Known for its authentic, quality Italian food and no frills dining, La Vita e Bella is a casual Italian eatery that is popular among students and others who are looking more for good food than for ambiance. Besides the perennial pizza squares, try their appetizers like fried risotto balls, one of their fresh pasta dishes like lasagna or gnocchi, or traditional desserts like cannoli and tiramisu. The seating area is quite small, which is why most people opt to take their food out. In fact, on weekend nights, many young people like to eat in the square across the street.
Local Expert tip: Don't forget the dessert!
In the heart of the city at the crossroads of Calle Mayor and Puerta del Sol, this cafe has been serving Madrilenos for more than a century. All manner of pastries, shortbread, croissants, cream buns, chocolate cakes are made fresh daily from the kitchen in the back.
Local Expert tip: Their flat chocolate croissants are to die for.
A whimsical, romantic vegetarian restaurant, La Isla del Tesoro serves up creative and healthy food beneath dripping candles in an eclectic South Seas shipwreck like setting. For a taste of Spanish puns, order the "Buenrrollito" appetizer. Otherwise, the Seitan Tan-Tan main dish and the Chocolate Gocho dessert are particularly good. The set value-price lunch menus change each day under a different country theme like Pakistan or Indonesia while the a la carte menu is a constant of different internationally inspired dishes. Located in the Malasa�a neighborhood, the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner only. Reservations are highly recommended and you can make them online or by phone.
Local Expert tip: Bring a date.
One of the definitive, inner-circle of cool gay cafes in the Chueca neighborhood, Diurno has the requisite minimalist white d�cor, plus lounge or chill-out on the stereo (with occasional forays into techno at night). Diurno stands out especially for its excellent selection of rental movies (in both video and DVD format) and offers one of the most broad-ranging and eclectic collections of TV series, foreign films and classic cinema in Madrid. After you've finished browsing, the food on offer includes healthy and delicious sandwiches, salads, basic pasta dishes, cakes and pastries. Peaceful by day, lively and friendly at night, this is an excellent hangout and easy place to meet people. METRO: Chueca
Local Expert tip: Try one of the fresh cakes and pastries.
Young chef Andr�s Madrigal is becoming one of the key players in Madrid's restaurant scene. Both the name and appearance of his restaurant recall the 19th-century Parisian roots of the swanky city eatery. A series of warm yellow rooms (some private) are furnished with elegant modern furniture and deep leather dining chairs. Madrigal specializes in an original fusion of modern Mediterranean with the traditional flavors of Provence. Expect subtle homages to the bouillabaisse, the parmentier or the brandade of salt cod. He also performs modern takes on home favorites such as olive-oil ice cream floating in a martini glass filled with gazpacho; or a timbale of sea urchin and scrambled egg, garlanded by a black sauce of squid ink. METRO: Retiro or Banco de Espa�a
Local Expert tip: Valet parking is available.
The Cafe de Oriente is a classic Madrid restaurant and literary cafe with a privileged position facing Madrid's Royal Palace and the Plaza de Oriente. The Cafe de Oriente is decorated in an elegant Baroque style (though the building dates from the 1980s) with red velvet cushions and golden accents. The restaurant menu is dedicated to upscale Spanish fare while the cafeteria and cafe menu is more a potpourri of Spanish and standard Western fare with sandwiches and pizzas. During fine weather the Cafe de Oriente puts tables and chairs out front so that you can dine with views of the palace.
Local Expert tip: Royalty have been known to dine here.
La Bola's rich, red facade speaks volumes about the tradition that governs this restaurant, which is run by the founding family's sixth and seventh generations. Known for its version of the popular two-course stew, cocido a la Madrilena, which is grilled salmon or sole and filet of veal. Cocido is served with crusty bread and a glass of red wine, and is served only at lunch. METRO: Plaza de Espana/Opera.
Local Expert tip: For traditional Spanish dining, this is the place.
The only thing that was less than perfect about the original La Musa in Malasa�a was its cramped dimensions. This newer branch solves the problem with large airy spaces and even slicker d�cor. The excellent menu expanded too, particularly for breakfast (weekdays only). The vibe is as fashionable as ever: it draws a style-conscious young crowd with its creative, but very affordable, dishes and affordable set lunch. This eatery is especially strong on creative salads, tapas and its signature bomba, a deep-fried tennis ball of spicy meat or vegetables. The cocktail lounge has a DJ spinning house sounds and is open from Thursday to Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Turn up early to avoid a long line. METRO: La Latina
Local Expert tip: The funky d�cor and its continuous hours make La Musa a local favorite. Also, the restaurant is next to the historic Plaza de la Paja.
Elegantly designed and decorated in a Spanish Art Nouveau style, El Espejo restaurant and cafe is oft referred to as the best Art Nouveau cafe Madrid never had because of its authentic detailing and 1978 founding. The beautiful restaurant serves up Spanish food like suckling pig, Madrid style tripe, partridge and scallops, and is a good place to observe the Spanish tradition of a mid-afternoon cup of coffee and cake. Live piano and jazz music is occasionally featured there and when the weather is nice, dining at the outdoor tables on the grand Paseo de Recoletos boulevard is a treat.
Local Expert tip: Come to pretend it's 1900.
The restaurant Baazar serves up creative Mediterranean and international inspired food in a sophisticated white-toned setting where open shelves decked with pretty supplies serve as decoration. Located in the heart of Madrid's Chueca neighborhood, the restaurant is spread over two floors and has large windows that let in a lot of light and contributes to the feeling of transparency and a place to see and be seen. In spite of its creative and fashionable air, Bazaar is still a reasonably priced place to eat. You should note, however, that the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner only and does not take reservations.
Local Expert tip: Get here early!