Archive for the 'bars' Category

The last of the beach days

This is Bolonia, a small town with a stunning beach and a fantastic view of Morocco on the Costa de la Luz. It was formerly a Roman settlement called Baelo Claudia, and has the ruins to prove it. We swam, explored the dunes, and ate fish there this month during a long weekend in Cádiz. We spent the rest of the time in Cádiz capital, where we were happy sleeping at Pensión España, breakfasting with churros and the locals at La Marina, and tapeando in the Barrio de la Viña, especially at El Faro.

Madrid mornings

This weekend I had a strong hankering to hang around Madrid, get stuff done, and do some madrileño things. Above you can see nine images from the two mornings I spent out and about in the barrio. (I mean morning in the Spanish sense, that is from when you get up [pretty late] until when you have lunch [earliest 2 p.m.]).

A number of those are taken in the Mercado de San Fernando, where we enjoyed cañas and tapas and window shopping Saturday morning before heading, via the gone but not forgotten Centro Social Okupado Casablanca to Bar Benteveo for their delicious lomito.

Sunday morning included an errand at the Rastro, where I spotted a banner citing the current fight over public education, and a walk through nearby streets before some tapas at one of Madrid’s oldest tabernas.

Latest autobombo

I hadn’t been doing much writing since the demise of Inside Spain back in March (yes, the crisis has hit very close to home), but I’m happy to report that I’ve started up again. I’m writing about Madrid for the travel site Momondo, which is primarily a flight search engine, but also has a well-reported section of travel articles from cities around the world. My first piece, about Madrid terrazas, is up and there should be more to come soon. Keep up with me here.

Of porras and chocolate

In the end it was my very American parents who introduced me to one of the greatest bars in my Madrid neighborhood. Sometime on their first jet-lagged day in my adopted city they said, “Hey, tomorrow let’s have breakfast there,” and pointed to a glass-fronted bar on the next corner that I’d never even noticed.

The next morning at 9 we walked bleary eyed into the smoke-filled bar. I recommended café con leche for my coffee-loving parents and ordered a ColaCao for myself. Mom and Dad eyed the glass case perched on the bar and decided on croissants. Our barman, whose quick movements behind the bar suggested he’d been doing this for a while, asked, “¿A la plancha?” I translated. Mom and Dad nodded vigorously and the barman herman/felixshouted, “¡Tres cruasán plancha!” into the din of the bar’s morning rush. Pretty soon we were munching on our grilled croissants and my parents, whose caffeine habits have been learned at the school of Starbucks, were ordering a second café con leche. Each.

So began our relationship with Herza. We ate there every morning we spent in Madrid that September–nearly a week straight. During the road trip through Asturias and Galicia that followed, we sought out bars as bustling as Herza, where the barmen also dressed in white shirts and black trousers, where the customers were also locals and workers.

But they would never be Herza, with its enormous three-sided bar, its businessmen in suits downing breakfast before catching the metro, its garish lighting and incredibly dirty floor. Herza had another special quality, too: deliveries of hot, fresh churros and porras roughly every 20 minutes by the guys from the churrería across the street. Dad loved the guy wearing the Yankees hat. All must be right with the world if the Spanish (or Latino) churro-maker symbolically supports the Yanks. Yes, indeed.desayuno herza

We began to refer to our barman as Herman, just because it seemed to fit him: short and bespectacled, a real professional behind the bar. He quickly learned to put a second coffee in front of my parents before they’d even finished the first. When we told him we were going away for a week, he gave us recommendations on where to go in Galicia.

Mom and Dad eventually left Spain, but my love for Herza remained. I began to meet a friend in the neighborhood for breakfast there every week or so. And then Herza closed for a week. For painting, my friend informed me. When it reopened, the sign had changed to “Cesareo.” Inside it was brighter, less lived-in looking, cleaned up somehow. The walls were a pale green instead of a dirty white.

The bar formerly known as Herza was under new ownership. But for six months or so everything remained more or less the same. Herman was still there (and I found out his real name was Felix), and the churros and porras, and all those Madrileños dipping the fried dough into their coffee.

When I returned to Madrid after the summer, the new owner had finally made his mark. The old marbled black bar is gone, replaced by a shorter corner-shaped one. Tables are small and square and modern, the old Formica rectangles gone. The place looks spiffy and chic, the antithesis of what it once was. And Felix and all the old guys are gone. A waitress told me that Felix is now a doorman.herza bar

For the time being, the churros and porras continue to flow.

The top photo was taken by my father. Thanks, Daddy.

Two, of many, great things about Madrid

1. El Tigre is a bar in the center of Madrid (C/ Infantas), just off of Gran Vía, and in the über-trendy and gay barrio, Chueca. But this bar is neither trendy nor gay. It’s always bustling — and with good reason. With a 1.50 euro caña (small beer) you get a plate full of whatever’s on the grill and more: patatas bravas, croquetas, jamón, egg, fried peppers, cheese. The guys behind the bar yell orders constantly, while pouring beers, and move as if bartending were a choreographed art. You have to fight your way to the bar and perch your plate wherever you can, but a tasty and filling meal for under 5 euros (that’s three cañas) and great ambiente are worth it.

2. Casa Granada is a rooftop terrace restaurant hidden atop an ordinary and totally unassuming apartment building. You have to be in the know to find the place, just north of metro Tirso de Molina, and once you’ve buzzed up, ride in the elevator plastered with signs begging riders to adhere to the four-person limit. It’s within spitting distance of the Rastro, La Latina’s gigantic Sunday flea market, which makes it the perfect place for a meal after navigating the crowds and t-shirt stands. You might have to wait a while for a table, but you’ll be glad you did. What else is there to do on Sunday but eat and drink? And meanwhile, you can order a beer and wander out to the terrace for amazingly grand views of Madrid and her suburbs. The raciones are delicious and inexpensive. For two, a plate of pimientos de padrón (tiny peppers fried in oil and sprinkled with sea salt) and one of calamares were more than enough, and cost 11 euros.


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