Ana La Santa
Plaza de Santa Ana, 14, Salamanca
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.
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.
Bosco de Lobos
Calle Hortaleza, 63, Centro
Bosco de Lobos is one of two restaurants from the Barcelona-based En Compañia de Lobos restaurant group (the other, Ana La Santa, is another favorite from our list). At this location, owner Tomas Tarruella focuses on home-style Italian food, with hearty, comforting dishes like a bolognese, mushroom risotto, and wood-fired pizza with ricotta and anchovies. The best tables are out in the patio garden, which is fully enclosed in lush greenery.
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.
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.
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 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 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 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.
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.
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