Best Restaurants Near Plaza de Cuzco, Madrid

Just off of line 10 (dark blue line) and one stop away from the Plaza de Castilla bus station, is Plaza de Cuzco, A good 100+ restaurants are scattered around and tucked into little corners of it, just waiting to be discovered.

When you live in a big city, one of the most difficult questions to answer whether it’s a Friday night or a Saturday afternoon is “Where do you want to eat?” And the follow-up question is usually, “And what do you want to eat?” If you don’t mind going to fast-food restaurants repeatedly then the answer is fairly simple. But if you’re reading this, I’m sure you prefer something with a little more flair and style. And flavor – that’s important too! That’s why I’ve come up with my own personal list and spent my own money on a handful of restaurants near metro Cuzco, in the northwestern corner of Madrid.

I have wanted to write a few posts about bars and restaurants in specific neighborhoods so that you, my readers, could try new places in these areas. Other than checking out large lists on TripAdvisor and piecing together restaurant recommendations, it’s hard to find information like this all in one place. And with my and my husband’s curiosities tickled about the neighborhood we live closest to (Castillejos) and a desire to support locally run restaurants, this idea was born.

Most of, if not all, of these restaurants (plus a dessert only recommendation!), will be reviews of their menus del día since we primarily visited them during lunchtime. In fact, since October 1st, we have almost made going out for lunch at a local restaurant on Thursdays a thing for 2 months straight, with the exception of the week of Thanksgiving. The restaurant and hospitality industry needs us now more than ever and I am happy to show my support as well as try new, delicious food! All without needing to travel for miles and miles on the metro. 😉

Hope you’re hungry so let’s dive in!

Shanghai Mama

First course: A selection of varied steamed Dim Sum (shrimp, beef and mixed with vegetables) with soy sauce for dipping.
First course: lightly fried spring rolls with sweet and sour sauce for dipping.
Second course: Turrón de pollo (family recipe since 1980) with Chow Mein noodles (Shanghai style) and vegetables to accompany it – both included in the menú.
Dessert: A sweet yet tart slice of mango cake (which tastes so refreshing on a hot summer’s day!) August 2020

After having passed by this restaurant a number of times, it took us nearly a year to visit Shanghai Mama, which is just about a 10-minute walk from our apartment. I had heard good things about its sister restaurant, Matcha House, which is literally right next door, but I hadn’t felt compelled to try either one, primarily because I like sushi while my husband does not. (It’s okay to have different tastes!) We didn’t think much of the restaurant’s name but once we decided to peek at their menu long enough to see what was on it, we realized that the cuisine is Chinese and Spanish fusion and focuses on the Shanghai way of doing things.

The general manager of this branch of the restaurant (there are 8 locations and only in Madrid or the surrounding areas) greeted us upon entrance and we felt welcome right away. Not to mention the soothing yet elegant décor that whisks you off to a new, exotic land once you step inside. He and the rest of the staff are very attentive and the service is impeccable. Everything on the menu is handcrafted by one of the best Spanish chefs named Steven and his staff. Plus, all of the menu items are made from authentic Shanghai recipes, from the spring rolls to the soups. And, as if I couldn’t sing more of its praise, they often change up the menu items so be sure to branch out and try something new! Though their house specialties like turrón de pollo, crispy duck with almonds, and sweet and sour pork will almost always be available on their 3-course weekday menú del día.

**After checking out their website, they are expanding outside of Madrid and opening two new restaurants – one in Barcelona and the other in Toledo!**

Location

Calle de la Infanta Merecedes, 62
28020 Madrid

Ambiance

It’s really aesthetically pleasing inside mixing tranquil scenes from nature and authentic memorabilia from Shanghai into their décor.

Cleanliness

From May 20th, 2020 to the present, anyone in an enclosed space, where social distancing is very difficult to maintain, must wear a mask, except when they’re eating or drinking, of course. We found that the owner kept the main door of the restaurant open to allow for good airflow, all of the kitchen staff and servers were wearing masks and keeping a good distance between each other and from us. Cleaning between customers at any given table was done swiftly and efficiently. From entering the restaurant to the bathroom and then leaving once more, everything was kept very clean.

