If you’re a grazer, you’ll fall in love with Madrid’s tapas style of dining.  This is where friends and family, high society, and blue-collar workers come together to drink and dine over tried-and-true favorites like salt cod fritters and distinctive local specialties – fried pork ear, anyone?  No need to pick just one tapas bar. Sip and snack at as many as you can find, even late into the night.  Here are the tapas bars in Madrid that we have our eye on.

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Casa Toni

For an authentic Madrid tapas experience, head to Casa Toni in the Puerta del Sol area. It’s unpretentious, old-school-style makes it a local favorite – and when the locals love it, you can be fairly certain you will, too! Don’t miss the offal – a concoction of intestines, ear, sweetbreads, loads of garlic, and parsley. You won’t regret it.  The more faint of heart might veer toward the standards on the menu, including chorizo, sauteed mushrooms, patatas bravas and more.

La Casa del Abuelo

When La Casa del Abuelo refers to itself as family-run, they’re not kidding around.  The tapas bar has been family-owned and operated since 1906.  And, it’s the birthplace of the gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp tapa).

There’s a story to this tapa’s rise to popularity. After the Spanish Civil War, Madrid faced a bread shortage.  At that time, La Casa was a sandwich bar and without bread, well, you get the picture. The owner found that shrimp was plentiful at the market and, out of necessity, gambas al ajillo was born.

Everything is done in-house here, including shelling the shrimp and making their own olive oil and wine. And, today, there’s more than enough bread to go around so be sure to order some to soak up the extra garlic sauce on your plate.

Taberna Real

Just around the corner from the Royal Palace, Taberna Real is a lovely spot for an aperitif, local Campo Real olives and empanada.  The palace servants used to live here, later transforming it into a bar.  In keeping with the palatial theme, the bar boasts a glittery chandelier that is a replica of the one found in the neighboring palace.

La Campana

Like Casa Toni, La Campana provides a very real Madrid experience.  This is the place to try the typical bocadillo de calamares (fried calamari sandwich) for which the city is known. Make like a true Spaniard and take it to go. Homemade bread envelopes perfectly fried crispy calamari, cementing the fact that simple is best when it comes to tapas.

Bodega de la Ardosa

Another oldie, but goodie, Bodega de la Ardosa is somewhere around its 130-year-old birthday. From the antiques lining the shelves and the engraved beer taps, every inch of the place exudes character.  The artichokes are a seasonal hit, sizzled and grilled in Spanish olive oil until you can almost spread the tasty goodness on bread.  The fresh sea anemones (ortiguillas), sherry-braised beef cheeks and tortilla española are, quite literally, award-winning.

Casa Revuelta

Impress your travel companions by suggesting this delightful bar, two minutes from the Plaza Mayor. Order a glass of vermú or a half-pint to wash down the battered bacalao (salt cod) fritters, one of the many must-try delicacies before leaving Madrid.  Revuelta is also known for its slow-stewed tripe, available only on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Hungry?  We don’t blame you.  Let’s chat about your trip to Spain and which Madrid tapas bars you should have in your sights.