Wednesday, April 2, 2008

More cheap eats in Madrid: Free tapas

Most bars in Spain give you something to nibble on if you order a cold beverage (pop, juice, beer, or wine). In cities like Granada, Almeria, and Salamanca, you can usually get enough free and decent food with your drinks to cover your dinner. In those places, you're often given a choice of 10-15 different tapas, ranging from mini hamburgers to skewered meat or garlicky potatoes. In Madrid, unfortunately, the most common "tapas" is a small plate of olives, peanuts, or potato chips (crisps, for our British readers).

There are, however, a few places in Madrid where a few cañas (glasses of beer) will get you the equivalent of a free meal in tapas. Being that the food is free and the drinks are cheap, don't expect top quality. But if you find yourself at the end of the month, waiting to get paid, and you still want a night out with friends, try one of these places. The food is greasy, but filling. And to be honest, it's really not that bad...

Top 3 places for free tapas in Madrid

El Boñar de Leon (Calle Cruz Verde, 16; Metro Noviciado or Plaza de España) This place serves what are probably the hugest portions of free tapas in Madrid. The beers aren't small either. Be warned that the food is incredibly greasy. It's best to go in the summer, when they put several tables outside. For about €2 you get a large beer (a pint or so) with a big bowl of paella, chicken wings, or a huge slice of tortilla de patatas.

El Rincón Abulense (Calle Caballero de Gracia, 18; Metro Gran Via or Sol) Probably the best value for free tapas. The drinks may be a little bit more expensive than the other two places (though only by 20 centimos or so), but the quality of the food is a bit better as well. With each drink, they usually give you a big plate of cheese and chorizo with bread, croquetas, or scrambled eggs with potatoes and chorizo.

El Tigre (Calle Infantas, 30; Metro Gran Via or Chueca) They recently renovated the place, so it's much cleaner than it used to be. It's really popular with university kids, and it's almost impossible to get a place to sit (or even stand at times!). For about €1,20 you can get a small glass of beer or Asturian cider, usually accompanied by two or three canapés (bread with chorizo, jamón, or cheese) and some potatoes or croquetas.

(Find Madrid restaurant menus online)

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