Value

Seeing as the accompanying dish of rice or noodles almost acts as a third course in the menú del día, you get a lot of food for a fair price! Portion sizes are great and very generous so whatever you try here will definitely fill you up – and make you want to come back to try more of what’s on their changing and evolving menu!

Price

Menú del día: 12,90€

Average price for dinner (2 people): between 25-35€

Final Score: 4.8/5

Royal Thai

Large, towering windows let lots of natural light in and ample seating allows you to feel both cozy and have privacy to enjoy your meal.
Elephants are a big part of the décor at Royal Thai and Thai culture, which all came from Thailand itself!
Chicken shish kebabs in a yellow curry sauce – notice the elephants wrapped around this green plate!
Happy family (sweet corn, peppers and carrots) mixed with chicken served on top of steamed jasmine rice (served separately in a bowl, see left for size.
Dessert or Coffee/Tea: I opted for a mid-afternoon green tea instead of dessert but ice cream was on the menu that day.

I actually learned about this restaurant a while back from a Facebook group called Eat Out Madrid but didn’t realize until late this year that it’s actually right across from the supermarket where we usually do our weekly shopping. Nor did I connect the dots with the name and their menú del día sign that’s usually sticking out on the edge of the square where said supermarket is located. However, during the last week of September, we made plans to go celebrate our dating anniversary (October 1st) there and thus began our weekly adventure trying new 3-course weekly menus (menú del día) in neighborhoods closest to ours.

We ate here around 1:30 pm when it was mostly empty so we relished the silence and privacy eating early (due to my husband’s work schedule) allowed us. Thanks to their success in Las Tablas, the owners decided to open a branch in Castillejos (barrio) October 2017. It has attracted lots of neighborhood business as well as business from professionals working nearby and can walk to the location for lunch or dinner. The place started filling up with more of their regular lunch crowd around 3 pm when we were nearly finished with our dessert course.

All of their décor is hand selected from Thailand and the food is very flavorful, while offering a variety of both spicy and mild tastes alike. We were very impressed with the portion size and variety of options on not just their menu but also their menú del día – it was almost too difficult to decide what to have! We will be back for another visit soon and will perhaps try their evening menu, which is a little more expensive but is still an excellent deal.

Location

Avenida de Brasil, 30
28020 Madrid (esquina Calle Poeta Joan Maragall and near the Carrefour Orense)

Ambiance

It was tastefully decorated and we felt at ease here. All the natural light coming in from the tall windows was refreshing. It was perhaps a little too big of a space for my taste but I liked that it was quiet in the beginning of their lunch hour so that my husband and I could talk to each other.

Cleanliness

I know they had hand sanitizer set up on a table just as you walked into the restaurant which was handy. Overall, we found it to be clean but no extraordinary measures were taken. There is plenty of space for quite a few customers but their maximum capacity, like everywhere else, remains limited.

Value

Portion sizes were very large which was very nice. Their evening and weekend menus are a bit over what we’d like to pay for going out so I would say that that’s the only downside to the value for your euro.

Price

Menú del día: 12,90-13,90€

Average price (for 2 people) for dinner: ~40€

Final Score 4.6/5

Tayo Fusión Burger

Each country featured on this map corresponds with the different types of burgers on the menu!
Gaucha burger (Argentina): 190 gram beef patty, avocado, Gouda cheese, caramelized onions (taken off) topped with chimichurri sauce. Comes with this phrase next to it on the menu: ¡Vos tenés que probarla!
Dessert: Two scoops of golden vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce, sprinkles and a striped pirouette stick for flare!
Lovely views of the fall foliage outside on the square, as seen from the top floor of the restaurant. (November 2020)

If you click on their website, you’ll see various different world symbols all fanned out behind their logo. This is because the restaurant’s main goal is to fuse the most prominent ingredients from different countries onto a burger that you won’t be able to get anywhere else. And their creations are certainly unique and pair great flavors that you wouldn’t normally find added to a hamburger. It’s just a shame they’re sort of hidden away underneath all the trees on this open square and the large Carrefour supermarket to its right.

