Amen to La Latina

photograph courtesy of kongniffe
photograph courtesy of kongniffe

Sunday bar hopping in Madrid’s La Latina neighborhood is just as much a Spanish ritual as going to church was 30 years ago. Although mostly Catholic by birth, Madrileños don’t go to church on Sundays anymore. Instead, they meet with friends and family in the afternoon, bringing their children along with them into smoke-filled bars.

Needless to say, the smoking ban passed last year in Spain has had no effect on air quality in bars.

After moseying around El Rastro—the gypsy market nearan eclectic mixture of Sunday strollers pack into local bars on the flea market’s fringes. The rastas, fashionistas, grandpas, and regular Joes all congregate in bars whose floors are covered in a blanket of cigarette butts, dirty napkins, and giant spines of scaled sardines. Littering is rather expected.

Madrileños order cañas, or cup-sized beers, tostas, small morsels on French bread, and fried squid. Bartenders, who scoff at foreigners’ credit cards, are all endowed with the miraculous ability to keep track of multiple tabs. Anyone who mentions Monday morning buys the next round.

Two streets, Calle Cava Baja and Calle Cava Alta, which both lead to the Plaza Mayor, are strewn with wine bars and tapas joints. Locals convene in spots such as Lamiak (our favorite), El Bonanno (open late) or El Almendro 13, the hottest restaurant of the moment. El Almendro 13 serves up hot roscas and bad-ass huevos rotos y morcilla, a heart attack of potatoes, scrambled eggs, and we won’t say what else.

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