Sunday, April 6, 2008

More budget restaurants in Madrid: Cheap places for dinner

Now that you’ve had your low-priced menu del día for lunch and a few free tapas to tide you over until dinner (which starts around 8 p.m. at the very earliest in Madrid), it’s time to find a cheap place for your evening meal in Madrid. Many of the places I listed for good fixed lunches in Madrid also have well-priced dinner menus. Here are a few more of my favorite places for good but cheap food in Madrid.

Top 10 cheap restaurants for dinner in Madrid

Bazaar (Calle Libertad, 21; Metro Chueca) Mediterranean cuisine (mostly Spanish and French) at reasonable prices. The menu has a variety of salads and small plates; two plates is enough to fill you up, and you may have room for dessert as well. A good meal with a bottle of wine may cost as little as €30 to €40 for two people.

Bósforos Doner Kebap (Calle Hortaleza, 6; Metro Gran Via) It seems you can’t go more than 50 feet in Madrid without coming across a kebab shop, but finding a good one may not be quite so easy. This is one of my favorites. The quality of the meat (I always get chicken) seems better than most, the service is very friendly, and it’s much cleaner and bigger than other kebab restaurants in Madrid. The dhurum kebab (wrapped in a flat tortilla-like bread and then grilled) is particularly good, as are the combos (with salad, french fries, and bread). A meal costs between €4 and €8, depending what you get.

Casa Mingo (Paseo de la Florida, 34; Metro Príncipe Pio) A fantastic place serving primarily Asturian food (e.g., fabada, queso cabrales) but best-known for its roasted chicken. There are several tables inside and when the weather’s good you can sit on the terraza as well. It’s also a great place to pick up some food to go to have a picnic in the nearby Casa de Campo or Parque del Oeste (two parks, one on either side). A ración of chorizo a la sidra, a salad, one or two roasted chickens, and a few mini chapatas is enough to feed four people. It will cost around €20 to €30 total.

“Chinese Underground” (Metro Plaza de España, underground – follow steps down towards the parking garage) Nobody seems to know the name of this place. I call it the “Chinese Underground” for two reasons: it is, literally, underground and for many years it was a secret that only a lucky few of us had stumbled across. Then, unfortunately, about three years ago one of the major Madrid nightlife guides published a story about it. It’s now nearly impossible to get a table and, if you do, you can expect to share with strangers. The place is small, greasy, and pretty unattractive, but the food is fantastic and very cheap. There are actually two menus – one in Spanish/English with about 10 or 15 choices and one in Chinese with about 30 options. Two people can eat there for as little as €10 (though €15 or €20 will get you a more filling meal).

El Automático (Calle de Argumosa, 17; Metro Lavapiés) A small place that is usually packed (you need to keep an eye on the tables and be aggressive when one opens up). The limited menu includes many traditional Spanish raciones that can be shared by several people, including croquetas and salmorejo (a heartier version of gazpacho that comes with bits of jamón Serrano or bacon on top). Each ración costs about €6.

El Rodizio (moved July 2008 to Calle Medea, 4; Metro Suances) This Brazilian restaurant can either be a great value for a ton of food, or it can end up being pretty pricey (depending what you have to drink and whether you go for dessert). A budget-conscious person would starve themselves all day and then go here for a gut-busting meal for about €25 or €30 (you won’t need dessert anyways). For that price, you get to gorge yourself on a buffet that includes various salads, fried rice dishes, sushi, and much more. Then the real fun begins, as waiters come by with carts of various meats, sausages, and even whole roasted pigs. If you want it, just point, and they’ll slice you off a portion. It’s all included in the price of your meal. When I was there, they also had Brazilian dancers who put on a little show and then got members of the “audience” (i.e., the diners) to join them for dancing.

Lempika (Calle Juan Alvarez Mendizábal, 10; Metro Plaza de España) A very small and simple little bar/restaurant with great food at very reasonable prices. The menu is a mix between Spanish raciones (mainly vegetarian, such as pumpkin croquetas) and Middle Eastern food (babaganush, hummus, kebeh, etc.) A great place to get some veggies in Madrid, but plenty of stuff for meat-eaters as well. Most raciones are priced between €5 and €8.

Maceiras (Calle de las Huertas, 66; Metro Antón Martín) A very popular Galician taberna with tradicional gallego decor and raciones. Expect to wait a while for a table (there’s usually a line out the door). Great place for seafood, such as pulpo a la gallega (octopus with spicy paprika and olive oil) and tetilla (Galician cheese). You can get a delicious, filling meal for about €20 a head.

Musashi (Calle de las Conchas, 4; Metro Callao, Santo Domingo, or Ópera) A great option for cheap Japanese food in Madrid, with many dishes for non-sushi-eaters. Try the rice dishes like oyako don (rice with chicken and onions) or great set menus with roasted salmon or teriyaki. A good meal can cost as little as €10.

Pizzeria Vesuvio (Calle Hortaleza, 4; Metro Gran Via) Without a doubt the best place for authentic but cheap wood-fired pizza in Madrid. It’s no wonder, then, that it’s hard to find a place to sit. But they also do a lot of take-out business through the street-side window up front, so you could get a few to go and camp out in the nearby Plaza de Chueca to enjoy your individual-sized pizzas. Each pizza costs around €5.

(Find other online menus for Madrid restaurants)

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