“Come in, there’s room at the bar”
he bar of a Madrid pub is where you wait when you have a date, where you decide where to go next, where you hear the best jokes, where you debate everything from the divine to the human condition, and where you enjoy the open, friendly spirit of the locals. On entering a bar, you will be met with the bartender’s eternal cry, “pase, hay sitio al fondo de la barra.” No matter if the place is full, there’s always room for one more. You may even end up sharing a plate with whoever made room for you. So now you know, making friends in the capital is as easy as going out for cañas, we let you in on how and where to do it.
With around 15,000 places to choose from , Madrid is one of the most bar-blessed cities in the world. Little wonder, since life in the capital is lived outdoors and the bar and tapas culture has become the hallmark of Madrileño hospitality. The croquettes filled with traditional beef stew at Casa Alberto, in the heart of Barrio de las Letras, are legendary. As are the fried squid sandwiches at El Brillante, by the Atocha roundabout,; Bill and Hillary Clinton even made a stop here during their 1997 visit to Madrid for a NATO summit.
Croquettes, pickles, Russian salad and potato omelette are invariably on display in the most authentic establishments. Tiled facades and beer taps atop zinc counters complete the picture. Timeless places where both hipsters and the not-so-hip go to meet friends or just to chill after work. Madrid embraces its customs, and among the most cherished is vermouth or aperitif time. A favourite on any tapas tour of the capital is El Doble, located on Calle Ponzano. This is the place for roast potatoes and cooked shrimp. Beers are served in tall 40-centilitre glasses—cañas—”to best preserve the creamy head.” The fact is, Madrileños take proper beer pouring very seriously.
While the fearless dive into the patatas bravas (the spicy ones) in Docamar, on Calle Alcalá, the less daring head for the heart of Madrid, where the mix of nationalities and ages dissipates among the classic bars. At Casa Revuelta, close to Puerta del Sol, marinated cod is the star turn; at Bodegas Alfaro, deep in the Lavapiés neighbourhood, you’ll find out why pickled anchovies always feature in the top 10 Madrileño appetizers; and at La Tomasa, in La Latina, the open toasted sandwiches are every bit a classic.
The bars of Madrid are loud, but that’s part of their magic. People living in the Malasaña neighbourhood know all about that; tapas mornings run on into afternoon drinks and extend into nights of rock. Remember to ask about the U2 croquetas bar; any local will take you to Casa Julio, a pub famous for its well-pulled beers and for being the place where the Irish band ate croquettes.
You can’t leave Malasaña without trying a yayo, a mix of soda water, gin and vermouth served at Casa Camacho, or playing a game of pool with strangers—all you need is a partner and a 1euro coin—at La Vía Láctea, a retro bar from the 80s. You’ll probably end the day, or most likely the night, in the Dos de Mayo plaza with a group of impromptu friends deciding where to go for the after-party. Because let’s face it, anytime is the right time for a drink in Madrid.