Along with Royal Thai, Tayo Burger has a foldable wooden sign up near their restaurant in hopes of enticing customers in for a tasty and flavorful burger. It also served as a way to direct you to the restaurant, as most side street holes in the wall need to do when their location can’t easily be seen from the main street. But once you do find it and decide to dine in here, you will be in for a treat! They have burger creations starting as close as Spain (jamón serrano) to as far away as Japan (with a special sweet and sour teriyaki sauce) with a few European and South American countries thrown in. And of course, they have their own interpretation of a good ole USA burger, which often varies by restaurant and region of Spain. We both got the Argentine burger and loved it honestly! The chimichurri sauce gave it a definite boost in flavor.

Their menu del día scheme went as follows:
There is a set price where you can get any burger off the menu and a drink plus 1€ to add dessert and then if you want the burger, drink, appetizer, and dessert, it will be 3 extra. It’s quite a good deal if you ask me! (Which you are in a way because you’re reading my post :P)

Location

Avenida de Brasil, 19
28020 Madrid (next to Carrefour Orense)

Ambiance

I feel like this restaurant would be a good place to hang out with friends or for a couple to try if they’re looking to be adventurous with hamburger toppings. Or if their country’s burger is on the list, even introduce each other to the most popular flavors from their home but piled onto a hamburger! We only went to Tayo once back in November when it was very quiet and not many customers could dine inside (they do have a small terrace). I can picture it being more lively in the summer but I will have to find out if it is later this year!

Cleanliness

We had a major advantage when coming early in the lunch hour (around 1:30 pm, give or take a few minutes) because we had the upstairs floor to ourselves for about half of our visit. I did want to also note that this was one of the cleanliest and more modern restaurants on this list that we had been to. The building seemed to be fairly new or at least kept in very good condition. Everything felt very clean and crisp with paintings depicting scenes from different countries and more colorful designs.

Value

Their lunch meal deal was quite unique and one I had never seen done in Spain before (as far as I can remember) so I must applaud them for coming up with it. The burgers were a little on the small side but the meat was high quality and the toppings and unique ingredients for each type were excellent. The only downside to the lunch menu was that there weren’t many options for dessert compared to the regular menu for weekend lunches or weekday dinners. Overall, though, it was a great find in terms of burger joints if you don’t mind walking a little ways from the metro Cuzco station.

Price

12,90€ for the menú del día (1€ extra for dessert, 3€ extra for an appetizer & dessert)

Average price for two people ordering a full meal each: ~45€ total

Final Score: 4.8/5

Sumo

Sumo’s overall theme is blending traditional Japanese styles and design with a modern twist, as seen in the window of a private group room with large, round tables. (From a birthday lunch with a party of 6 in June 2020)
California Roll (a cream cheese rice roll with seaweed wrapped in the center and avocado, cucumber, surimi and Tobiko).
Salmon Poke Bowl (smoked salmon with rice, broccoli, tomatoes, Wakame seaweed, red onions, radishes, peanuts, sesame, pineapple, and Teriyaki sauce.

While Sumo is a chain restaurant around Madrid and the surrounding areas (Las Rozas, primarily), I do feel it’s good to rate a locally based, non-international chain every now and then. Of their 7 locations around the city and region, their Cuzco location is the furthest north inside the highway that envelopes Madrid, the M30. It is also by far the closest restaurant to the Cuzco metro of all the other ones I’ve mentioned. If you get out of the metro and take the Castellana Impares exit, you will only need to cross two crosswalks before you arrive at Sumo, which will be on the righthand side of Calle Sor Ángela de la Cruz.

There are few restaurants that I have eaten at in the world that have more variety than Sumo does. With 142 individual items on their menu, you are bound to find something that you will like. From small portions of individual sushi rolls to sautéed noodle dishes to mochi for dessert, the sky’s the limit with what you will find. They even add new items to the menu fairly regularly which may just keep you coming back again and again.

I first went here for a birthday lunch for my old roommate back in late June 2020, as I stated in the first photo’s caption. The majority of us had not been out for a group dinner since before early March so while it was a bit strange to go out, it certainly did feel nice. The refreshing and modern feel of the Sumo Cuzco’s restaurant and the warm summer weather boosted our moods, plus, it also made for the perfect environment for my friend’s birthday.

