You’re coming to Madrid and you’ve heard you have to go for tapas on Calle Cava Baja. Totally! This short street in La Latina is tapas heaven. But there are 50 tapas bars in the short 300 metre stretch. And lots of them are average or worse. So how do you know which tapas bars on Cava Baja to go to?
In this video Yoly and I hit 7 of our favourites to help you answer that very question!
My Favourite Tapas Bars on Calle Cava Baja
So where did we go? The list of tapas bars is below!
This small, family-run bar is the perfect spot to kick off your Calle Cava Baja tapas crawl. Why? Because they do a perfect vermouth. As you know, vermouth is the aperitif of choice in Madrid, and here they give it a bit of a twist. It’s served in a martini glass, which they spray with gin, then top up with their very own vermouth recipe and finally they ad a little Campari to give it some kick.
Note: They also do delicious food here, and have an excellent wine list (if you decide to spend a little longer and settle in).
This narrow wine bar is one of the old-guard here in Calle Cava Baja, and while it’s easy to walk past, it’s a must-visit on any tapas crawl in the city.
They opened in 1992 (when there weren’t many tapas bars in this street), and the founder Segun is still the man behind the bar.
They serve about 30 wines by the glass, and do an excellent selection of tostas. Tostas pretty much translates as “toast” and, while that may not sound very exciting, wait till you see their tostas. The one we eat in the video is especially delicious.
This gorgeous 17th century inn (aka “posada” in Spanish) isn’t a tapas bar as such, it’s actually a roasting restaurant.
But they do have a bar downstairs, and I love to swing in for a glass of wine and soak up the history. They do great plates of jamón and cheese and if you do swing by, make sure you check out the massive brick oven where the meats are slowly roasted.
You might be noticing a theme – that word “posada”. It means “inn” and reflects the history of this street.
Back in medieval Madrid, Calle Cava Baja marked the city’s limits, and the city walls ran along here. So when farmers would come to the city from the nearby villages to sell their goods at the nearby markets (Mercado de la Cebada and Mercado San Miguel), they would stop here and refresh themselves at the many inns.
And what’s magical about La Posada del Dragón is that you can actually see the medieval city walls beneath the glass floor.
Food-wise, these guys focus on more modern style tapas.
One of the dishes I really love is their tomato salad, which is a salad of five different varieties of Spanish tomato, in a shallot vinaigrette and with a fig jam. Delicious, and excellent if you’re needing a vegetable hit.
Honourable Tapas Bar Mention: La Perejila. A fab little tapas bar that does a killer vermouth, and has a great selection of tapas. We didn’t include it in this video, but do check it out (if you can handle 8 bars!)
5. Casa Lucas
This place is perhaps the most famous tapas bar on the street, and for good reason. It’s tiny, it’s always packed, but man, do these guys do great food.
The menu is a selection of tostas, as well as more elaborate plates. Check out the rabo de toro (bull tail stew), as well as a calamari.
And to accompany, they’re known for their excellent wine list, featuring lesser-known producers. Don’t worry if you can’t get a table here, just squeeze in at the bar and dig in.
When I first moved to Madrid in 2011, this was one of our favourite places to go for tapas. I was drawn by its dark decor, excellent wine by the glass and interesting selection of tapas that straddle tradition and modernity.
And the staggering wine rack across the back wall is worth the visit alone.
Again, there aren’t many tables here, but the bar is long and deep – so sidle up, grab a glass or a bottle, and enjoy.
This could be a controversial inclusion (depending on where you’re from). Let me explain…
Probably the most famous restaurant on Calle Cava Baja is Casa Lucio, a white-table cloth classic joint, overseen by Lucio. The famous chap (who must be in his 80s now), arrived into the capital in the 1930s, and started working at a restaurant on this spot called Mesón el Segoviano. In the 70s he took the place over, and converted it into Casa Lucio.
I’ve never actually eaten there (to be honest, it seems all a bit stuff… but I know I should do it once) but I do love to his the tavern-version of his restaurant opposite. The tavern is called Los Huevos de Lucio.
And the controversy? Well, Lucio made is fame with a dish so simple that some people think it’s a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Egg and chips. Yep. Egg and chips.
They’re called huevos estrellados or huevos rotos and are actually a really common dish in Madrid. But Lucio does them to perfection. Fried potatoes, with two fried free range eggs broken over the top so the yoke gets all gooey and you can dip the chips and your bread into them.
You can also get them with jamón, chorizo or blood sausage served over the top, which gives another layer of flavour.
Lots of people say to me, “James, that’s not tapas. That’s an English breakfast.” Well, I’m not going to argue with the second part. But it is a traditional dish here, and when you’re in the mood, it’s perfect.
And if you need any more convincing, just take comfort in the fact that this dish gives you permission to drink red wine with your English breakfast.