Mapping Madrid: The War On Jamón

(Or, a Vegetarian Caffeine Addict’s Guide To Eating In Madrid)


I’ve talked a lot of trash about Madrid in the past, and one of my most common remarks is that I don’t get why so many tourists visit here. And I’m not just saying that because they get in my way whenever I have to venture into Sol *shudder*. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an absolutely wonderful city to live in– I just don’t think it’s the place to plan and wait for a visit to. That been said, obviously there are places and things I love here, but because most people I know always visit Barcelona (how dare they?), my expat expertise is wasted. So when one of my favourite bloggers, Rachel, wrote about how she was visiting Madrid this year, I jumped at the chance to offer my favourite haunts in this city I call home. Then I figured that no one else I know is gonna visit this city again any time soon, so I’ll blog my tips as well. You’re welcome.

This installment will focus on my first worry when planning my move to Madrid, how to survive as a vegetarian, and my first hurdle upon arriving, where to find a decent cup of coffee. Hierarchy of needs and all that.

Time for real talk: if your idea of Spanish food is free plates of delicious tapas with your drinks at the bar, Madrid is going to disappoint you. Although it is possible to find, it’s not always worth the trouble. In fact, if you think any of my food related tips are going to be praising Spanish food at all, stop reading now. I am not a fan (and if you’re vegetarian, you’re not going to be either). But I do appreciate good food… it’s just not what you’d necessarily relate to Spain.

Federal Café (metro Noviciado): This is probably my favourite place to grab lunch in Madrid. It’s big and bright and spacious and is a favourite among the expat scene. It’s an Australian place, with another location in Barcelona, and it’s definitely my go-to place if I’m craving a sandwich… which really don’t exist in Spain. My favourite is the haloumi.

Toma Café (metros Noviciado/Tribunal): This place is consistently referred to as the best coffee in Madrid, and I’d have to agree. It’s a quirky little place that’s more like a hole in the wall, but if you do manage to fight for a seat in here, stop for one of their iced coffees (another rarity in Madrid, usually if I request one I’m handed a regular coffee and a separate glass full of ice… you’re welcome).

Coffee & Kicks (metro Callao): This is a new place but has quickly become one of my favourites. Another place for excellent iced lattes or cold brew coffee (and an extra delicious lemon cake). It’d be so easy to walk right passed this place if you didn’t know what you were looking for, but that’s just part of it’s charm.

La Chelinda (metros Sol/Antòn Martín): I’d describe this place as a feminist Mexican restaurant, which are three words after my own heart if there ever were any. I would do anything for Mexico and Spain to switch their cuisines, but I think this place is the closest I’m gonna get. Try the veggie burrito.

La Infinito (metros Antón Martín/Lavapies): As an English graduate, I’m a sucker for anything with a literary reference. This adorable little library café hybrid is a really quiet little spot perfect for getting work done. It also does hummus, something you’d think a country with such Arab influences would have more of, but alas. I promise I don’t pick my menu options based on which literary character they’re named after, honest.

Viva Chapata (metro Lavapies): VEGAN FOOD. VEGETARIAN FOOD. I LOVE YOU. Aaaaah. In a sea of chorizo and jamón, finding somewhere with an overwhelmingly vegan menu felt like a hallucination. A veggie mirage in a world of cooked animal carcasses. Although it does have meat options too, y’know, if you’re into that stuff.

So go forth, holiday-goers and newbie expats of Madrid, eat good food and try to ignore all the weird giant pig legs that adorn every bar/supermarket/restaurant you see.


Author: Rosanna Parrish

Brit exiled in Spain.

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