although not quite filling enough for a meal, this small snack can tide you over until the late dinner time - 9pm at the earliest, and even then you might have the restaurant all to yourself.

Just don't load up on the booze at one place, or the free tapas might wind up costing you. Moreover, it is customary for the Spanish to eat a couple of small plates at one place, move on to the next to sample their specialty, and so on.  Remember, when in Madrid, do as the Madrilenos do. (Or something like that).

Skip the restaurants and tapas bars.  There are a lot of small cervecerias offering bocadillos, or snacks. Usually these are sandwiches stuffed with calamari, sausages or ham, and cost as little as 2.70 euros ($4). 

Or you can go to a market like Mercado San Miguel and choose among the freshly prepared products from the different counters. At left are jamon iberico sandwiches (2.50 - 3.50 euros or $3-5) which are quite filling. 

So, as you can see, these are just a few strategies to reduce the cost of meals in Madrid. In addition, just follow common sense advice like checking a restaurant's menu before sitting down, and avoiding tourist traps. 

Be sure you're not among the hapless tourists who got snookered at this restaurant. Check out these prices - 11.50 euros for a mixed salad! And the place was packed to boot. I do get a kick out of other people getting fleeced, as well as a pang of pity.  Allow me my moment of schadenfreude as I munch on sumptuous jamon iberico washed down with vino, knowing I paid much less than for a bunch of leafy veggies.

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