The Best Tapas in the Coolest Neighborhood of Madrid
by Aidan Kim & Dylon Goris
Pics: A. Kim unless otherwise stated
For the eighth straight year, Lavapies has been the home to the loudest and tastiest Tapas festival in Madrid: Tapapies. With live music performances and flavors from around the world, there’s no better place to get your tapas fix.
Of course, with over 150 offerings, there’s no easy way to try them all over the course of the six day festival. At €1.50 euro a tapa and €2.50 for a tapa and an icy cold Estrella, it’s easy to spend a whole day bouncing around the streets of Lavapies in search of the best tapa. Here are some of the places we liked the most.
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Don’t let the name scare you away, the tapa they were serving at Maldito Querer was packed with flare and flavor. Served as an open-faced bun stuffed with pulled pork marinated in pitarra wine, The Camperitos was vaguely reminiscent of a Spanish sloppy joe. The fluffy baguette soaked up all the flavor of the tender marinated pork creating a delicious bite. By the time we had finished our delectable pork buns, we were tempted to ask for a bowl filled with just the mouthwatering pork. Find your way to this cozy bar for great tapas and better drinks.
La Playa de Lavapies
Verde Que Te Quiero Ver
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The name of the tapa served at this beach-themed bar translates to “I Want to See You Green” and faithful to its name is served on a green basil and sesame seed bun. In between the green buns of this vegetarian slider was a fresh lineup of fillings that included green pepper hummus, cucumber, caramelized onions, and goat cheese. A healthier take on the veggie burger, you will definitely want more than one of these. Adorned with pictures of bikini-clad women, faux palm trees, and bamboo blinds you’ll likely feel like you’re at a beachside cantina when you enter La Playa de Lavapies.
La Buga del Lobo
El Lobo Se Tira Al Monte
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Following in the theme of peculiarly named tapas, the next place we stopped at was La Buga del Lobo which was serving El Lobo Se Tira Al Monte from the Spanish proverb La cabra (siempre) tira al monte, i.e., The leopard doesn’t change its spots. The tapa was a bocadillo loaded with chocolate simmered beef cheek topped with a chocolate glaze. It was divine. Each bite unlocked a new layer of gastronomic sensations, as the bitterness of the dark chocolate glaze perfectly complemented the savoriness of the succulent beef cheek. The vibrant murals and mosaic art that decorate the walls of this funky fusion bar are a mark of the bar’s immersion of cultures as Caribbean and Spanish cuisines collide at La Buga del Lobo. This quirky bar is definitely a staple of the Lavapies neighborhood, as it culminates the rich concentration of cultures into a must see destination.
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Walking through Tapapies and sampling all that it has to offer is like taking your taste buds on a world tour. Restaurant owners took the opportunity to promote their native cuisine in bite sized dishes. And we got just that at African Fusion, a Senegalese restaurant owned by Yerim Mbodji (see photo) and his wife, Reyes. Their tapa, thiebou waalo, is a traditional Senegalese dish that looked as good as it tasted. A dish prepared with dijoloff rice mixed with onion marinated chicken and a vegetable salad, the tapa was among the highlights of our tour. The owner, Yerim, was proud to offer a taste of his home to hungry passersby. We asked him if Tapapies has been a boon for his business, to which he replied, “Business is generally good. But Tapapies, they bring me more people who don’t know what Africa Fusion is. But any time they come, they like the food, they ask for my card, and they come back again.” Clearly, Tapapies is an opportunity for restaurant owners to benefit from a surge in business and for hungry tapas crawlers to enrich their palettes with tasty and culturally diverse cuisine.
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Toward the end of our epic tapas crawl, our bellies were full of Estrella beer and samples of cuisine from around the world. We had heard the buzz about this place serving up the best tapa on the block, but had yet to see it. One patron we spoke to who was visiting Spain from Australia told us that she’d been to several of the participating restaurants, but could barely contain her excitement when she remembered her favorite one of all, “a pizza joint down the street. Primadonna!” Certainly, we would have been remiss if we had not made room for the tricolored pizza at this traditional Italian pizzeria. Sun dried tomatoes and fresh buffalo mozzarella lay over a bed of leafy green arugula with a drizzle of pesto atop a soft doughy crust of multi cereal flour, composing the most beautiful tapa we came across on our travels. The first bite was an orgasm of artesanal flavors and the next bite was even better. The light accent of the pesto added a glorious dimension of flavor to this exquisite personal pizza. If you’re looking for the best pizza outside of Rome, take a visit to Primadonna, you won’t be disappointed.
Featured image and Tapapies logo/Tapapies official website
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