Veggie Nirvana at VivaBurger in La Latina


In the foodie hotspot Plaza de la Paja, in barrio La Latina, lies a vegetarian oasis with an oddly beachy vibe, complete with pale teal walls, distressed white wood, and beaded curtains.

VivaBurger in La Latina by Naked Madrid

You can sit inside or at one of their lovely terrace tables in this little nook of La Latina. While there’s almost always a full house (and for good reason), the staff works like a well-oiled machine, and the owner treats everyone like family.

22429154_10156662478723835_84919003_o

Everything on the menu is vegan or vegetarian—and seriously delicious. Being shamefully addicted to cheese, I was admittedly nervous to try their vegan burger of the day. But it exceeded my expectations in every way: filling, creamy, and flavorful, it left me more than satisfied. It comes with a salad or soup, fresh fries, and a drink (can be wine or beer too).

22396574_10156662477643835_2070568707_o

22429455_10156662477518835_1903286572_o

22375632_10156662477543835_1698531103_o

If you’re not feeling a veggie burger, the eatery offers an alternative menú del día: they celebrate a different country every day with a rotating international menu. Indian curry garam masala, Greek salad and musaka, Peruvian avocado ceviche, Moroccan couscous, Argentinian vegetable parrillada and empanadas… and about 20 others.

22425676_10156662478978835_967472022_o

22403869_10156662479048835_1498625358_o

22449437_10156662478183835_2136452699_o

For dessert, I had a fresh mint green tea smoothie. Having a huge sweet tooth, it wasn’t what I was expecting, but it was flavorful and refreshing, especially on such a hot day. If you order dessert a la carte, instead of with the lunch special, you have lots of other options like their scrumptious carrot cake or vegan ice cream.

22375640_10156662477433835_1764145817_o

Amazingly, the burger for the menú is apparently a more “basic” veggie burger. If that’s basic, I can only imagine the full menu is mind-blowing. I’ll for sure be back for more.

Info

  • Facebook
  • Website: vivaburger.es
  • Instagram: @viva_burger
  • Address: Costanilla de San Andrés 16
  • Phone: 91 366 33 49



Kittens & coffee at Polineko, an ethical cat cafe in La Latina


You may have heard of the Japanese concept of a ‘neko café,’ or a cat cafe, which has made a splash in the world’s biggest cities in recent years.

In Japan, the idea was born because most landlords don’t allow pets. So animal lovers go to a cat cafe and pick which cat they’d like to play with. Each time they visit, they spend time with the same cat, forming a relationship with him or her. It’s kind of like having a part-time pet.

In other cities though, like London and New York, it works a bit different. You simply pay to hang out in a feline-filled cafe, and the cats roam free while you sip a latte and relax.

21761360_349460755475254_7479403464432765549_n

The latter has arrived to Madrid. There are a handful of options, but my favorite is Polineko, recently opened in La Latina. It stands out for several reasons:

  • Its authentic Japanese style. Between the decor, the Japanese snacks like doriyakis, and the anime-themed items in their shop, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a real neko café.

21765227_349850205436309_1730236944243283779_n

  • Its mission. Above all, Polineko aims to foster loving relationships between humans and their feline friends. Unlike other cat cafes in Madrid, you can touch and play with all the cats, and almost all of them are available for adoption. They partner with animal protection agencies like ALBA that facilitate the adoption process, guaranteeing that all cats are healthy and vaccinated, and that they end up in loving and reliable ‘furever’ homes.

22119820_10156625856908835_32870799_o

22118114_10156625858443835_1143418946_o

  • Its staff. Everyone who works here is incredibly friendly and knowledgable, from Steven (the warm and open co-owner), to Juan (barista extraordinaire), and its other co-owner, Melisa, who I didn’t meet but is a veterinarian and does free behavioral consultations for your cat every Friday!

22140260_10156625848503835_1744050237_o

  • The environment. The cafe is spacious and opts for couches instead of tables and chairs. There’s free wifi and they won’t bat an eye if you choose to work on a laptop, or if you prefer to sit on the ground and play with the kitties.

