When it comes to food, Madrid has just about everything you could possibly want. Whether you're craving a good, hearty, home-cooked meal or the latest and greatest avant-garde cuisine, you'll find it in the Spanish capital. Here are the best restaurants in Madrid, in no particular order, for whatever suits your fancy.
Best for Fish: El Pescador
It may come as a surprise that landlocked Madrid is home to some of the freshest seafood in Spain. However, consider the fact that many restaurants have their fish flown in twice a day from around the country. El Pescador is one such spot, and it shows.
From Cantabrian lobster and hake to Mediterranean shrimp, El Pescador has it all. While they offer you a choice of serving styles, don't expect any fancy garnishes or cooking techniques. Here, the seafood itself takes center stage—just as it should.
Best for Wine and Ham: Stop Madrid
Most wine bars only offer a meager selection of wines available by the glass. Stop Madrid, with its roughly 100 varieties ready to be uncorked at any time, is not among them.
This timeless, no-frills spot is the perfect place to enjoy a glass of Spanish wine with some manchego cheese or—the holy grail—cured Iberian ham, and all of it is of nothing less than the finest quality.
Best for Dessert: Casa de Las Torrijas
If you like French toast, you'll love torrijas. This Spanish sweet treat starts with bread soaked in eggs and later drenched in honey, milk or wine. Most places in Spain only serve them during the Easter season, but not the aptly named Casa de las Torrijas. Grab a table in the beautifully decorated bar, order up the freshly made torrijas of your choice and a glass of sweet wine, and dig in.
Best for Breakfast: Chocolat
Spain's most famous breakfast is churros con chocolate: fried dough dunked in melted chocolate. What's not to love, right? These tasty treats are the quintessential Spanish breakfast, and no place does them better than Chocolat, a favorite among madrileños in the charming Huertas neighborhood. Join the locals here for a sweet start to your day.
Best Experience: Botín
Oldest restaurant in the world—check. Name-dropped by Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises—check. Fantastic food, including the star of the show—unbelievably tender and flavorful roast suckling pig—check. For the foodies looking to go all out, Botín is the place to have the meal of a lifetime in Madrid, complete with good company and plenty of bottles of rich Rioja.
Best No-Frills Bar: La Ardosa
Trendy food may come and go in fashionable Malasaña, but the classic spots like La Ardosa will always remain. As one of a handful of restaurantes centenarios, this place is less of a restaurant and more of a bar, but with bar food far superior to any you'll see in your average pub. Rub elbows with the locals as you order up round after round of tapas, such as their perfectly cooked tortilla de patatas and refreshing salmorejo (a close cousin of gazpacho).
Best for Tapas: Juana La Loca
Tapas come in many forms, and in fact, the word doesn't just refer to food itself, but rather the way of eating it. It's a social experience, best enjoyed at a bar like Juana La Loca in the happening La Latina district. They serve up one of the best tortillas in town, and the warm and welcoming atmosphere will almost make you feel as if you've stepped into your favorite hometown bar.
Best Place to Prepare Your Picnic: Ferpal
The heart and soul of Madrid lies in places like Ferpal, which bustles with locals picking up some of the best ham, cold cuts, and cheeses in town. A family-run classic Madrid deli, this is a particular favorite spot among local grandmothers buying jamón for lunch (and if the Spanish grannies have given it their seal of approval, you know it's good). Once you're loaded down with all the gourmet goodness you can carry, head to a picturesque park to enjoy a sunny picnic.
Best Bocadillo de Calamares: La Campana
One of Madrid's most iconic dishes couldn't be more simpler. The humble bocadillo de calamares is little more than a crusty baguette filled with freshly fried squid rings. While there's a bar serving them up on seemingly every corner in the Spanish capital, not all bocadillos de calamares are created equal.
As tourists hurry past en route to Plaza Mayor, locals crowd into the tiny hole-in-the-wall known as La Campana for the best squid sandwiches in town. The bar is loud, it's crowded, it's everything you ever wanted in a Spanish tavern. Just don't forget to order up an ice cold beer to wash everything down and complete the experience.
Best Spot Near Sol: Casa Labra
A true gem among the tourist traps that so often plague the streets surrounding Madrid's central square, Casa Labra has truly earned its reputation as one of the city's best-value spots for a great meal. With plenty of old-world charm and a vibrant, modern atmosphere, it's the perfect spot to meet friends for a casual lunch or as a stop on your evening tapas crawl. Order up a round of their famous salt cod croquettes and wash everything down with a small glass of Spanish vermouth.
Best Paella: El Arrozal
While paella is not native to Madrid, the Spanish capital is home to plenty of hearty rice dishes—you just have to know where to look. Many paella joints lean towards the touristy side, but not El Arrozal. This favorite spot in La Latina combines succulent short-grain rice, tender meat, and colorful vegetables into the paella of your dreams—no bright yellow tourist fare here. They even offer paella in single servings, which is not common in most arrocerías.
Best Cocido Madrileño: La Bola
Conquering Madrid's most legendary dish—the almighty cocido madrileño—is no small feat. You've got a noodle soup, chickpeas, vegetables, and various pork products all simmering to perfection over several hours and finally served in multiple courses. While it's not hard to find cocido madrileño here in the city that gives the stew its name, many locals tend to head to La Bola, a tiny, timeless restaurant just around the corner from the Royal Palace, to get their fix.
Best for Families: Casa Mingo
Eating out with younger kids—especially in a foreign country—can be challenging. Casa Mingo solves all your problems by providing the ideal spot for a simple, enjoyable family meal. Foodies of all ages will love their famous roast chicken, and the dining area is spacious and welcoming. As a bonus, it's within walking distance to two of Madrid's top green spaces—Madrid Rio and Casa de Campo—for when kids need to burn off some steam after eating.
Best Market Restaurant: Casa Dani
Madrid markets are buzzing epicenters of the city's social life. Here, locals shop, eat, and meet with friends all under one roof, and joining them is one of the most enjoyable parts of visiting the Spanish capital. One of the most authentic Madrid markets is Mercado de la Paz, home to Casa Dani, where they serve up arguably the most iconic tortilla de patatas in Madrid. Go with the classic version or try one of their more adventurous variations.
Best Brunch: Carmencita
Yes, the brunch craze has arrived in Madrid, and locals and visitors alike gladly partake every weekend. Without a doubt, one of the top brunch hotspots here in the Spanish capital is Carmencita—a name now synonymous with fabulous french toast, eggs, mimosas and more, served up fresh every day. As you might imagine, spots fill up fast, so be sure to call ahead and reserve yours.