When you eat out so much, you learn a thing or two about doing it in Madrid, on a budget, especially when those purse strings need extra tightening. However, this does not mean settling for less. That is tantamount to something described by a word I can’t think of right now.
So, how do I reconcile eating out with eating well and on a shoe string budget? Let me share a place or two that have enabled this seemingly impossible endeavor to flourish, repeatedly at that. The beauty of Madrid can be found in the abundance of restaurants that offer amazing value while leaving you thinking, “maybe I should have paid more or tipped extra.”
For some of these tricks I’m about to share to work, you are highly recommended to take along with you a minimum of three friends and in some places, five. Of course, the more the merrier. Eating out alone is rarely an enjoyable occasion anyway, so we’ll leave that talk for another day.
Let’s start with breakfast and develop further into other meal times.
In a land where breakfast is otherwise a dismal affair, sometimes you need more excitement than cola cao with a croissant. Sometimes though, excitement comes at a cost. Good brunch in Madrid can be as expensive as 30€. In the words of Sweet Brown, “Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That!”
But Bar Tomate manages to spice things up with a complete offering that includes a choice of eggs Benedict, fried eggs or scrambled eggs. This is served with bacon, salmon or spinach. Bread with jam, butter and tomato also gets in on the fun. And then to top it all off, a fruit salad, orange juice and coffee; all for just 8€. The formula here is nice and simple: just take yourself and order, then pay 8€.
As if this wasn’t enough, you will eat in a beautifully decorated restaurant with massive wooden tables that give a rustic feel to the place. The ambiance is very welcoming and urges you to want to stay longer.
Not wanting to adulterate either of these two options, I do also recommend here Carmencita Bar. Similar experience but, your bacon is crispier and really American at the same price. Oh, and with 1€ mimosas. Yes please! Bare in mind though that at Carmencita Bar, you will need to book a table as its a small restaurant and very popular. So no bookie, no table most likely.
Delicious chicken — Carrito Charrua
Being from the U.K., my week was never complete without a visit to Nando’s for some peri-peri chicken at a price I knew would never exceed £10 (of course, I always ordered tap water). Believe you me, moving to Spain meant a sacrifice in this age old tradition. Before good old Carrito Charrua, I exhibited incurable peri-peri withdrawal symptoms. That has now been rectified. This place, in a few words, could be described as “chicken the way it was intended.” They offer well-marinated chicken cooked on a charcoal rotisserie. The goodness of Carrito Charrua was verified when two friends from London visited me and uttered the words, “this is better than Nando’s,” almost simultaneously after the first bite. We had to go back again after two days.
This is the formula to eat well for under 10 euros:
Full chicken with chips and salad plus sauces: 16.65€
You and two other friends share the bird and are satisfied and pay: 5.55€ each
Have a beer or tinto de verano or whatever else bringing the total to less than 10€
Galician goodness — Taberna Maceiras
In normal life circumstances, this is not a cheap restaurant. They offer fine Galician cuisine, from amazing Pulpo a la Gallega (Octopus, Galician Style) to Pimientos del Padron (Padron Peppers). Everything is delicious with a price tag to go with it. I love this place. In fact, I only really order my pulpo from here as it’s the best I have tried thus far. But, I recently discovered that I could eat Arroz Con Bogavante (Rice with Lobster) and not break the bank. I am being serious. The rice is made to order, so the wait is around 20-30 minutes. It comes with all manner of seafood, including squid, clams, mussels and one huge lobster all cut up and ready to devour. To be sure the dish was as one would expect it, I went with my Spanish friend from a seaside town, so he knows a thing or two about seafood. Long story short, he gave it his seal of approval.
This is the formula to eat well for under 10euros:
Arroz con Bogavante: 40€
You and 4 or 5 other friends (5 is better, it’s a massive serving) share the seafood fiesta: 8€ or 10€ each
Do not take the bread, its 60c per person (unless you really want it)
Drink of choice thus bringing your grand total to slightly over 10€
Wildcard — El Chino de Plaza Espana
This is the wildcard entry of this article. Whether or not this is eating well or it’s rather like settling for less, judge for yourself, but all I can say is, “I haven’t eaten Chinese food this good since the Golden Palace in Peckham.” Oh, the salt and pepper ribs!! First time I visited this establishment, whose real name I do not know, I was so shocked. I mean, we had to walk down the stairs into a parking lot to get to it. Need I say more. This situation was not helped with the look of the place. A friend assured me that if you could run your finger on the table and it glided nicely, then it was clean. It passed the test. This for me is some of the best Chinese food in Madrid. I gladly add it to MuchBites with pride. The chicken with vegetables, the fried rice and the spare ribs are on point. I frequent this place a lot because I like it and also because I always enjoy the look on my friends’ faces the first time they realize that I am not joking, we are actually eating here. Priceless!
This is the formula to eat well for under 10 euros:
Order 3 or 4 dishes of choice
Share with 3 or 4 of your friends
Get a bottle of water (or nothing)
Divide the cost: Less than 10€ guaranteed.
So, there you have it, enjoy yourself eating out and keeping your bank healthy at the same time. What greater joy is there really?
What recommendations do you have for eating on a budget in madrid?
Wesley is a Milton Keynes native, a rather quiet and uneventful town about an hour north of London. With dreams of one day becoming an internationally renowned chef, life happened, and he convinced himself that a career in Marketing was the sensible course. Prior to finishing his degree, he completed a year abroad at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. He loved Madrid so much that he vowed to come back at first opportunity.
As an avid eater, his love for Madrid was somehow tainted by a lack of understanding of the Madrid food scene.Thankfully, as time progressed, Wes got to understand, appreciate and love what was on offer. Throwing caution to the wind, that went my Marketing career and thus began the blogging adventure with MuchBites.