Confessions of a Tapa Crawl
Last night Leslie, Tyler and I went on a “tapa crawl”. Some friends from Colorado, Cole and Carol Colter were passing through Madrid, so we met them in Plaza Mayor.
I must confess, this was our very first tapa crawl!! I know that sounds crazy, especially after living in Madrid for three years now. I had not wanted to go previously for two reasons. First of all, I am usually in REM sleep by 21:00. Secondly, when I thought of tapa crawl all I could picture was Bourbon Street in New Orleans. That type of debauchery is just not quite my speed…anymore. So I was quite 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 happens on Bourbon Street so often. It was clean, comfortable, not too crowded and an absolute blast! I highly recommend it for anyone in Madrid.
We began our crawl at about 19:15 on the north side of Plaza Mayor at the Torre de Oro bar. It is a very well known bar. Inside are multiple decorations related to bullfighting. There are several famous bull heads mounted on the walls. There are also several items of clothing from famous bullfighters on display. Lastly, the walls are lined with photographs of bullfighters. The catch is the bullfighter either had to have been killed or gored by a bull. The photographs caught the specific moment for posterity. Some of them are rather gruesome. For example, one very unlucky bullfighter had his photo taken with the horn of the bull running up under his chin and out through his mouth. Ouch!
Another interesting fact about this particular bar is its size. I would guess it is only about 12 feet wide by about 30 feet deep. Towards the rear there were a few bar stools. Other than that, you simply stand 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 at how good it was.
Departing Torre de Oro, we walked south along Calle de Toledo. Within about 200 meters, bearing to the left, we found ourselves at Calle Cava Baja, our main objective for the evening’s tapa crawl. I must give credit to one of the ladies I work with at the Embassy, Aurora. She is the one that guided me by giving very specific directions before I left the office.
The first place we stopped at along Cava Baja was la Peonza Taberna. That translates to The Top Tavern. The tapas we had there were Jamon Iberico on toast and shrimp with garlic on toast. I thought they both tasted very good, especially the Jamon Iberico.
After we left la Peonza Taberna, we began looking for one spot in particular. Aurora had told me we had to stop at Taberna de los Lucio. We happened to walk by the tavern, but we missed it the first time. I stopped at a pharmacy to ask directions. We did our back-tracking and found the tavern.
We entered and ordered our drinks. As a tapa, they gave us some almonds that had been warmed in olive oil. They were very hot to the touch, but they were delicious. As it turned out, Monica, was our main 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 Jamon Iberico. I have had Jamon Iberico several times in Spain; however, this was by far some of the very best I have had. We polished off those plates and headed out the door.
Tyler had seen a bar that he wanted to stop at, the 47 Cocktail Bar. He wanted to go there because he wanted a daiquiri to relive his experience in Marbella (see The Spanish Monaco). So we ordered him one. He was hoping it was going to be as good as the one in Puerto Banus. It was not good at all. He had about two sips and gave up. We finished our vino tinto and headed out.
After leaving 47, we ended up at a sidewalk cafe, el Viajero. It was enjoyable to sit outside and watch all of the people go by. We ordered some croquetas and some filet mignon. The filet just about melted in your mouth. However, it was quite rare…very normal for Spain. I had forgotten to tell the waiter, “muy hecho”, which signifies “well done”. Regardless, we did not leave any behind!
When we finished there, we walked back to Plaza Mayor. We bade our friends goodbye, hailed a taxi and went home. We arrived home at about 23:45. As I noted above, well past my bedtime!