22140587_10156625858533835_1350542824_o

22119576_10156625857823835_79650819_o

  • The coffee. It’s delicious. That’s all. Oh, and they have every kind of milk variety you can think of. Try it with almond milk!

22117629_10156625858958835_2080691855_o

22095290_10156625859098835_734906791_o

In addition to coffee and Japanese snacks, Polineko also offers bowls of cereal (Froot Loops and Lucky Charms, oh my!) and Japanese beer and tea.

22095466_10156625858398835_853311224_o

Polineko is open Sunday-Thursday from 11am-10pm, and Friday and Saturday from 11am-11pm.

Prices are as follows:

  • 4€ for 30 minutes and a beverage
  • 6€ for 30 minutes, a beverage, and a Japanese snack
  • 6€ for an hour and a beverage
  • 8€ for an hour, a beverage, and a snack

The staff is also planning to launch intercambio nights soon—stay tuned for more info by following them on social media.

Here are more cat pics.

22117795_10156625858733835_1980760415_o

22117736_10156625858523835_381177640_o

22095418_10156625858653835_1753049976_o

22140486_10156625858133835_2072857431_o

Photos courtesy of Polineko and the author.

 

Info

  • Address: Carrera de San Francisco, 11
  • Metro: La Latina
  • Facebook 
  • Instagram & Twitter: @polineko_madrid
  • Website: www.polineko.com
  • Phone: 680 85 83 89



El Sombrero Azul – pupusas, yuca, enchiladas and more


It’s not uncommon for even the most veteran madrileños to stumble upon tucked-away eateries they’ve never noticed. That’s exactly what happened to me when I was strolling along the surprisingly calm Calle de las Hileras near Plaza Mayor. The spicy smells stopped me in my tracks, but what brought me inside was the menú del día written on the window in puff paint.

Monday through Friday, El Sombrero Azul offers a menú salvadoreño-mexicano that includes a bebida (Coke products, beer, sangria, or wine) with a starter big enough to fill you up (like the pupusas shown below), a cocktail (margaritas, mojitos, you name it) along with a delicious main entree. And for dessert, you can choose from coffee/tea, cheesecake, bizcocho de tres leches, and more. All for 12€.

21733452_10156571407013835_183969182_o

What’s a pupusa, you may ask?

Most countries have their own version of a warm, breaded ‘sandwich’ filled with meat, cheese, and/or veggies. Food pockets, if you will. Pupusas are the food pockets of El Salvador, and El Sombrero Azul has them down to a science. Shown above are two veggie versions, one with zucchini and the other with frijoles and cheese (my favorite).

21744879_10156571398353835_988127631_o

Admittedly, I was a little disappointed in the main entree options, but only because I’m vegetarian. Meat lovers will feel right at home here among the pastelitos de carne, cazuela de cochinita pibil, tacos flauta, and the plato de carne. However, the accommodating staff offered me some pretty good alternatives, like fresh yuca (above) or huevos rancheros.

21733811_10156571406488835_477012900_o21745214_10156571400313835_1273084797_o

If you have room after the first two courses, kick back with a fresh cocktail. Pictured is a delicious blackberry margarita, but they also have mojitos and micheladas, as well as fresh Mexican fruit juices and horchata (although those aren’t part of the menú).

TIP: The best time to go is during the week, because on weekends and holidays the menú price is 15€.

Oh, and the same space hosts a totally different concept by night: it’s called La Cueva de Lola, and it’s all about Spanish food and flamenco shows. Post to come soon on that!

Info

  • Facebook
  • Address: C/ Hileras 6
  • Metro: Ópera or Sol
  • Phone: 910 18 54 53

Also check out:




María Pandora, a dark and artistic champagne bar in La Latina


If you’ve ever spent an evening watching the sunset with a liter of Mahou in Parque Las Vistillas (and if you haven’t, get on that ASAP), you may have spotted this beautiful, borderline-creepy cocktail bar.

