Tapeo and Tapas, Madrid

Category: Madrid

Madrid, Spain, the nation’s capital and largest city, is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. However, it is also a city rich in history and tradition, a place where the old and the new seem to effortlessly blend to create one of the most pleasant environments in all of Europe. Tourists visiting Madrid will find no shortage of things to do and see, including hundreds of prized monuments and sculptures, well-manicured parks, art and history museums, libraries, shops, and a countless number of restaurants and bars, where Madrilènos and locals alike can come together to eat, drink and socialize after a long day of working or touring the city’s sites.

The friendly atmosphere of Spain’s glorious capital is perhaps best personified by the tradition known as el tapeo, the practice of sampling various tapas at the local restaurants and especially the different bars in town, including los mesones, small hole-in-the-wall bars famous for their beer, wine and delicious tapas.. Although not a written or religious tradition, el tapeo is the closest thing to it, as the practice is observed by nearly all of the local citizens.

If you plan to do some much-recommended bar-hopping when visiting Madrid, instead of munching on popcorn, peanuts and salty pretzels, as one might do in American bars, in Madrid you will receive small food samples, known as tapas, or “small plates” each time you order a drink. These samples are free with the cost of your order, and with hundreds of possible combinations, there is simply no limit to the variety of the tasty finger foods you can sample during your night on the town.

As anyone who has lived in or traveled to Madrid will tell you, the experience of el tapeo is an excellent and delicious way to taste and savor the local cuisine. It is also the most fun and expedient manner in which to meet new friends who are eager to chat. Labeled by some as a “giant party in motion,” el tapeo can take on a life of its own, with each experience a little different from the next. This is how the people of Madrid and Spain view life: a joyous occasion filled with eating, drinking and living life to the fullest. Tapas bars, of which there are hundreds in the city and throughout Spain, replace living rooms as the place where people congregate after a long day’s work. The traditional supper in Spain is typically served between 9:00 and 11:00 PM. This leaves approximately three hours after the work day, during which individuals and families can take a stroll through their neighborhoods, and pop into a bar for a snack, adult beverage, and lots of interesting conversation.

There are many different kinds of tapas to sample on any given night in Madrid, including small pieces of deep-fried fish and seafood, which are very popular throughout the city. Some of the other favorites include olives, stuffed with cheese, anchovies or roasted bell pepper; Albondigas, or meatballs with sauce; Bacalao, salted cod loin sliced very thinly and usually served with bread and tomatoes; Carne Mechada, slow cooked pieces of tender beef; Chopitos, battered and fried tiny squid; and Frittatas, a tortilla containing vegetables and chorizo. Many of these snacks are drenched with olive oil, garlic, hot chilies and other spices, and because fat is not used sparingly in Spanish cooking, it’s best to leave the calorie chart at home.