The Best Taverns in Madrid

Casa Labra and La Casa del Abuelo: Madrid’s Best Traditional Taverns

Nicholas Sterling

If you long for the most delicious traditional Spanish comfort food in an unpretentious—but full of character—setting, you must visit one of the few remaining tascas (taverns) in Madrid.

Casa Labra and La Casa del Abuelo are two legendary examples of what in Spain is called a tasca. Spanish tascas can be similar to English pubs, French bistros or American delis, but the food they serve and the overall vibe are quintessentially Spanish, no doubt about it. Although they are becoming increasingly difficult to spot, one can still find these typical restaurants serving simple, appetizing tapas with wine, vermouth or beer. Unpretentious but full of character, few tascas are still in operation—maybe a dozen—but they bear witness to the ethos of what was once the old regal town of Madrid.Most of the remaining tascas date back 150 years. They proudly show off their age and charm with carved wooden counters, shelves filled with bottles, tiled walls and roundtables with walnut stools and benches. The have etched-glass facades with handwritten signs with the menu, address, and the owner’s name. The ambiance is relaxed, jovial, and the food is served in small bites of heavenly goodness letting the best Spanish products shine for themselves.If you visit old Madrid, do not miss the opportunity to visit at least one of these venerable institutions that keep alive the city’s most engrained gastronomic traditions.

Casa Labra
Casa Labra / Tetuán, 12

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In the vicinity of Puerta del Sol, in the heart of Madrid, you will find one of the most emblematic tascas in town. Founded in 1860, it continues to brighten the lives of anyone who comes through the door. The joyful and relaxed atmosphere feels hardly changed since the 19th century. In addition to some of the best Manchego cheese and Iberian ham, Casa Labra also serves local specialties in its charming dining room. Guests can feast on tripe or cod, prepared in various ways: with tomato, Vizcaya style, pil-pil or in green salsa. They also offer a selection of wines to accompany the tasty dishes.

La Casa del Abuelo
La Casa del Abuelo / Victoria, 12

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La Casa del Abuelo is within walking distance of Madrid’s Retiro Park. Four generations after its founding in 1906, the place seems impervious to the passage of time. It is a proud reminder of a past that doesn’t want nor does it plan to disappear because it is an integral part of the essence of the city. In the 1940s, the cozy establishment began serving grilled and garlic prawns. Such was the quality of their dishes they attracted the attention of politicians, actors, and writers of the time. Shortly after, owner Patricio Ruiz developed his own sweet wine to accompany the famous prawns. Today, La Casa del Abuelo has two branches, but the original on Victoria Street remains the most popular because it is the most authentic and traditional. Apart from the fresh prawns, the menu at La Casa del Abuelo also features the emblematic cocido madrileño (Madrid stew). Other house specialties include Iberian ham croquettes, Andalusian squid, Galician octopus, cod, and unforgettable seafood paella.  ■

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