A treat for the tastebuds: International beers in Madrid

Since I started living in Madrid, my family and friends back home often ask me what things I miss most about the US. Aside from amazing burgers and Mom’s macaroni and cheese, I really miss good, interesting beer. I feel a sad longing when I think about all the pale ales and porters back home. Okay, some Spanish beers aren’t that bad, but compared to the variety back home, the beers widely available in Madrid just don’t stand a chance. To combat my nostalgia and stimulate my tastebuds, I’ve scoured the city to find a few places that offer brews that are sure to please even the most discerning palate. The following three spots–two in Malasaña and one in the center–are definitely worth checking out with your favorite beer lover.

1. Casa de la Cerveza (calle Luchana 15, metro: Bilbao)

With a menu boasting hundreds of different beers from all around the world–ever wanted to try a beer from Thailand?–this place is the adventurous beer fan’s paradise. Casa de la Cerveza has the look of a German brauhaus and the feel of a casual sports bar. Come here to get your weird beer fix and try an assortment of bratwursts and other German delicacies while you catch whichever fútbol team is playing that night on the big screen. And for you partygoers, Casa de la Cerveza has a 10 euro open bar deal from 11pm to 1am, though the promotion does not include many of the higher-end beers.

2. Naturbier (Plaza Santa Ana, metro: Sol)

Can you ever go wrong in Santa Ana? Naturbier is another place that brings a bit of Germany straight into the heart of Madrid. This bar gets its name from the beer that they serve on tap: an all-natural, super fresh brew made in-house. When you walk into Naturbier be sure to get a seat where the tables have taps built-in and you can try your hand at pouring your own beer. They have three varieties: rubia (a lighter blonde beer), tostada (a darker, maltier beer), and a non-alcoholic version that are always served cold and fresh, either from the bar or from your own table tap.

3. Cervezorama (calle San Andrés, 29, metro: Bilbao)

Sometimes you’d rather sit at home with your tasty beer, and this is where Cervezorama comes in. This self-proclaimed “Delicatessen Beer Shop” in Malasaña carries beer by the bottle from a few different countries, most notably Germany, Belgium, and the United States. The staff there are extremely knowledgeable and can answer any of your questions, as well as suggest beers for you to try based on your tastes. Cervezorama also carries ingredients and instructional guides needed to brew your own beer at home, and often hold meet-ups with home brewers in the area. In addition to brewer meet-ups, the shop sometimes holds beer tastings, or catas, so for a small price you can sample different brews and get to know some other Madrid beer aficionados. While you’re there, try one of the new beers by Fábrica Maravillas, an up-and-coming Madrid microbrewery with a bright future.

Of course, there are many other places in town where you can find international beers on tap, including the many Irish bars in town. But when you’re feeling in the mood for something other than Mahou, Guinness, or Heineken, stop by one of the above bars and enjoy. If you have a favorite spot to try international beers that isn’t mentioned above, please let us know in the comments. Cheers!

Where to warm up in Madrid

When the weather gets cold, sometimes you just want a cozy spot for a tea or a café con leche. So where do you go when the fluorescent lights and metal counter of the corner bar won’t cut it? Sure, there are lots of places with a long list of teas in every color and flavor. But for me, it’s all about ambiance—plush booths, peace and quiet, or a beautiful setting. Here are a few eight of my favorite places to warm up in Madrid (I think I drink more coffee than I realized).


Café del Ruíz

A lovely, though definitely cozy, spot—this one’s not for large groups. Great for a quiet carajillo, though.

Calle de Ruíz, 11

Pepe Botella

Lots of nooks and crannies, free wifi, plus they give you a cookie with your drink. Can’t argue with that.

Calle de San Andrés, 12


Café Belén/Café Madrid

Either of these places, right next to each other on Calle Belén, is great for a cup of tea and a long conversation. Choose whichever suits your mood at the moment.

Café Belén is at Calle de Belén, 5; Café Madrid is at Calle de Belén, 7


Intimate and gay-friendly; make sure to get a window seat for people-watching.

Calle de Gravina, 10

El Espejo

One of those classic old spots, and a beautiful one at that. Skip the restaurant part and stick to the little outdoor pavilion.

Paseo de Recoletos, 31

La Latina

La Rayuela

Big windows, wood interiors and rotating art on the walls—I’ve whiled away many a Sunday afternoon here.

Calle de la Morería, 8

Café Monaguillo

Lots of seating and enough of a variety of téscafésbatidos and carajillos to keep everyone in your party happy.

Plaza de la Cruz Verde, 3


Nuevo Café Barbieri

This place has the weirdest hours, but if it’s open, its 19th-century interior is a nice place to wake up from your Indian-lunch-induced food coma.

Calle de Ave María, 45

Do you have a favorite café in Madrid? Let us know in the comments below.

The Madrid Gastro Festival 2012

If you live in Madrid and are a foodie then take note now…there is a gastro festival that will consume the city from 25th January to 5th February.

There are hundreds of restaurants taking part, with menu’s of 25 euros, 40 euros, and dinners with star chefs at 75 euros. And I want to try the Degustatapas offered by numerous restaurants!

The festival also looks at how food is integrated into, and influenced by culture with various events at libraries, theaters, films and more.

They say: The III Edition Gastrofestival 2012 program reaches beyond the borders of traditional restaurant cuisine and takes place in a variety of spaces. Gastronomy is conceived as culture, and one can enjoy major museums and art galleries, kitchenware, gourmet and luxury shops and the National Film Archive with a cuisine-related film series in the theater.

