Ten con Ten
Calle de Ayala 6, Salamanca
Ten Con Ten, the opposite of a dive-y drop-in, is a lively, totally modern sit-down spot that serves classic tapas with a modern edge (and interestingly, some pasta dishes). No need to reserve, plenty of tables are left open for walk-ins which contributes to the convivial vibe that is never stuffy
Calle Cava Baja 35, Centro
Walking through the heavy-wood, tavern-style entryway to this eatery is akin to stepping into the Madrid of yesteryear—the plates are monogrammed, the waiters are suited-up, and the clientele spans politicians, locals, eccentrics, and the occasional royal. Casa Lucio is an olive oil soaked slice of the old-world, traditional yet incredibly refined with a classic menu of gastronomical favorites to match. Try the huevos estrellados—crispy, salty fried potatoes topped with broken runny eggs and be sure to linger over your desert for the all-important sobremesa (loosely translated as post-dinner debate and conversation) that keeps Madrileños firmly planted the table until the early hours.
20 Calle Reina Mercedes, Tetuán
Opened in 1969, O'pazo was one of the first restaurants in Madrid to be awarded a Michelin star—the old-school seafood spot is actually still run by children of the original founder, Evaristo García. The interior, fresh off a remodel, captures everything that's wonderful about Madrid; the sleek, updated furnishings and soothing wood paneling are a perfect juxtaposition to the open kitchen, where ham hocks hang from the ceiling and the days' catch of seafood and shellfish is displayed on ice. This is the kind of place where it's a good idea to put your order in the hands of the waiter, who can best identify which fresh fish the chef is most excited about that day.
Calle de José Ortega y Gasset, 75, Salamanca
Opened in 1975, El Pescador has a similar trajectory to nearby O'Pazo—both old-guard restaurants that pioneered the idea of serving fish so fresh that it didn't even need sauce, they've each stayed relevant with frequent renovations. At El Pescador, in particular, the interior has the potential to fool visitors that don't know the restaurant's historic pedigree—a clean concrete bar with stainless steel stools marks the entry to the restaurant, which is separated from the rest of the airy, modern restaurant by sheer chainlink curtains. As for the menu, you'll find minimally-treated fish and shellfish, served fresh and typically caught that morning. The shareable seafood platters are perfect for a big group.
Calle del Barquillo, 26, Chueca
Owned by two ex-pats, Tuk Tuk serves Asian street food that draws inspiration primarily from Bangkok, Saigon, and Hong Kong. It's the kind of place where we'd be happy with anything on the menu, but regulars report that the green curry, coconut rice, and chicken skewers are all standbys. It's an excellent option for takeout (even the most committed drinkers will crave a quiet night in after too many hours in all-night Spanish bars), and vegetarians will appreciate the variety of options, too. There's a second location in Chamberi.
Calle del Cardenal Cisneros, 6, Chamberí
Owned by two ex-pats, Tuk Tuk serves Asian street food that draws inspiration primarily from Bangkok, Saigon, and Hong Kong. It's the kind of place where we'd be happy with anything on the menu, but regulars report that the green curry, coconut rice, and chicken skewers are all standbys. It's an excellent option for takeout (even the most committed drinkers will crave a quiet night in after too many hours in all-night Spanish bars), and vegetarians will appreciate the variety of options, too. There's a second location in the Chueca district.
Calle Ibiza, 38, Retiro
Eating at Taberna Pedraza is a little bit like going over to a good friend's house for dinner (albeit a friend that's a ridiculously good chef). The colorful, mismatched tiled floors create a casual vibe that's furthered by an eclectic bunch of disparate chairs, flower arrangements, and the friendly nature of the service. What's more, the small kitchen is open and visible from behind the bar, so you can see Chef Santiago Pedraza working his magic in real time. The straightforward menu here offers up simple tapas: Go for the classics, like croquettes, tortilla, or the steak, and definitely don't skip dessert.
Calle de Caracas, 1, Chamberí
Madrid isn't exactly known for its Japanese food, but the fresh-as-it-comes sushi and sashimi at Tsunami really hits the spot when you need a break from tapas and sangria. The menu offers everything from the classics, like salmon, tuna, and a really solid unagi, to more inventive dishes like Spanish-inflected ceviche and an undeniably fun Doritos roll. The sake selection is just as refreshing as the rest of the menu.
Calle de Juan Hurtado de Mendoza, 11, Chamartín
It doesn't get more classic than Sacha, an old-school Spanish restaurant that was originally started by a couple who named the place after their only son. As luck would have it, Sacha is now the head chef and proprietor, helming a menu that's become a staple for Madrid foodies. The offerings here change seasonally, but the selection always has its foundation in traditional Spanish cuisine, serving locally caught seafood, bold meat dishes, and classic tapas prepared using fresh, simple ingredients. It never disappoints.
La Tasquita de Enfrente
Calle de la Ballesta, 6, Centro
If there's one "must-visit" spot we'd recommend in Madrid, it would have to be La Tasquita de Enfrenta. Chef Juanjó Lopez's outrageously good Spanish food (the menu changes seasonally) isn't exactly news—locals have been vying for reservations here for a few years now—but the food is as good as ever. It's definitely the kind of place where it's worth splurging on the chef's tasting menu, and the wine to go with it. The place books out well in advance, so make a reservation before your trip if possible.