Confessions of a Tapa Crawl

Confessions of a Tapa Crawl

Madrid, Spain – May 18, 2012

Last night Leslie, Tyler, and I went on a “tapa crawl.” Some friends from Colorado; Cole and Carol were passing through Madrid, so we met them at Plaza Mayor.

The San Miguel Market near Plaza Mayor.
An entrance to the market.
The view south on Cava de San Miguel.
The northwest entry arch to Plaza Mayor.

I must confess, this was our first tapa crawl!! I know that sounds crazy, especially after living in Madrid for nearly three years. I had not wanted to go previously for two reasons. First, I am usually in REM sleep no later than 21:00. Secondly, when I thought of a tapa crawl, all I could picture was Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Louisana. That type of debauchery is not quite my speed…anymore. So, I was very hesitant to try a tapa crawl.

Now for my second confession; not going on a tapa crawl sooner was a big mistake. It was nothing like a drunken-crowd-fest like what I witnessed on Bourbon Street. Instead, it was clean, comfortable, not too crowded, and an absolute blast! I highly recommend a crawl for anyone visiting Madrid.

We began our crawl at about 19:15 on the north side of Plaza Mayor at the Torre do Oro (Golden Tower) bar. It is a very well-known bar in Madrid. There is almost too much to see in the bar, with multiple items and photographs relating to bullfighting adorning the walls. There are several mounted heads of famous bulls on the walls. Also, on display are items of clothing from famous bullfighters. Lastly, covering the walls are photographs of bullfighters. The catch with the pictures is that the subject bullfighter had to have been either gored or killed by a bull. Each photograph caught the specific moment of pain for posterity. Some of them are rather gruesome. For example, one very unlucky bullfighter had his photo taken during a goring; with one of the bull’s horns running up under the bullfighter’s chin and out through his mouth. OUCH!!

Another interesting fact about this bar is its size. I guess it is no more than 10 feet (three meters) wide by about 30 feet (nine meters) deep. Toward the rear, there are a few barstools. Other than that, one stands at the bar.

We had our first vino and our first tapa there. The bartender gave us some potato salad to share. We were surprised by how good it was.

La Torre de Oro bar on the north side of Plaza Mayor, the starting point for the tapa crawl.

Some rather gruesome photographs. One only gets a photo on the wall if one has been gored or killed during a bullfight.
Catching up with our Colorado friends, Carol and Cole.
Heads of famous bulls hang alongside the jamón ibérico.
Sharing and reliving memories.
Stairs leading to the toilets on the lower level.
Cole and Tyler in a deep discussion.

Departing Torre de Oro, we walked south from Plaza Mayor along Calle de Cuchilleros. Within about 200 meters we found the beginning of Calle Cava Baja, our main objective for the evening’s tapa crawl. I must give credit to one of my colleagues at the embassy, Aurora. She is the one that guided me by providing precise directions before I left the office.

A street sign for Cava Baja, one of two streets on which we would “crawl.”
A typical fruit and vegetable store in Madrid.
We were not the only pedestrians out that evening.
The beautiful tile sign for La Chata Restaurante (The Flat Restaurant).

The first establishment at which we stopped on Cava Baja was la Peonza Taberna (The Spinning Top Tavern). The tapas we had there were jamón ibérico on toast and some shrimp with garlic on toast. I thought they both tasted perfect, especially the jamón ibérico.

Our server at la Peonza Taberna (The Spinning Top Tavern).

After we left la Peonza Taberna, we began looking for a specific tapa bar. Aurora told me we had to stop at Taberna los de Lucio (I think it translates as the Pike Tavern). We inadvertently walked past the tavern, but we did not see it the first time. I stopped at a pharmacy to ask directions. We did our back-tracking and found the bar.

We entered and ordered our drinks. As a tapa, they gave us some almonds warmed in olive oil. They were very hot to the touch, but they were delicious. Monica was our server from behind the bar. As we sat there, we decided to have something else to eat. I ordered a plate of Manchego cheese and a plate of jamón ibérico. Sampling jamón ibérico several times in Spain, I thought the serving at the tavern was by far the best. We polished off those plates and headed out the door.

The entry to Taberna los de Lucio.

Our server, Monica, pouring drinks at Taberna los de Lucio.
Monica carving a serving of jamón ibérico.

Tyler saw a bar at which he wanted to stop, the 47 Cocktail Bar because he wished to have a daiquiri to relive his experience in Marbella, Spain. So, we went in and ordered him a daiquiri. He hoped it would be as good as the one Puerto Banus, Spain near Marbella. It was not good at all; he had about two sips and gave up. We finished our vino tinto and left the bar.

Servers at the 47 Cocktail Bar.
Tyler and his very own daiquiri at 47 Cocktail Bar.

Leaving the 47 Cocktail Bar, we ended up at a sidewalk café, el Viajero. It was enjoyable to sit outside and watch all the people pass. We ordered some croquetas and some filet mignon. The filet just about melted in one’s mouth; however, it was very rare — very typical for Spain. When I ordered, I forgot to tell the server, “muy hecho.” That helpful phrase signifies “well done.” In the United States, I never order anything well done. In Spain, muy hecho comes out as the equivalent of medium. Regardless, we did not leave anything behind!

When we finished those tapas, we all walked back to Plaza Mayor. We bade our friends goodbye, hailed a taxi, and went home. We arrived home at about 23:45. For those readers keeping track, that is nearly three hours beyond my normal REM sleep!

The dome of St. Andrew’s Church.
Conversation at the aptly named el Viajero (The Traveler).
We had a lot of conversations that evening.
Where there’s a Baja there has to be an Alta…the sign for Upper Cava.
An offering for a photography course.  I might have been interested if I had not seen that one of the courses is “desnudo,” naked!

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