María Pandora Café by Naked Madrid

María Pandora Café by Naked Madrid
Cryptic, dripping golden letters read MARÍA PANDORA, and the sound of a dramatic poetry reading demand the curiosity of passersby not yet in the know.

fullsizeoutput_2c4b

Once inside, you’ll already be hooked: every inch of the walls is covered with sinister sketches, the tables are adorned with misshapen melted candles, and vintage furniture adds the finishing touch to make you feel like you’re in a haunted mansion.

fullsizeoutput_2c4c

But despite the ghoulish vibe, the servers here are cheery and chatty. When we ordered champagne and white wine, our server plopped a frozen raspberry in our glass, assuring it would add a little somethin’-somethin’.

Oh, and the tapas here are my kind of food: mounds of candy and fruit.

María Pandora Café by Naked Madrid

20030995_10156330196793835_753610364_n

But the best it yet to come. A meeting point for lovers of art, the bar also functions as a stage for poetry readings, microteatro, and literary chats several nights of the week. The wall of antique books are for sale (but the century-old portraits of the owner’s family are not).

IMG_4811

Sign up for an event, order a glass of bubbly, and if you get there early enough, grab a window seat. María Pandora does not disappoint.

*Just note that their opening hours can be a little funky – they tend to open at 7pm except on Mondays, although sometimes they throw private events. So it’s best to call ahead to make sure they’re open!

Info

  • Website & Facebook
  • Phone: +34 910 42 82 13
  • Address: Plaza de Gabriel Miró, 1
  • Metro: La Latina or Ópera



Buns & Bones: mouthwatering baos & Asian fusion near Malasaña


If you’re not yet hip to the ‘bao’ trend that’s winning the hearts of foodies everywhere, we’ll give you the scoop: a bao is a super-soft steamed bun with various fillings ranging from meat to veggies. If Tom Haverford were to describe it, he’d likely call it a mouth pillow. Sometimes they’re sealed at the top like a dumpling, sometimes they’re flattened out and served like a thick taco, but one thing remains the same: they are always fire.

18492000_10156093288288835_384402981_n

Pictured: three baos, the vegan (eggplant, hummus, walnuts, & sundried tomato), the veggie (tofu tempura with pisto), & the Tonkatsu (Iberian pork, coleslaw, & tonkatsu sauce).

Restaurants in Madrid are quickly jumping on the bandwagon (‘baowagon,’ if you will), but one stands out for its prices, location, decor, varied menu, and incredible flavors: Buns & Bones, a streetfood oasis on near Plaza España and Gran Vía.

entrancebunsandbones

This place has much more than baos, though. Their menu is broken down into three sections: ‘buns’ (baos), ‘bones’ (meat and fish dishes), and ‘ni buns ni bones’ (other options), which includes alluring and modern Asian dishes such as yellowtail sashimi with ponzu sauce and jalapeño, mint hanoi spring rolls, charcoal-grilled octopus, or the farmer’s market vegetable tempura.

We started with some delicious edamame and veggie tempura.

We started with some delicious edamame and veggie tempura (both vegetarian options).

As you can see, there’s something for everyone here: the vegans and the meat lovers, the healthy and the indulgent, the daring and the traditional…

Go starving if you're planning on ordering the BBQ spareribs.

Go starving if you’re planning on ordering the BBQ spareribs. They are bigger than my face.

 

Salmon and veggie rice bowl with chili threads

‘Poke,’ another foodie trend sweeping the nation, is a Hawaiian salmon and veggie rice dish with chili threads. Healthy and bursting with flavor.

If you somehow have room for dessert, they have some unique options—we tried the green tea panna cotta with chocolate chips, and it was delightfully light and not overly sugary.

dessertbunsandbones

Buns & Bones is open for lunch and dinner (except on Mondays) and has two other locations: in the Antón Martín market and in Chamberí. All have a super laidback atmosphere and are open late, inviting you to digest over a Corona while you admire the quirky decor (one wall reads ‘reserved for Banksy’).

