Everyone is constantly on the hunt for the best tapas in Madrid.
The Spanish capital is chock full of tabernas (taverns) at every corner, many of which have served traditional tapas for close to a hundred years or more. There are so many different types of tabernas in Madrid: cozy, quirky, old-school, new-school, stylish and no-frills. It can be a daunting task to seek out the best tabernas where you can get truly good tapas, due to the sheer number of restaurants in Madrid with many of them being tourist traps.
Here are the best tabernas in Madrid that we swear by, for some seriously good eats, unique atmosphere and a fabulous madrileño-style good time.
C. de la Cruz, 14, 28012 Madrid, Spain
Casa Toni is the perpetual oldie but goodie in the city center of Madrid. Located just steps away from Puerta del Sol, Casa Toni has been slinging everybody’s favorite tapas for over 50 years in the same location. Casa Toni really is the most ideal old-school Spanish taberna that you’re looking for: no-frills décor, cheap prices and plenty of locals snacking on tapas while standing at all hours of the day. You can sip a caña and eat at the classic standing bar surrounded by vintage photos of toreros and flamenco dancers while feeling like a true madrileño.
Casa Toni has a comprehensive menu of all the classic tapas you would want. Everything that you order is honestly well-prepared and delicious. You can get rich chunks of fried chorizo, yummy boquerones (anchovies) that come fried or fresh with vinaigrette, perfectly roasted pimientos de padron and so much more. The house specialty are the pig ears (orejas de cerdo) which are grilled on the parrilla then served soft and chewy with bravas sauce. But again, it doesn’t really matter what you get, because everything you order at Casa Toni will be delicious and prepared in the old-school way it’s supposed to be.
C. de Jesús, 2, 28014 Madrid, Spain
There are tons of tabernas around the picturesque neighborhood of Barrio de las Letras, many of which cater to tourists. However, our favorite in this area is Los Gatos, hands down, for its campy interior décor and mouthwatering tapas on display.
Los Gatos is warm, homey and welcoming as soon as you walk through the door under the adorable sign with cats. Once inside, this taberna’s whimsical and slightly whacky décor really is unlike anything you’ll see in any other bar in all of Madrid. The wannabe fresco ceilings are painted with campy versions of cherubs and “The Creation of Adam,” while large figurines of a priest and aristocrat occupy their own corner of the wall. However, the floors have gorgeous red and green geometric tiles while the tavern is lit up by a shiny streetlamp and chandeliers. Los Gatos is campy and fun in a comforting way, which you won’t want to leave.
The great part about Los Gatos is that they have much of their food selection on display. And boy, does everything look delicious. The mouthwatering display case offers at least twenty different types of tostadas topped with everything from sardines, anchovies, jamon, smoked salmon, cheese, morcilla, and our favorite, crab salad with mayo. Also on display are the empanadas, ensaladilla, mussels, shrimp and fat olives. Not to mention, Los Gatos has the most delicious house vermut on tap. The house vermut is a tingly elixir of bright fruity and floral notes that’s seriously addictive.
Order a vermut on tap and pick out a yummy tostada, and you’re in for a fun, delicious time at one of Madrid’s quirkiest tabernas.
C. de la Cava Baja, 25, 28005 Madrid, Spain
Cava Baja in La Latina is THE spot for bar hopping for tapas, as the long curving street is lined with restaurants, bars and tabernas on both sides. Any traveler looking to munch on a variety of tapas must spend an evening or afternoon making the rounds through Cava Baja at some point. Out of all these yummy options, La Perejila is our top pick in Cava Baja, and one of our favorite tabernas in all of Madrid!
The décor at La Perejila is one of the main things that stands out from all the other tabernas on Cava baja. Since perejila means parsley, which is what the taberna is named after, green is the dominant theme at La Perejila, from the bright door entrance to the chartreuse painted walls. Add the numerous shiny knickknacks, antiques and framed vintage photos of flamenco divas, and you’ve got a one-of-a-kind taberna that’s unique, whimsical and even slightly campy.
The food at La Perejila knocks it out of the park too. The taberna has a great menu of mouthwatering and heartwarming dishes that truly taste homemade. You can get delectable small plates of sobrasada sausage with caramel and queso manchego, cabrales blue cheese with apples and nuts, or house pisto with tuna and an egg on top. A house special that’s a crowd favorite is the pork cheek stewed with cherries in port wine served with potato puree. Plus, La Perejila’s callos a la madrileña (stewed tripe) are rich, smoky and flavorful, which is most definitely a sign of a top-notch taberna.
Patio de Leones
C. de Serrano, 1, 28001 Madrid, Spain
Out of all the tabernas on this list, Patio de Leones is a trendier option for when you’re looking for something a bit more modern and stylish. Located just across the street from Parque del Retiro, Patio de Leones is a self-proclaimed new age taberna with a fun and chic twist on what a traditional Spanish tavern could be; where they can “express tradition in the most contemporary form.”
Firstly, the space inside Patio de Leones is absolutely gorgeous! Colorful oversized posters of flamenco dancers cover the walls in the airy, luminous space. The entire back wall is a mural made of custom tiles which piece together fun portraits of Spain’s legendary painters, writers and other artists, with the likes of Federico Garcia Lorca, Salvador Dali and Lola Flores. And, as the place is called Patio de Leones, there are whimsical images of lions everywhere, including our favorite which is the majestic marble lion fountain sink in the bathroom.
On the menu you’ll find classic tapas, like Patatas Bravas or Gambas al Ajillo, which you can expect at any old taberna. But most of the menu consists of elevated versions of typical pub grub which you’re unlikely to find outside of Patio de Leones. Think croquetas with carabinero prawns, sirloin medallions with decadent foie gras and piquillo peppers stuffed with txangurro Basque crab. Our favorite bite was the delectable oxtail brioche with mint, onion and cilantro.
What’s great about being at a trendier spot like Patio de Leones is that they also serve craft cocktails, which goes beyond the typical wine, beer and vermouth you’ll find at most old-school tabernas. You can get enjoy a Jesus Gil Negroni which comes with chipotle liqueur or a Marisol Bloody Mary with brava sauce and sherry. The drink menu also offers three different types of sangria and a long list of national wines from almost every region in Spain.
This trendy newcomer might not feel as authentic as some of the more old-school tabernas, but Patio de Leones is there for when you’re looking to impress with elevated tapas with bright, gorgeous ambience!
Taberna de la Elisa
Calle de Sta. María, 42, 28014 Madrid, Spain
Taberna la Elisa has a modern kitchen, but the space is still dressed like a rustic old-world taberna, and a beautiful one at that. As part of the immensely popular Triciclo restaurant group, Taberna la Elisa evokes traditional madrileño essence and flavors, while adding subtle elevated contemporary touches.