If you've been to Madrid you will probably agree that the Plaza Mayor is the city center, and if you haven't now you know it´s a must for every traveler and exceeds expectations because of the traditional architecture and the overwhelming amount of tapas bars you can find here. I expect you to know what tapas are, but if you don't they are small bites of traditional Spanish food usually eaten as a mid-morning snack but found all day, every day, in every bar.
Not surprisingly the restaurants and bars in this area are among the most expensive of the city, and should be avoided if traveling on a budget. But don´t despair because I know of three great places nearby that I highly recommend, making that meal culturally relevant and a one-of-a-kind Spanish gastronomical experience.
Bar La Campana in calle Botones 6, right off the Plaza Mayor, is world famous for its bocadillo de calamares (calamari sub). I say world famous because I first heard about it in Mexico, and sure enough 2.3 euros will get you one of these exquisite subs. Throw in a cerveza fria and you have great food for under 4 euros.
If seafood is not your thing, Bar Restaurante 100 Montaditos in calle Mayor 22 will certainly have something for you. The place has 100 different kinds of tapas at 1 euro each, usually consisting of a slice of bread with a typical Spanish topping such as sobrasada, jamon serrano, queso manchego, Spanish tortilla and many many more. The ordering process is quite fun as well: grab a piece of paper from the table, check which tapas you want and how any, and write any name to be called out when ready- expect to hear anything and anyone being called out loud.
Restaurante La Catedral is the most expensive of the three, but it also offers the best food in a traditionally decorated restaurant. Located in carrera San Jeronimo 16, it´s a 5 minute walk from the plaza Mayor and gets very busy during lunch hour.
The 9.5 euro menu includes two main dishes of traditional Spanish food, water or wine and bread. Even if you aren't planning on eating it is worth dropping buy to check it out.
So there you go! If you´re on a budget these places will satisfy your food needs while making it a culturally interesting experience. You can try one or all three- without leaving the heart of Madrid!