18492193_10156093288118835_1899718688_n

18449840_10156093291708835_329500765_n

 

Info:

  • Website & Facebook
  • Address: C/ San Bernardo, 12
  • Metro: Santo Domingo, Plaza de España
  • Phone: +34 913 92 89 53



Creamies, Malasaña's new ice cream & cookie sandwich bar


Sugar addict? Keep reading. Don’t have a sweet tooth? This place is not for you.

Opened just three weeks, Creamies is a tiny ice cream sandwich bar in the heart of Malasaña that lures guests in with its neon ’80s-esque decor and customers leaving with their sugary mounds of perfection.

outside

The process is simple and tailored to your tastes.

First, you pick the “bread” of the sandwich: a donut (regular or Oreo), a blueberry muffin top, or a cookie—classic chocolate chip, white chocolate, triple chocolate… Undecided? You can mix & match the top and bottom.

17965116_120332000178825487_813602053_n

Next, choose the ice cream filling: “triki” monster (kind of like birthday cake flavor), donut cream, “La Movida Madrileña,” double chocolate brownie, Kinder, yogurt & berry…

ice cream

Lastly, you can choose a “topping”—whichever you choose, they’ll roll the sandwich in it. There are sprinkles, Lacasitos, marshmallows, Froot Loops, cookie crumbs, chocolate sauce, and more.

creamiesinside

Would ya just look at that happiness?!

It’s cheap, it’s delicious, and the service is friendly. Corred!

Info

  • Facebook
  • Insta: @CREAMIESMADRID
  • Address: C/ Corredera Alta de San Pablo, 30
  • Metro: Tribunal

You may also like: Madrid’s best ice cream shops




Street spotlight: Calle Ruda, a tiny portal between La Latina & Embajadores


It goes without saying that there’s no shortage of things to do in Madrid. In fact, sometimes there’s so much, you don’t know where to start. On those days when the sun’s shining and you’re itching to get out of the house, sometimes it’s best to just walk to a cool part of town and let the city do its thing. We’re here to give you some inspiration.

Calle de la Ruda

La Latina and Embajadores—bustling multicultural hubs—are connected by a string of tiny streets full of surprises. One of them is Calle Ruda, which takes you straight from Mercado La Cebada to Plaza Cascorro, and makes the very short walk well worth it.

Calle Ruda by Naked Madrid

Onis, for old-school charm

If you enter the street from Calle Toledo, you’re greeted by the classic corner bar, Onis.

17841700_10155963910313835_720716721_n

This place is the definition of castizo. Tapas in the glass display case, tobacco machines, weird arcade games, and a grumpy server who has probably been here since the place opened (which was 1976, I’ve learned).

17820908_10155963910393835_448289349_n

Ruda Café, for coffee

Looking for something more modern? We got you. Keep heading down Ruda and you’ll come across Ruda Café, a new (opened last year) coffeeshop that’s riding the wave of java experts that has hit Madrid in recent years. We’re not mad about this trend. And yes, they have wifi. They also sell packaged artisanal coffee and tea, jam, art, and coffeemakers.

IMG_2729

17820780_10155963904983835_1900833373_n

17820909_10155963904858835_379831595_n

17842215_10155963904928835_237284831_n

De Piedra, for handmade jewelry

But there’s only so much coffee you can drink (unfortunate, I know). So now that you’re fueled up, you’re ready to browse the cute little shops of this gem of a street. If you’re a fan of jewelry and creepy mannequins, pay a visit to De Piedra, an artisanal jewelry shop at C/ Ruda 19. They haven’t been at this location long, but the store has been open for some 15 years.

17857592_10155963864823835_1533946670_n

17857465_10155963864888835_1141284862_n

Molar, for records, books and cassette tapes

Next you’ll come across my personal favorite place on the street, Molar. Think record store meets bookshop.

IMG_2724

17821349_10155963865018835_890609994_n

They even sell cassette tapes, which is not something you see every day in Mad City.

Mamá Elba, for something sweet

Got a sweet tooth? Mamá Elba has been open a mere 3 weeks, and is already drawing a loyal customer base. Their selection of ice cream (including vegan and gluten-free), cakes, and coffee will leave you overwhelmed by heavenly choices.

