Ask for a beer and they give you a free tapa that's good-sized and flavourful. Think this happens only in Andalusia? Think again. Among the great things to do in Madrid is to explore the world of tapas, and you're in luck if you've not got a big budget, as there are lots of bars where every drink ordered comes accompanied by a portion of potato omelette, some cured meats, and even sandwiches or mini-burgers. Forget about the typical crisps or olives – here you can drink cheaply and eat well. From the classic El Tigre to an Andalusian corner such as La Pequeña Graná, take note of these Madrid bars that are happy to help curb your hunger as well as quench your thirst.
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Croquettes, salads and sausages... good-sized dishes that come with pretty cheap beer. In this bar, if you order a couple of glasses, you’ll effectively also get your supper. It’s a young, fun crowd, but sometimes gets too full. A great place to eat if you’ve got less than a tenner on you.
The best thing about this place is the plentiful tapas that they serve up with each drink. The beer isn’t that cheap (and it’s served in a tall glass – 'tubo' in Spanish), but with three beers, you’ll get enough free food to sort out your evening meal. They also have offers on other drink options – such as gin and tonic for €2, although don’t expect a high-quality drink at that price. This is a great place to go with friends when your paycheck isn't taking you quite to the end of the month.
Launched as a small enterprise in Alcalá de Henares in 1989, today Índalo Tapas has about ten bars around Madrid. The secrets of their success? Cold beers, friendly service and, in particular, the free tapas that go with each drink. Chicken escalope, hamburger, fried eggs with ham and chips, croquettes, spicy 'chistorra' sausage omelette... there’s something for everyone, and the dishes are always served just-cooked. They also do good-value breakfasts, à la carte items and combo plates.
If you can actually make it through the door, order a beer or a cider and marvel at the hefty tapas that come with it – patatas bravas, 'jamón serrano', Spanish omelette... it's all free, and each plate varies (and gets bigger) with each round. The bar itself is incredibly noisy and always absolutely rammed. But it does disprove the theory that there's no such thing as a free lunch.
This tavern dedicated to bullfighting is a local favourite, which means it’s a hard place to get into at the weekends. But if you manage to get yourself a space at one of its decorative barrels or at the long bar, you’ll discover why it’s so famous. Each round of drinks comes with one or more plates of food – generous and delicious. Paella, calamari, potatoes with chorizo... you’ll leave full to the gunnels. Lots of groups of young friends wind up here.
Close to Puerta del Sol you'll find this bar with a small restaurant at the back, famous for its generous tapas that come with every round of drinks. Since the word spread, every Friday evening it’s full of groups of friends downing beers and scoffing tapas before heading off for a big night out. The tapas are abundant and delicious, although don’t expect anything too fancy – Russian salad, home-made meatballs, muscles, sausages, ham, chicken wings... perfect for filling up on.
It’s worth going a bit out of the centre to try the beer-with-tapas offers found in some of the city’s neighbourhood bars. For example, Los Amigos, where you can enjoy a beer with portions of chorizo, croquettes, savoury pastries ('empanadillas') and fried calamari at a great price. Recommended for groups of friends who are hungry but broke. Don’t miss Los Enemigos, its equal and opposite, just over the road.
Being so close to El Tigre meant that for years this bar was generally regarded as the second-best option if ‘The Tiger’ was full. However, with time El Respiro has won a coveted spot on the list of best places to have a beer in Madrid. The beer is well-pulled, the service attentive and the tapas (potatoes with sausages and pepper, chicken with garlic sauce, savoury pastries, paella, etc.) are plentiful, tasty and, best of all, free. With a couple of rounds, you will have satisfied any hunger pangs. Get there early at the weekend because now the word is out, it fills up fast.
With all due respect to the Alhambra, there’s no Granada souvenir or landmark that symbolises the city as much as its tapas. The owners of La Pequeña Graná have imported the tradition of beer with ‘a lid’ ('tapón'), as a way to keep their customers happy without them having to reach into their wallets. Goat’s cheese and crispy bacon toasts, wraps with spicy meat, and mushroom croquettes are some of the delicacies that you can get when you order a beer.