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.
Calle de Fernando El Santo, 26, Chamberí
Bar Tomate's location in the convenient, business-focused Salamanca neighborhood means it's usually pretty crowded at lunchtime—though there's always standing room at the bar if you forget to make a reservation. Astonishingly, the operation is open from 8:30 in the morning, serving tapas, light breakfast, and excellent coffee, until midnight, when a DJ and an excellent cocktail menu make it one of the neighborhoods more well-attended bars. While the classic tapas are always a good bet, menu-wise, they're also known for perfectly dough-ey wood-fired pizzas.
Ana La Santa
Plaza de Santa Ana, 14, Centro
Ana La Santa is one of two Madrid restaurants from En Compañia de Lobos, a restaurant group out of Barcelona that's a total family affair. Owner Tomas Tarruella founded his first few restaurants with his mother, Rosa Maria Esteva, and while his new restaurant company is actually a solo venture, it lacks none of the creativity and excellent service his family originally became famous for. Chief among his new projects is this Salamanca spot, which offers traditional Spanish food (including an enormous tapas menu) that's not afraid to take risks: Expect several different variations of paella served alongside a quinoa salad, Mexican tortilla soup, and a delicious red curry with Iberian pork cheek. In keeping with family tradition, the bright, verdant, Scandinavian-inspired interiors were designed by Tarruella's sister, Sandra.
Sala de Despiece
Calle de Ponzano, 11, Chamberi
You can spot Sala de Despiece from a block away thanks to its stark, painted corrugated metal exterior. You also might hear it from a block away, since the impossibly tiny (it's bar seating only) restaurant is almost always packed with people: After all, the tapas menu is one of the most memorable in the city. If you manage to squeeze your way in, don't miss the beef tartare, the octopus, or the opportunity to mingle with some locals.
Calle de Goya, 5-7, Salamanca
Guidebooks often describe Platea Madrid as a food hall, but that description doesn't even begin to cover the experience, which brings together six Michelin-starred eateries in the same place. The first thing you'll notice is the space—a movie theater that's been completely renovated to create mezzanine-style platforms littered with tables and chairs (all within view of the stage itself, which remains intact and often hosts live musical performances). Each mezzanine offers several dining options, from tapas to pizza to seafood, supplemented by bars offering cocktails and wines for pairing. This is a popular spot, so finding seating can be a little tricky, but the food's so good that standing room isn't necessarily a bad option.
Calle Ponzano, 6, Chamberí
This modern little spot in the Chamberí district is famous for its excellent cocktails (locals go for the gin and tonics in particular), which are best enjoyed in the bar near the back of the restaurant. If you're stopping in for a full dinner, request a seat on the open-air patio, which is surrounded by exposed brick walls. The stunning décor—think wicker basket chandeliers, graphic printed wallpaper, a mirrored bar, and colorful tile—is reason enough to make a reservation.
La Cocina de San Anton
Mercado de San Anton, Augusto Figueroa, 24, Chueca
La Cocina de San Anton is the restaurant on the roof of the beloved Mercado de San Anton, where locals do their shopping. There's an open terrace for alfresco dining when the weather cooperates, but even on chilly days the wide windows on both sides of the restaurant offer gorgeous views of the city. The menu leans on classic Spanish dishes, with excellent jamón de bellota, steak tartare, and grilled octopus, served with generous pitchers of sangria. It's a busy spot, so make a reservation.
Calle Dr. Castelo, 30, Retiro
Taberna Laredo is our pick for authentic Spanish food that's modern and up-to-date without being overly fussy. In typical Spanish style, the upstairs space offers a full meal (and impressive wine list), while the downstairs is a tapas-only bar. Madrid is a city of night owls, so it doesn't really start to heat up downstairs until around 11pm, when locals belly up to the bar for well-executed cocktails and small dishes.
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