The food here is high quality -albeit smaller portions – and is a slight twist between traditional Japanese cuisine and menu items that are tailored for the culture’s palate. Of all the things I’ve personally ordered, the noodle and rice dishes, dim sum, and poke bowls are some of the best value in terms of price and quantity. I have never gone here (or ordered) with a gigantic appetite so it’s not quite made sense for me to get their buffet menu, which has to be decided by table, not per person. That would be the only drawback to eating here, the cost of the buffet menu and the fact that your entire table must either decide buffet or order individual items off the menu.

Otherwise, the sushi, noodle, rice, and poke bowls are very reasonably priced and of good quality! I will have to come back here again when I’m more ravenous and try the buffet – and perhaps dessert, too!

Location

Calle de Sor Ángela de la Cruz, 8
28020 Madrid (next to MAPFRE)

Ambiance

Of all the restaurants on this list, Sumo ranks high in terms of decór and ambiance. Being inside one of their locations almost feels as if you were stepping into some nature scene in Japan. They do a superb job at combining refreshing, nature-themed styles and photos with a modern twist by adding creative shapes and accessories. In turn, you feel very relaxed and comfortable even before you begin eating.

Cleanliness

I did notice Sumo’s restaurants (this one and the Gran Vía location) were slightly fuller than other restaurants since the hospitality industry opened back up around Spain by the time June rolled around. However, I didn’t feel uneasy at all during the times I went in person and found that they kept a safe distance between tables and cleaned them once a table of customers left.

Value

The quality of their menu items is very high and while portion sizes are on the small side, you will still get good food for less than you would at a fancier restaurant in this area. However, the only things I really disliked were the buffet prices and the fact that drinks and desserts are not included in the buffet, should you opt for it. This would put you at spending at least 20€/person on a weekday or a little over 25€/person on a weekend, provided you both ordered dessert. It’s not exactly a student or young couple friendly restaurant. Nonetheless, it’s still a great place to go with coworkers (if you work near Plaza de Cuzco) or with friends for a special occasion as their event rooms are beautifully decorated.

Price

Sumo has different pricing tiers for their buffet option:

14,25€/person Monday – Friday at lunch *VAT is included in the price but drinks and dessert are not.

17,50€/person Monday – Thursday at dinner

20,50€/person Friday night – Sunday night dinner

8,50€/child, if under 8 years old

Or you can order individual items off the menu if you do not want the buffet. However, everyone at your table must be in agreement and either order off the menu or choose the buffet option. They are firm about this.

Around 30-45€+ for two people ordering off the menu, no buffet.

Final Score: 4.4/5

Sal y Chili

Located on a quiet, ordinary looking street, this gem of an Indian restaurant has more than what meets the eye.
Appetizer: Chicken samosas with a cucumber and tomato garnish on the side and minty yogurt-based and sweet sauces for dipping.
Main course: Chicken Madras and Chicken Korma, rice and cheese naan.
Dessert: Pistachio ice cream with a fruit flavored syrup, similar to Grenadine syrup (found in the US), though much thinner.

One of our favorite Indian restaurants in Madrid is located all the way down a street that leads up to the Estación Puerta de Atocha but it is sadly just too far away to go to at the moment. With more Indian places scattered around Lavapiés and even tucked in between the fancy restaurants that lie in Barrio de Salamanca, we wanted to find something easier to get to and ideally, within walking distance from our apartment. After searching around on The Fork, Andrew found Sal y Chili, which I will admit is closer to metro Tetúan rather than Cuzco but, it is still worth the walk!

Besides having curry at one of my old haunts in La Coruña in August, we hadn’t really had Indian food for most of the year. Valentine’s Day was the last time we had been inside one at the very well-known and fancier Purnima, located near metro Goya. And to top it off, it finally wasn’t blazing hot in Madrid so it was the perfect meal for us to have to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary.

The times we have gone there haven’t been the busiest but looking at their Facebook page they do host group events and are on delivery apps for to-go orders. In fact, the Monday night we were the in late September, it was only us and a guy from the neighborhood who popped in to place a to-go order (it seemed like they knew him based on the interaction). So, while things were slow the tasty curries more than made up for that!