17842187_10155963894153835_1227694313_n

17841800_10155963894068835_1017332209_n

Erre Catorce (R14), for art and design

R14 is another brand new spot on the street, just open for a month. It’s a modern interior design shop, with local art, restored vintage furniture pieces (from around the world, namely Scandinavia and the US), apparel, and lots of cool home decor.

18143201_120332000349190366_1819156447_n

18136347_120332000348247881_387440227_n

18136825_120332000356919584_2046257165_n

Soon they’ll be putting on events to promote and discuss interior design and art, so keep your eyes peeled and follow them on Facebook.

La Tienda de Cerveza, for craft beer

Next up: craft beer. Okay, I lied before, THIS place is my favorite. La Tienda de Cerveza is a must in La Latina (and in the city, really). The shelves are lined with hundreds of bottled or canned craft beers and ciders from both Madrid and around the world. They have a few tables in the back, and they hold tasting events often. An absolute must for cervecerxs.

17842438_10155963904758835_1982153364_n

Tienda Biológica, for something healthy

Something I love about Madrid is that you can eat healthy without going bankrupt. Tienda Biológica is living proof of this. This small organic food shop sells health products at reasonable prices, and it’s run by the sweetest lady.

IMG_2726

IMG_2727

La China Mandarina, for a great meal in a modern space

And last but not least (and not even covering half of the street’s spots), for a great meal and a laidback ambience, visit La China Mandarina at the end of Calle Ruda (closest to Plaza Cascorro). It’s one of those places that masters the art of offering both very traditional and very modern cuisine on the same menu. So if you’re craving a tortilla de patatas but your friend has a hankering for a vegan burger, there’s something for everyone.

17842005_10155963910503835_109243198_n

They have great wifi and won’t roll their eyes if you work on your laptop all morning (I know from experience).

Calle Ruda is just one of a plethora of tiny goldmines in Madrid. If none of these spots call your attention (tough crowd!), we suggest you still come to the area on a beautiful day and just get lost. You can’t go wrong.

 




Amargo, the city's best veggie burger (and much more)


The title says it all.

On a cozy corner in Malasaña, Amargo Place To Be lures you in with its fairytale facade, enveloped with ivy and illuminated by twinkle lights.

Inside, the vibe is both industrial and homey. Friendly faces will greet you (not always a given in the city) and you’ll be overwhelmed by a menu so international you’ll forget where you are.

Nigiris, Mexican nachos, giant croquetas, dim sum, lasagna with wonton pasta and pine nuts, duck magret over hummus and a raspberry coulis….

But as we’re all biased—especially when it comes to food—what I wanna sell you on is their veggie burger.

I can’t even bring myself to try anything else from the impressively diverse and delicious menu, because when I come to Amargo, I only have one thing on my mind: that thick and savory soy burger piled high with zucchini in tempura, a fried egg, a thick slab of goat cheese, green shoots, caramelized onion, crispy onion crunch, and the special house sauce.

17012787_10155815047783835_1007796107_n

Go starving—just half of this monstrous burger fills me up.

They’re open for breakfast, lunch and dinner (from 9am-2am every day!), have a fantastic menú del día (€11.90 M-F and €13.50 on weekends and holidays), and boast a lengthy drink list that includes signature cocktails and organic wine (!!!).

But wait, there’s more.

If you venture downstairs (follow the 19th-century painting in which a stoic aristocrat dons some fly ass Nikes), you’ll find the seating area where diners become audience members.

17028906_10155815028328835_552382283_n

Since last year, Amargo has hosted concerts throughout the week. If you’re dining in (make sure to make a reservation—it fills up!), it’s just €2 to enjoy anything from flamenco to soul to acoustic while you eat. When I went, I was treated to Chisara Agor‘s achingly soulful voice.

Check out this month’s programming on Amargo’s website.

The incredibly talented Chisara Agor and the amazing Christian García-Fonseca Secher on cajón.

The mindblowingly talented Chisara Agor and the amazing Christian García-Fonseca Secher on cajón.

