We left for the metro station around 12:30pm, picked up Tiff around 12:40 and by 1:35 we were sitting under an umbrella at the Cafeteria Margerit in the Plaza Mayor. The Cafeteria Margerit is one of Tiff’s favorites and we were only too happy to defer to her for our restaurant choices as our tapas experience pales in comparison to hers. We had 25 minutes before we were to meet our friend at the “horse statue” in the middle of the plaza. That left us just enough time for a bottle of wine, warm olive oil potato chips, Serrano “jamon,” and cheese. Tiff held our table while we strolled to the center of the plaza to meet our friend, Jenn. We thought she’d be bringing along the friend she was staying with, but her friend was too tired from staying out late the night before. Jenn said she called it a night at 4am, knowing she’d be meeting us the following day. Her friend said that was fine and stayed out until around 5:30am…Only in Madrid!
We walked back over to Tiff and then decided to start fresh at another tapas bar, so we paid the bill and walked to a smaller plaza popular among the locals called the Plaza Santa Ana. Our path took us through the Puerta del Sol and past “Kilometer Zero,” the very center of Spain, from which all distances in the country are measured. Once we reached the Plaza Santa Ana, we went to another of Tiff’s favorites called Naturbier. One of the things I love about Madrid is how restaurants surrounding the plazas all set up outdoor café areas collectively in the in the center. Just sit under an umbrella marked with the name of your chosen establishment, and sooner…or later…a server will come along and attend to your every culinary need. This was our experience at Naturbier. Although Naturbier has its own microbrewery, we opted for their sangria. It didn’t disappoint. We ordered four different tapas to share: patatas brava (roasted potatoes with a spicy red sauce), some sort of sautéed whole green peppers, shrimp in a garlic and butter sauce and fried baby squid. As another friend named Jenn says, “Mommas don’t eat babies.” And as a rule, I do not. I did make an exception on this day, due to the fact that this is a very Spanish dish and squids are not mammals. Having now tried this dish, I must say it was not bad. It was as good as anything else I’ve eaten fried, but it was very expensive. I do understand why it’s expensive, though, after watching Jose Andreas, of “Made in Spain” fame, go baby squid fishing for his PBS cooking show. These fishermen go out into the sea in a rowboat, in the dark, with a lantern and little fish hooks, and catch them…individually. Yes, individually…talk about time consuming! We spent quite a bit of time at Naturbier. There is even a little playground in this plaza, so I think there’s potential for visiting it again with the kids.
Once we finished up at Naturbier, we still had some time before we needed to catch the metro. We thought churros y chocolate would be the perfect finish to the afternoon. We headed back to the Plaza Mayor to try to find a place Tiff had been to before. The sangria was playing tricks on her internal GPS, so we gave up trying to find “her” place and asked a bartender in a random bar on one of the side streets for a recommendation. He directed us to a place two blocks off the Plaza Mayor called Maestro Churrero. This cafeteria has been in business since 1902. Taste their churros dipped in chocolate and you’ll know why they’ve lasted so long. It was the perfect end to the perfect afternoon. We bid Jenn “adios” and took