Location

Calle Pensamiento, 16
28020 Madrid

Ambiance

It’s very nicely decorated and the tables are all covered with tablecloths and cloth napkins, giving the restaurant a more glamourous look, as you normally find in Indian places around Spain. They even have some artwork and photos from around India (and Nepal, a cuisine in which they also specialize) making you feel a little more connected to the culture along with the food. We were only just a little bit sad to not see it in what I feel would be in its prime, with lots of mixed groups of diners and more conversations bubbling out. We did go back a second time on the day of the Spanish Christmas lottery to try their menú del día and a few more people were in there, too. From experience, it does feel like lunchtime is their busier time of day.

Cleanliness

We found the place to be very clean and tidy both times we went but the majority of the tables were empty. However, the second time we went, I did find a couple of food stains on the tablecloth but they were almost on the other side of our table, where my food and hands wouldn’t be touching it. I do understand that it might be a lot of work to put fresh tablecloths on their tables especially with indoor restrictions being imposed for the near future. Otherwise, we found it to be very neat inside and the waitress made sure to keep her distance from her table when taking our order and talking to us. It was an extra step of professionalism that goes a long way in today’s world.

Value

The lunchtime menu of the day is certainly well worth it if you want to venture up this way and treat yourself to a midday curry. Even with the drink being extra, it was still a very reasonable price for the amount of food that you got! And what’s more is, you get both rice and naan included in the menú so you won’t have to choose (which is what our server told us) so isn’t that a great deal? If you are eating with someone, they will just add your two more slices of bread to your basket, making it 4 pieces of naan in total. That was some of the best news I’d ever gotten at an Indian restaurant before!

Price

Menú del día: 9.95€ (drink not included)

Average price for 2 people: ~40€ after booking on The Fork and getting 30% off the menu.

Final Score: 4.7/5

Nouba

Nouba all decorated for Christmas (December 2020).
One of the best looking terraces in this area: outside with ample room and in the middle of a leafy green oasis, just off the main boulevard.
First course: Sopa de marisco con fideos cabellín (tomato based soup with clams, small crab legs, oysters, shrimp, calamari and very thin, straight noodles. Bread on the side included.
Second: Solomillo de cerdo ibérico con salsa roquefort (Iberian pork sirloin in a Roquefort cheese sauce with French fries).
Dessert: Tarta de chocolate con coco rallado (a slice of homemade -chef’s recipe!- chocolate cake shaved coconut on top. The best dessert I had all 2020 and perhaps best slice of chocolate cake in my life. No exaggeration.

From early 2018 to late 2019, I lived in the same district as this restaurant (Chamartín) and would pass it whenever I went over to Cuzco or walked down the long avenue it’s on. Visually speaking, I was always drawn to it because it seemed like an elegant greenhouse turned restaurant/bistro but felt it was more of the place to go if you and some friends wanted to get some drinks and hang out in its lovely and relaxing looking outdoor terrace.

I did actually manage to pay Nouba a visit in the middle of the summer when a friend and I took a long walk and visited a couple of places along the way to stop for a drink and chat. Unfortunately, there weren’t any tables open on their dream-like terrace so we opted to go inside for a drink and were seated right by the windows at the entrance. The windows were left open and it wasn’t deep into the summer just yet so it brought in a refreshing breeze, which made the visit all the more enjoyable.

When I finally decided to eat here, however, I choose to sample their menú del día the Friday before my birthday. My husband had some errands to run as well as go to a NIE appointment (you know that whole UK leaving the EU ordeal an all?) but I still felt like going. Only this time I went alone, which isn’t uncommon for me but is certainly an uncommon thing to do in Spanish culture, especially given how the pandemic has complicated things.

All in all, I could absolutely rave and write a ton about the food and service here. But, long story short, the dishes they prepare for their menu of the day are made with the freshest ingredients and they all change each week to provide lots of variety. In fact, I passed by it a couple of times now since my last visit and the sopa de marisco has yet to show back up on the menu! The dishes are a bit simple at first glace but they are packed with lots of flavor and the freshness of the ingredients really shines through with every bite.