If you’re somehow not yet experiencing sensory overload, the lower level also functions as a revolving art gallery. The current artwork is by local visual and urban artist Misterpiro.

Just some pals having a very candid laugh.

Just some pals having a very candid laugh.

In a hurry? Amargo also does speedy-quick orders to go.

You have no excuse.

Info

  • Website Facebook
  • Instagram: @amargoplacetobe
  • Address: Calle Pez, 2
  • Phone: 910 84 79 90
  • Metro: Callao, Noviciado, Tribunal

 




El Guaje de Lavapiés, an Authentic Asturian Oasis


Tucked into the Mercado de San Fernando is a tiny piece of Asturias. From the queso gamoneu to the blue-and-yellow flags marking their territory on every spare inch of the bar, you’ll feel like you’re really there.

El Guaje de Lavapiés is a sidrería that offers some of the most high-quality Asturian ciders, cheeses, and cured meats Madrid has to offer.

16684896_10155754788088835_1853745991_n

Rafael, the owner, is known around town as “El Guaje,” a term used to refer to someone younger than you in Asturias. El Guaje opened up shop 10 months ago, and is happy with his success, although his dream is to open a full-size restaurant.

El Guaje de Lavapiés, an Asturian oasis by Naked Madrid

Is the space enormous? No. Does it have wifi? Also no. But what it does have it much better: delicious food, good prices, and no big chain of production and distribution—everything comes straight from our northern neighbors and is grown and made naturally.

Here you see El Guaje’s tosta con membrillo y cabrales—toast with quince paste and blue cheese produced by rural dairy farmers and cured in natural caves (€3.50).

El Guaje de Lavapiés, an Asturian oasis by Naked Madrid

Of course, you can also buy these products in bulk to take home and enjoy later.

El Guaje de Lavapiés, an Asturian oasis by Naked Madrid

But if you’re like me, and nothing hits the spot like a good craft beer, El Guaje’s got you covered, with a selection from Caleya of pale ales, IPAs, ambers, etc., as well as your trusty Estrella and Mahou.

El Guaje de Lavapiés, an Asturian oasis by Naked Madrid

If you’re lucky, you’ll arrive in time for the show—there’s an open space at the center of the market, which happens to be right in front of this bar, where they put on dancing shows, plays, and other cultural events.

¡Puxa Asturias!

Information

PS: Right in front of El Guaje is another one of our favorite stands, Mercado de Lisboa. Check it out!

 




Taproom Madrid: the craft beer bar we were all waiting for


If you’re anything like me, you’ve been patiently awaiting a bar with a great selection of quality craft beer.

Over the past few years, there have been a few contenders. In fact, just in the past year, several new cervecerías artesanales have popped up around the city center, especially in the Malasaña and Lavapiés neighborhoods.

But with relatively small selections, these bars have left the diehard fans much to desire.

That is, until Taproom Madrid came onto the scene.

16358593_10155715046598835_730062657_n

Tucked into the up-and-coming university neighborhood of Moncloa, Taproom Madrid offers 40+ delicious craft beers on tap, from IPAs to porters, pale ales, stouts, amber ales and everything in between.

Taproom is one of those place where there’s something for everyone. Not sure which beer to order? You can do a tasting of four different cañas for 10€. Or you can always ask the friendly and beer-savvy bartenders, who recommended me the Founders’ Porter (spoiler alert: it’s the stuff dreams are made of).

If you come hungry, Tierra Burrito (the work of the same owners) is right next door, and you can bring your burrito to the bar while you sip a cold one.

Beer + burritos + good music… what more can you ask for?

16395533_10155715047083835_434111930_n

As if that weren’t enough, if you’re a soccer fan, there’s an added bonus: the space’s enormous projector screens always have a game on.

Although the space is gigantic by Spanish standards—with two seating areas plus a patio—the place still gets full to the brim by 8pm. Go early (they open at 6pm) to score a seat.

Taproom Madrid: the craft beer bar we were all waiting for

Info:

  • Facebook
  • Address: Guzmán El Bueno, 52
  • Metro: Moncloa / Argüelles
  • Phone: 915 50 05 85