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Make Time for Madrid's Main Meal, Lunch



After a small breakfast, lunch in Madridis more than a welcome sight; it’s a revelation. Eaten between two and four in the afternoon, lunch in Madridis the biggest, the most important and arguably the most creative meal of the day. You don’t have to worry about eating too much though, as you can just take a hard-earned siesta afterwards! But to get the full Madridlunch experience at least once, do order a fixed price lunch (called a menu del día in Spanish). You’ll get an appetizer, a main meal, bread, wine, dessert and coffee for much less than you’d think. Unfortunately, the menu del día deal is only available during the week. But weekday or weekend, do take your time (two hours is still common), for lunch in Madrid is a ritual to be savored. In fact, the one thing a Madrid restaurant won’t do is rush you; the waiters are in no hurry to see you go! In some restaurants you may actually have to be a bit aggressive to get your check at all, but that’s just part of the ritual. And if you have the time, don’t skimp on the after-lunch conversation with your meal companions, either. This concept has its own word in Spanish: sobremesa


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La Latina & Lavapiés

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

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Chueca & Malasaña
La Isla del Tesoro
Photo courtesy of Carlos Fernandez

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.

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Café de Oriente
Photo courtesy of Markellos


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.

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Museo del Jamón
Photo courtesy of Robert Lowe

Well known for its unique décor in the form of rows of whole hams dangling from the ceiling or lining the walls, the local Madrid restaurant chain Museo del Jamón (Museum of Ham) serves up traditional Madrid and Spanish fare. There are counters in front for informal munching and the opportunity to buy hams, and a dining room in the back for sit-down meals. Ham is unsurprisingly what this restaurant does best, but the other fare won't steer you wrong either. Everything here is simple, traditional, hearty Spanish food. Go on and take a photo of the hams lining the walls if you want to.

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Chamartin
Fast Good

The latest brainchild of the Catalan superchef, Ferran Adri�, is a move away from his usual Michelin-starred establishments and into the terrain of fast food. Designer fast food, naturally. True to his status as the originator of the Spanish food revolution and the nueva cocina movement, Adri� has fashioned dishes such as foie salad with green beans or tiny panini, and boccatini topped with anything from rocket to brie and spinach or top-quality Iberian cured ham. The hamburgers are absolutely superlative. Juices include unusual combinations such as red peach and lychee. The adventurous soups and mixed platters change daily. Throw in ultra-sleek modern deor and a location right in the heart of Madrid's business district, and success is all but inevitable. METRO: Cuzco

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Founded in 1888, Casa Mingo is a traditional Spanish restaurant, tavern and cider mill serving Madrid fare with an Asturian twist. It is best known for its plates of roast chicken washed down with bottles of apple cider, but other menu items include Madrid-style tripe, Serrano ham and Spanish cheeses. Casa Mingo's cider is made on the premises using apples from Asturias and there is outdoor seating for when the weather is nice. The restaurant is located beside the Royal Chapel of Saint Anthony of La Florida, which features frescoes by the Spanish painter Francisco Goya, who is also buried there.

Local Expert tip: Sample the apple cider made on the premises.

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100 Montaditos
Photo courtesy of Calapito


100 Montaditos is a fun, cheap Spanish sandwich and beer chain with a slightly Andalusian feel to it. But true to its name, the restaurant offers 100 types of sandwiches, and as they are small ("montadito" means a small sandwich), diners are encouraged to mix, match and try different types. It's actually a good way to sample several Spanish staples in a hurry. The customers at 100 Montaditos are asked to mark down what they want on an order form; the orders are then either called over the loudspeaker for you to pick up or are brought to your table.

Local Expert tip: About three sandwiches make a full meal.

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La Bola


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.

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Chueca & Malasaña


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!

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Casa Paco is Madrid's finest steak house. The meat is exquisite, and the service mirrors the quality of food. Casa Paco's trademark is that all steaks are served on plates hot enough to continue to cook the meat while it is at your table. There are other options besides steak, including sole or baby lamb. Don't forget to finish with a tantalizing dessert that can't be resisted! METRO: Tirso de Molina

Local Expert tip: The decor is classic Madrid.

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Meet Sarah Rogers

Born and raised in northern California, Sarah grew up to become an expat, traveler and wordsmith. She spent seven years in Madrid, Spain and now calls Buenos Aires, Argentina home. She has had...  More About Sarah

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