And the best part of the entire menu was in fact the dessert, which I don’t usually focus on since I’m more of a main course and appetizer type of person. Chocolate is my weakness, however. When it was time to pay, I made sure to compliment the waitress on the chocolate cake, exclaiming that I had never tasted something so delicious before. She explained that both of the desserts on the menu (the cheesecake and the chocolate cake) are the chef’s own personal recipes, made in house. I’m sure I looked at her longingly once she said that, knowing I couldn’t quite find a way to replicate that chocolate masterpiece that I had just devoured, but she was very pleased that I had enjoyed it so much.

Overall, I will definitely be going back to Nouba to try more of their culinary creations soon. It’s more than just a relaxing oasis with ample terrace seating inside lush green gardens. They really know how to create both a great atmosphere inside and out as well as provide its customers with a wide and tasty selection of different foods each and every week.

Location

Avenida de Alberto Alcocer, 9
28016 Madrid (inside the Jardines de San Fernando)

Ambiance

It’s really relaxing both inside and out but it could get a bit stifling during midday in the summer or a little too cold in the middle of winter, given that their windows must remain open. The perfect place for friends to meet up and have drinks, solo dining or breakfast if you want to have it in a beautiful and tastefully designed locale.

Cleanliness

Nouba has a bit of an advantage over other restaurants that are located underneath apartment buildings in that it is a standalone building with a very open construction to it. They are able to keep more windows open than your typical restaurant to allow for lots of air circulation. I found that they were very good about keeping customers seated apart from one another, though, they still had plenty of space for new customers who come in. It was very clean and a bottle of hand sanitizer was actually on every available table – impressive!

Value

The portion sizes were very, very generous in terms of the menú del día so I would imagine the dishes off the regular menu would also be the same. I left here feeling full to the brim and very satisfied with what I had chosen to eat. For the price, the size of the dishes and the location, you can’t beat it!

Price

12,50€ for their menú del día. (It is available to go, which drops the price down to 10,50€.)

Average price for dinner for two people: Around 30-40€ for large portions of food (raciones) to share.

Final Score: 5/5

El Jalapeño

It’s a bit small on the inside but its flavorful food and colorful interior certainly make up for that!
Combi nachos: corn tortilla chips with diced chicken and chorizo, guacamole, pico de gallo, cheese and salsa verde.
Taco Mix: A Campechan mix of meats – pastor, chorizo, and beef, with warm tortillas all wrapped up to reach in and grab!
I ordered Mexican lasagna, which consisted of oven-baked layers of corn tortillas, cheese, salsa verde (or rojo) and chicken (beef is also available), It was sooo good!
Just look at how cheesy it was. Yum!
Lastly, for dessert, I had the brownie (that has walnuts, ice cream, and whipped cream on the side, plus, chocolate syrup and cinnamon for extra garnish and pizzazz,) My husband ordered the cookie (which can be seen on the opposite side).

Nestled in between several tall apartment building towers lies this gem of a Mexican restaurant which could almost classify as the neighborhood’s (Nueva España) best kept secret. Except it’s not because they get a lot of business from the neighborhood alone and word has gotten out about it on a popular restaurant booking site called The Fork (see link above).

What’s funny is that the first time I went to this restaurant was back in March 2017 and at night and found myself lost within the maze of apartment buildings and tree lined side streets in this neighborhood. I had only been living in Madrid for just around 6 months at the time yet foolishly thought I could navigate my way around any part of the city with my working knowledge of the metro and Google Maps. Needless to say, my friend waited for me a little bit longer than she would’ve liked but I eventually found my way into this tiny, reservation (recommended) only Mexican restaurant in a corner of Madrid that I had never heard of before. I still remember how fuzzy and dark the area seemed to me even now!

Fast forward to December 2020 when thinking about where to go for my birthday in the middle of the month. I remembered El Jalapeño and how I really enjoyed the food there but I couldn’t find any photos from the night my friend and I went. So, I thought, why not repeat but this time document the visit with my husband and ring in my birthday early there?

