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By Regina W Bryan—
There’s a rivalry between Spain’s two largest cities, Barcelona and Madrid. From soccer—Real Madrid vs. Barça—to which city has better nightlife, there have been many a heated debate between locals from both sides.
I live in Barcelona and love it here, but I have to admit: Madrid is pretty cool! Every now and then I get over to Madrid and have a peek at its excellent museums and spirited nightlife. On a recent trip I took the AVE from Barcelona to Madrid, Spain’s fast train, and ended up eating some tasty meals in Chueca.
Here are a few of my favorites cheap eats in Madrid’s Chueca neighborhood:
Lunch Box Restaurant and Tiki Room
C/Barco 8 – Madrid
Just around the corner from Madrid’s Gran Via metro stop in Chueca is this fun, creatively decorated, hip burger shack. I popped into Lunch Box with a couple friends who live in Madrid. We were one of two tables in there, but this was because of the time. By around 10:00 – 10:30 p.m. Lunch Box filled with locals who did not seem to mind that is was a “school night.”
Lunch Box does gourmet sandwiches and specialty burgers. Try the Eva Gardner veggie burger for €13 which is served on a sesame bun with a side of green salad and another side of fries. The portions at Lunch Box are big and toppings are bountiful. My friends had bacon burgers for about the same price and reported that they were toothsome. We also had the breaded, deep fried brie with jam as a starter for €7. Lunch Box is a good value for the quality and quantity of food.
Bufalino upholds the Spanish tradition of serving tapas with each drink you order. That is to say, if you order a beer the waiter will also bring you some chips or olives at no charge. I love this, and honestly who doesn’t appreciate a free snack? It’s very uncommon to get a free tapa in Barcelona, so Madrid gets some points in this category.
Anyhoo, Bufalino offers up a simple and inexpensive menu featuring large salads, baked goods, Spanish wines, pasta and other home-cooked dishes. What’s more the bartender/waitress was extremely friendly and accommodating, which goes a long way with me. This is the place to go for an easy lunch or dinner in Chueca.
C/ Barco 18
While in Madrid I roomed at the pocketbook-friendly Hostal Cibeles, which is probably one of the best deals for hotels in Madrid at the moment. The well-appointed, family-run hotel had it all, except for a restaurant.
Cibeles’ lack of food and beverage forced to El Apolo Cafe, directly across the street from the hotel. El Apolo Cafe is cozy and inexpensive and serves simple breakfast items in the morning (no eggs and bacon here) and cocktails in the evening. There’s a long bar and several mismatched tables around a eccentrically decorated living room where patrons sip cafes con leches over the paper. The front wall of windows looks out onto Calle Barco where I watched the world wake up while munching my morning croissant.
Is El Apolo a gay bar? Maybe. Certainly there are many gay bars in Chueca. But let me put it this way: whatever your persuasion, you’ll be happy at this friendly neighborhood bar. The only downside could be that it’s a small place and fills up quickly.