I studied abroad in Madrid for a year during undergrad, and while my student budget did not allow me to try as many restaurants as I would have liked, I was still able to sample a variety of Spanish food. A recent class in Bologna this summer gave me the opportunity to go stop off in Madrid and return to old favorite eateries.
Bocadillos are inexpensive sandwiches served on baguette-style bread and are often eaten during the day. The meat or whatever they use inside the bocadillo is usually very simple such as sliced ham, anchovies, salt, and/or cheese with little to no sauce inside. You can, of course, request a side of “mayonesa” (mayonnaise) if your heart desires but may find little else with which to lather up your “pan.”
One of my favorites is the bocadillo de calamares (calamari sandwich). When I lived in Madrid, there used to be a handful of places that specialized in bocadillos de calamares where la Calle de Toledo begins at Plaza Mayor. When I returned in May, there was only one, and the one I frequented the most was no longer there. (It may be a sign of the economic times.) Regardless, I went to its neighbor and ordered a delicious bocadillo de calamares. They were possibly better than I remember (maybe that’s why this place was still around?). My poor jet-lagged brain accidently said, “bocadillo de gambas” (shrimp bocadillo) instead, but the “camarero” (waiter) knew what I meant. This would make a nice rest stop along with a “caña” (a glass of beer) while touring the city.
Another favorite is a bocadillo de tortilla. I’m not talking about the tortillas we use to make tacos or wrap burritos. Tortilla española can be described as a potato onion omelette or frittata. It is a very simple dish with a subtle flavor of olive oil amongst gooey fried potatoes, onions, and scrambled eggs that will leave the inexperienced diner thinking that there must have been cheese in it. Tortilla is very simple but very delicious. It can be served as a tapa, a side or even a main dish with a salad. Some prefer it warm, but it is also not uncommon to eat it at room temperature. Here, it is used as a filling for a bocadillo. I remember thinking that they were just “okay” when I first ate them, but much like nicotene, I found that I started to have cravings on a regular basis after consuming it only a few of times. It’s a must have for anyone visiting Spain.