We made a reservation on The Fork (El Tenedor in Spain) for Saturday the 12th and were looking forward to eating tacos together again, which we hadn’t done since March 1st, a couple of weeks before the national lockdown began. The best thing about our visit there this time was that we only had to walk about 20 minutes to get there! And I knew what the neighborhood looked like in the daytime now so there was no chance of us getting lost.

Wrong. I accidentally led us over to the left side of the small square where it’s located instead of going right. But at least we didn’t make a turn onto the completely incorrect street like I had done the last time.

The food and the quality of the meat were both just excellent. El Jalapeño’s kitchen is quite small as well as the main dining area in the front but they make up for it with their delicious, oven baked and grilled dishes and additional seating downstairs. It seems to be reservation-only and I did see a group of friends get turned away a few years ago. Given the world we live in today, it’s best to make a reservation almost anywhere you go to ensure you will get a seat. The portions may be a little small to you if you haven’t been to a Mexican restaurant in Spain before. However, the meat is grilled and cooked to perfection, the sauce selection really does go from mild to very spicy, the tortillas are warm and the cheese is extra stringy and fresh!

Location

Calle Pedro Muguruza, 4
28036 Madrid (a few minutes past Supermercado Sanchez Romero)

Ambiance

Although it can be hard to find a smaller, cozier type of restaurant in Madrid these days, El Jalapeño has managed to maintain its pre-pandemic feel. The only downside is that they have to limit capacity inside so it can feel a bit empty at times. However, it’s one of the few restaurants near Cuzco that I have tried before 2020 where I can think back to how it was in the past.

Cleanliness

I feel like the smaller a location is, the more they will have to clean it and tidy things up. The owner cleaned the tables once the plates were cleared off them. Some tables were marked off but for the most part, the main dining area was spacious. The only major downside to going there in the winter time and with the new protocols in place is the indoor temperature. Most, if not all, restaurants are encouraged to keep their main entry door open in order to allow better air circulation. Not a problem if it’s the summer but in the winter, the place can feel cold almost the entire time you’re there.

Value

The oven safe dishes for the Taco Mix and the Mexican Lasagna were slightly small upon first glance but their depth certainly makes up for it. We got a total of 8 tortillas with our meals but I ended up not needing as many tortillas since I primarily ate the lasagna from the dish. That left my husband with a few more tortillas which worked out nicely for him. We did not know that more drinks were included with the menu price but will know for next time!

Price

If you reserve on The Fork, the restaurant has this deal where you will get two combo menus for the price of one, which was around 19,99€. It consists of one appetizer, one main dish and a dessert, with up to 3 drinks per person. VAT calculated separately.

Final Score 4.8/5

Illinois Sandwiches

A large majority of restaurants all throughout Spain are using QR codes and online menu services to provide customers with a nearly contactless experience inside their locale. The first time I used one I felt fancy!

I got the Pastrami sandwich (pastrami, Swiss cheese, dill pickles, and Illinois special honey mustard sauce) with a freshly squeezed glass of mango, orange, and apple juice. (July 2020)

I had also passed by this restaurant with quite a peculiar name several times but never stopped in until I was out with my laptop and needed to stop somewhere for lunch. It was a must before continuing on to the café where I was going to meet a friend and iced tea wasn’t going to hold me over! I don’t know where they got the inspiration for their restaurant’s name but I have a theory. It’s quite plausible that restaurants with US state or city names could come from a personal experience an owner has had in said city or state…or maybe one of their customers came in and told them they were from somewhere like Illinois, for example. Or it’s highly likely that the owners feel like they sound cool by using a US location or English in their restaurant or shop’s name. I would love to find out the answer!

Anyway, the main selling point for Illinois Sandwiches is that you can get any of their house made sandwiches and a drink for under 7€. It is quite hard to find a place outside of the US and the UK who just specializes in sandwiches, as those tend to be what Americans and Brits prefer when it comes to lunch (or lunch on the go). This restaurant may have identified that need and they are certainly doing their best to meet it.

