New Favorites in Madrid
When I came back to Madrid after five years away, old haunts of mine slowly floated back into memory. There are some classics that merit a return, of course, and I plan to eventually make my way back to a couple of my favorite spots. I've been enjoying finding new hangouts this time around, though, thanks mostly to local friends. Madrid has some of the coolest spots I've seen and puts Washington, DC's attempts at ambience to shame.
We tend to associate central Spain with slabs of manchego cheese and jamón served up in tapas bars, and while those spots are certainly common, Madrid has much more to offer to weirdos like me. Being a vegan with a bit of a (cringe) "alternative" bent to my taste, I don't spend much time in the more traditional spots in the city. Here are my new favorite places that I've frequented since returning to Madrid in 2018.
B13 (Malasaña) - B13 is the place to go for hard-to-find vegan versions of traditional Spanish dishes like patatas bravas, croquetas, and tortilla española. A madrileña friend took me here and the plates were both delicious and massive. It's satisfying to be able to find these classic foods made so that I can eat them, and now I can truthfully tell incredulous locals that it is possible to make a tasty vegan tortilla. The atmosphere is chill and casual, and there's some fun anti-bullfighting art on the walls.
Superchulo (Malasaña) - I went to this restaurant with my host family in Madrid at the suggestion of my host sister, and it was fantastic. Like many vegan spots in Madrid, the decor is filled with greenery; vines hanging from the ceiling makes you feel like you're dining in some sort of hipster tree house. I was the only vegan at the table but we all loved the food; which ranges from pad thai to pizza. It's on the nicer side compared to the other spots on this list and so would be the perfect location for a date or a celebratory dinner.
Masa Madre (Chueca) - As the very first vegan restaurant I went to in Madrid and the site of my first-ever solo dining experience, Masa Madre has a special place in my heart. It's a small seven-table spot in Chueca, Madrid's gay neighborhood, and the feel of the place is a cross between a cozy flower shop and an anti-establishment punk café. They're best known for their vegan pizzas, but I had the croquetas and loved them. There were also several other solo diners, so it's a good place to hang out on your own. Plus, there's chalk art in the bathroom that says, "Vegans do it better," so.
Pura Vida (La Latina) - I found out about this vegan bar from someone I met on a street art walking tour. By pure luck I ended up staying at a hostel just around the corner from it, so I went in for a solo dinner. Of the vegan places I've been to so far, Pura Vida has the strongest ethical bent, with pamphlets, buttons, and vegan t-shirts making the restaurant's philosophy clear. I sat at the bar alone, which usually leads to good conversation with the bartender, but things were quiet at this place, so it’s not necessarily a great place to meet new people.
Update: Took an omnivore here last night and he enjoyed the food! Love it when that happens.
La Bicicleta (Malasaña) - I've already been to this place three or four times since I got to Madrid at the beginning of January. It's a bicycle-themed café with a decidedly hipster flavor, with coffee bean sacks papering the walls and repurposed school desks forming small tables where people meet for coffee or bend over their laptops. There are definitely some locals there, but a lot of tourists and Erasmus/study abroad students, too. I like going there for the afternoon to write and will probably become a regular once I move back to Madrid. The coffee ain't cheap, but it's so good.
Ojalá (Malasaña) - Entering this place at street-level, it looks like many of the other funky, laid-back cafés in Malasaña, but downstairs is where the real magic happens. Upon descending the stairs, you walk into what feels like a beachside cave: the floor is sand, the dim lights illuminate the white brick walls with shifting colors, and the seating consists of low-lying lounges that remind me of something I'd find at a beach house. As the local who introduced me to Ojalá said, "All the places I show you are cool!"
La Tita Rivera (Chueca) - Come here for flavored cider, patatas bravas, and a beautiful terraza that will be amazing in the summertime. I can't wait to go back when the weather is warmer and I have a pen to add my message to the hundreds of napkins adorning the patio walls.
There's my list! Special thanks to a certain local for taking me to many of these spots and insisting on taking my picture in them. I'm sure I'll add plenty more places as time goes on, but for now I'm off to Andalucía again and then will leave the country to visit friends in the Netherlands and Italy. I promise I'll actually leave Spain next time, though my track record isn't great so far...