Full details can be found at: www.esmadrid.com/gastrofestival and for a round up of last year’s festival, check out this New York Times article


Tastes like home: 3 great burgers in Madrid

Let’s face it: sometimes you just want a cheeseburger. So what’s a guiri to do when McDonald’s just won’t cut it? Never fearthere are plenty of good burgers right here in Madrid. Here are three of my favorites.

Best gourmet burger

The burgers at Home Burger Bar aren’t cheap, but they’re definitely worth the splurge. You can taste the quality of the organic beef, and combinations like “goat cheese and red pepper jam” or “caramelized onions and brie” make my mouth water just thinking about them. There is also a range of classic burgers for traditionalists (I’m a bacon-cheeseburger girl myself), and even several veggie options for the non-carnivores. The contemporary diner décor further complements the style of the food.

Best retro burger

There was a time when I swore that if I saw another retro burger joint in Madrid I would go crazy. Now I just think of it as having more options. And there are plenty. Mel’s has generous portions and waiters on roller skates; Peggy Sue’s has wall-boxes that work (for 20 cents) and darn good milkshakes. But my money’s on TM Burger & Fries, where you can get a surprisingly delicious burger for €2.95. Of course you’ll have to deal with all the Malasaña hipsters, but I think it’s worth it for a burger that costs little more than Whopper but tastes way better.

Best all-American burger

Ask any American expat where to get a good burger in Madrid and most will probably answer, “Alfredo’s.” Alfredo’s Barbacoa is the original hamburger restaurant in Madrid, opened by a real, actual American in 1981. Amazingly, I’ve only been there once, but the burger was possibly one of the best I’ve ever hadgood meat with lots of char-grilled flavor. If you like your burgers smokey, juicy, and messy, you’ll love Alfredo’s; if you don’t, well…

There are plenty more burger joints in Madriddo you have a favorite? If so, let us know in the comments!

Home Burger Bar dominates the 28004, with locations on C/ Espíritu Santo, C/ San Marcos, and C/ Silva. www.homeburgerbar.com has all the details.

You can find Mel’s all over the placethere’s even one in León! Apart from the shopping malls, Mel’s has locations in Madrid at C/ Hortaleza 34 and C/ Pedro Teixeira 8. Specifics are at www.tommymels.com.

Peggy Sue’s has majorly expanded, with locations all over the country, and plenty of options if you live in “las afueras.” There are no fewer than eight Peggy Sue’s here in Madrid’s center, which makes for too many contact details to put here, so go to www.peggysues.es to find the one nearest you.

TM Burger & Fries focuses all their energy on their C/ Espíritu Santo 7 location. www.tmburger.com.

Alfredo’s Barbacoa fires up the grill at two locations: their original restaurant at C/ Lagasca 5 (Metro Retiro), and the offshoot at C/ Juan Hurtado de Mendoza 11 (Metro Cuzco). I love that they have a Texas-style oil drill as the main image of their home pagego to www.alfredos-barbacoa.es to check that out!

Country line dancing in Madrid

Is it just me, or do you sometimes feel more connected with your national roots as an expat than you ever did in your homeland? As an American, this sensation manifests itself in weird ways too: celebrating holidays like Flag Day (seriously), coloring Easter eggs, carving pumpkins, and line dancing.

Yes, you read that correctly. Country line dancing. Here in Madrid.

Not too long ago, I discovered a country western festival happening out at a ranch called El Encuentro near San Sebastián de los Reyes (about 20km north of the city of Madrid).

I went, I saw, and I was utterly amazed.

I also found out that the ranch hosts line dancing and dinner on weekends. I filed the experience under the category “I can’t believe this happens in Spain” and vowed to return.

A couple of weekends ago, I made that inevitable trip back to El Encuentro, where every Friday and Saturday night a crowd of dedicated country-lovers gathers. Friday, a little more beginner-friendly, Saturday, slightly more advanced. With my group of American friends, we went on Saturday, certain our cultural connection with country would elevate us to advanced status (haha!).

Decorated with Native American paraphernalia and American flags (some more appropriate than others), the ranch-style house fit the part. Then, the “authentic American” dinner menu almost hit the mark with its long list of hamburgers, Grand Canyon nachos, and ribs. Never mind the random mention of croquetas and jamón (I can hardly go a day without them, how can I expect the Spaniards to either?).

After filling up on hamburgers that tasted more like meatloaf than anything else, the line dancing began. Spaniards – dressed in cowboy hats, belt buckles, flannel t-shirts and of course cowboy boots – took to the dance floor like professionals. We Americans just watched in awe, clearly lacking both the commitment and skills.

A few notes of Achy Breaky Heart, though, and our love of cheesy country tunes overcame us. Mostly, we had no idea what we were doing, and just hoped that our American-ness would compensate. Truthfully, though, looking like fools never felt so good. Still can’t believe what you’re reading? Head over to my blog where I’ve got video proof of all the country line dancing awesomeness (apart from me dancing – please!).

Hitchhike, horseback ride or make friends with someone with a car – do whatever it takes to get your booty out to this joint to experience the American tradition at its finest…in Spain. You won’t regret it.


Honky Tonky at El Encuentro

Camino viejo de Barajas s/n.

Ctra. N-I km. 23- salida Algete

28700 San Sebastián de los Reyes


Tel.: 91 623 68 82

Mov.: 600 428 945