Once you decide on your sandwich, you’ll then tell them which bread with nine different types of bread to choose from. They have regular soft drinks, water, and freshly made juices to drink. And different American side dishes ranging from coleslaw to mac and cheese or steak fries, among many others. Plus, they have about a dozen different sauces to choose from which if you’ve noticed about Spanish cuisine, there aren’t very many sauces used in it (and olive oil is considered to be a dressing or a sauce). That’s definitely a huge perk when it comes to adding a little bit of kick to your side dish or sandwich itself.

Location

Calle de Carlos Maurrás, 4
28036 Madrid

Ambiance

It felt like stepping inside your typical sandwich or sub shop somewhere on the East Coast if I’m honest. (A Penn Station or Subway kind of vibe.) With that being said, it’s not exactly a place you would go to for the ambiance or décor as that’s not its main draw. Since they are located between dozens of businesses and near a major metro station, they get a lot of to-go orders from people who work in the area.

Cleanliness

Once I stepped inside the shop, I saw a table set up with hand sanitizer. Seeing as it was during their regular lunch hour but at the end of July when I went, it was fairly clean and quiet in there. There was one other person sitting in to eat and use his laptop but other than that, it was empty. The shop is quite small in size but the tables were still spaced out accordingly and the bathrooms were located downstairs.

Value

The sandwich could’ve been a little bit bigger but if you’re used to European sizes by now, then it won’t really phase you too much. I would say that for the price some of the sandwiches are a little small based on the type of bread you choose. It does hit the spot, though, so if you’re looking for a sandwich and a drink to go, this is your place!

Price

6,90€ for any of their sandwich and drink combos. Sides and dessert (cookies, muffins, brownies, sponge cakes, etc.) extra.

Final Score 4.5/5

La Romana Heladería (Dessert)

Back on May 30th, this was the protocol for ordering at La Romana. As of late June 2020, you can go in but you must observe social distancing – which is easy to do with their spaced out circles on the floor. Facile!
I mixed the flavors Biscotto della Nonna al Latte and Cioccolato al Latte.

This is an ice cream shop that I have passed numerous times taking a shortcut from my apartment over to Paseo de la Castellana. We moved to this area in the fall of 2019 so ice cream season had just come and gone. Naturally, it made sense for us to go check it out in the spring of the following year but little did we know what 2020 would bring.

(Spoiler alert: no one did!)

While this is a very large Italian chain of authentic gelato shops, their reputation precedes them. They have been in business since 1947 and have slowly grown around the continent, though their headquarters lie in Rimini, Italy, in the Emilia-Romagna region. There are quite a few locations in Madrid but we found this one to be very charming and pleasant to visit. The window decals are what did first catch my eye once I began exploring the neighborhood next to mine. You’ll find lots of words in Italian splashed onto the main windows and walls inside of their space. If you know me, I love seeing words and quotes painted on a restaurant -whether on the inside or the outside, it doesn’t matter to me!

Location

Calle de Rosario Pino, 6
28020 Madrid (take exit Castellana Impares, go two blocks north on Paseo de la Castellana and take a left onto Rosario Pino)

Ambiance

What you will notice in the very beginning upon entering their shop is that it is very modern and clean. It’s also very expansive with the menu board taking up most of the wall on the left hand side. Upbeat, cheerful music is usually playing and combine that with the pleasing, crisp aesthetic on the inside and you have one friendly space to enjoy.

Cleanliness

I was really impressed with the hygienic measures that have been put into place with this shop ever since restaurants and ice cream parlors could open back up. They always have their hand sanitizer stocked up, visible signage to explain the new procedures, and clearly marked circles and ropes to help with social distancing. They also just seem to keep the place very clean and well-kept even pre-pandemic times.

Value

The ice cream scoops – which is all I’ve tried there so far – are quite generous. And for the price, it’s the average sized scoop that you would usually find in Madrid, even in the center. The only downside is that it really melts fast in the summertime so you better be quick!

Price

About 3€ for a medium-sized bowl with two scoops. (The average going rate is between 3-4€ for a -European- medium-sized bowl of ice cream just as reference).

Final Score 4.8/5

I plan to update this post over time and would gladly welcome new restaurant recommendations to add to this list. If you know the metro Cuzco area and see a restaurant that isn’t on this list, let me know! Buen provecho and enjoy exploring these restaurants in Northeastern Madrid near Plaza de Cuzco.