But I always find Madrid a little bit more challenging. For starters, the traditional method of enjoying tapas in Madrid does not provide the consumer with much choice. Rather, you order a drink, and the tapas are simply served, not ordered (of course, they are basically free, so as my mother used to say, "beggars can't be choosers"). This custom can be a little awkward for vegetarians and others with dietary restrictions. And in sit-down restaurants, where larger sized tapas (usually called raciones) can be ordered from a menu, many typical vegetable-based dishes (like sauteed mushrooms and garlic), often contain pieces of ham or sausage. The experience can be frustrating. Although Madrid -- like most big cities these days -- has a lot of vegetarian restaurants to choose from, such restaurants, in my opinion, often are frequented by other tourists and do not provide the traveler with a very authentic Spanish experience.
I am happy to report, however, that I found one place where vegetarians can enjoy authentic Spanish cuisine in a place that is popular with madrilenos. The Mercado San Ildefonso is essentially an upscale food court, and it literally has something for everyone. Whether you are a vegetarian, meat lover, wine drinker, or have a sweet tooth -- you can find what you want here. At the same time, the festive atmosphere (I counted at least three bars, not including several specialty wine and beer stands) and shared tables make it easy to socialize with locals.
|The Mercado San Ildefonso is located on Fuencarral Street, near the center of Madrid.|
|The market has three levels of food and drinks!|
|First-floor food stands, including Cheese Tavern and Street Fruit (near the back)|
|Here is a birds-eye of the second floor.|
|MyVeg offers fresh made-to-order salads.|
|This green salad with fresh tomatoes and warm mushrooms was delicious.|
I then moved next door to the Granja Malasana, where I ordered a half Spanish tortilla covered with asparagus.
|Spanish tortilla with asparagus|
|Andalusian gazpacho topped with drizzled olive oil and crispy garlic|
It's possible to spend hours eating and drinking at Mercado San Ildefonso, but in my opinion, no visit would be complete without tasting the wines at Taninos.