When you live in Madrid, you easily pick up a thing or two about the large variety of gastronomical offerings the city has to offer. I was no different when I moved there in 2016. However, I was more inclined towards finding non Spanish restaurants and find I did. But before I get into that, why did I not hunt down the best Spanish eateries in the Spanish capital which is home to numerous well-known tapas bars to fine dining restaurants to bakeries? Two reasons: (A) I was moving from New York where I was beyond spoiled for choices and wanted that to continue that when I had crossed the Atlantic for good. (B) Before moving to New York, I had spent two (most racially discriminated) years of my life in a small town in Spain where you got almost nothing (or rather, almost nothing edible) apart from Spanish food.

The Famous Spanish Seafood Paella

Don’t get me wrong, I actually like Spanish food (well, most of it) but after my experiences in New York and the-small-town-that-shall-not-be-named combined, I was eager to explore what Madrid had in store besides its large and commendable range of restaurants serving the local cuisine. So, like the good Samaritan that I am, I spend several hours (say 100, and not exaggerating) prowling the streets of Madrid, hogging down all kinds of food in all kinds of places. After all that research for the greater good (and obviously not because I am little glutton), here are my TOP FIVE non Spanish restaurants in Madrid (a.k.a. droolworthy places to try out after you have eaten your fill of tapas, paella and churros):

  1. Baobab
Thiebou Dienne: Senegalese rice, fish, carrots and aubergines.

Cuisine: Senegalese

Location: Plaza de Cabestreros, 1, 28012 Madrid
Timings: 12pm – 6pm, 8pm – 12am except Tuesday (12 – 5pm).

Nearest Metros: Lavapiés (Line 3), Tirso de Molina (Line 1), La Latina (Line 5)

Price: Budget

Reservation: Not available; you might have to wait for a table on weekends for about 10 minutes.

What to Eat: Thiebou Dienne (Senegalese rice with fish and vegetables), Thiere (black couscous with veggies and meat).

You cannot talk of non Spanish restaurants in Madrid with mentioning Baobab. It is located in the popular barrio (neighbourhood) of Lavapiés, which is home to various immigrant communities from Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, thereby resulting in a dynamic, multicultural society. Lavapiés boasts of several international restaurants from good to high repute but this unpretentious, simple little joint really stands out. The restaurant is super basic and has a one page menu with a total of roughly ten items including a couple of vegetarian options. The portions are huge with a price range of USD $8-9. You can sit outside on the little plaza and watch the vibrancy of Lavapiés as you gorge your delicious (and healthy) Senegalese meal.

FOODIE TIP: If spicy is not your thing, opt out of Senegalese rice and order arroz blanco (white rice) instead.

  1. Egeo – Suvlakeria Greiga
Greek Platter: Chicken skewers, rice, pickled salad, pita bread along with Tzatziki dip and hummus

Cuisine: Greek

Location: Calle de San Carlos, 17, 28012 Madrid

Timings: Monday to Thursday: 1.15pm – 12am; Friday to Sunday: 1.15pm – 1am.

Nearest Metros: Lavapiés (Line 3), Antón Martin (Line 1), La Latina (Line 5)

Price: Budget

Reservation: Not available; it is likely that you will have to wait for around 10 – 20 minutes during peak evening hours on the weekends.

What to Eat: Chicken suvlaki (pita bread wrap) or pumpkin suvlaki (for vegetarians), musaka (a type of lasagne with potatoes, aubergines, cheese, minced meat and béchamel), and French fries with feta cheese. See full menu here (in Spanish)

Another stellar non Spanish restaurant in Madrid is can yet again be found in the famed Lavapiés neighbourhood. This is, IMHO, the best Greek restaurant in not just Madrid but all of Spain. Not to mention, the prices are so pocket friendly: You can have a massive pita wrap for as cheap as USD $4 while the most expensive ración (a full meal with meat/veggies, fries, pita bread served with tzatziki dip) will set you back by just USD $12. They also have a unique selection of gluten free beverages. The food is as authentic as it gets, and I would argue that even if you don’t care for Greek food, you have to give it a try because it’s just that good!

FOODIE TIP: This is a small restaurant with very limited seating but they do have enough standing counters to eat. If seating for you is a must, get there as soon as it opens for lunch because it gets crowded quick. If planning to go for dinner, you seriously need to avoid the peak hours, which in Spain is after 7 to 9pm. You can also ask for ‘para llevar’ (take-out), and have your meal in any of the open plazas in the surrounding area.

  1. Tuk Tuk
Rice bowl with egg, minced pork, and veggies

Cuisine: Southeast Asian and Chinese fusion

Location: Multiple; the most centrally located one is at Chueca neighbourhood at Calle del Barquillo, 26.

Timings: Monday to Thursday 1pm – 4.30pm, 8pm – 11.30pm; Friday to Saturday: 1pm – 4.30pm, 8pm – 12am.

Nearest Metros: Depends on which one you visit; the nearest metro to the one in Chueca is (shockingly) called Chueca (Line 5).

Price: Mid-range

Reservation: Available but generally not necessary except for weekends.

My 29th birthday meal at Tuk Tuk: Rice with Mango curry, chicken and veggies

What to Eat: Chilli Chicken Mango rice bowl, Hokkien (Malay noodles with pork, egg, prawns, veggies and lime). See full menu here (in Spanish)

If we are talking non Spanish restaurants in Madrid, you need have something Asian on the list right? Yes, they are a chain, and this is because they got really popular and rapidly expanded while maintaining the same quality of

food in all their branches. They don’t strictly serve authentic Southeast Asian food but their own take on it is what makes them so good at what they do. Apart from rice and noodle bowls, they offer curries, meat dishes, soups, salads and a couple of desserts. The menu comes with a ‘Spicy Meter’ next to every dish so you can order as per your spicy taste buds (or the lack of it). The décor is chic, and the service is fast and quick.

FOODIE TIP: Their super filling rice bowls are the most value for money and of course, delish!

  1. Tierra Burrito
Nachos with Sour Cream and bacon

Cuisine: Mexican

Location: Multiple; the most centrally located one at Calle de Espoz y Mina, 9, is 160m away from Puerta del Sol, undoubtedly the most visited spot in Madrid, which claims to the geographical centre of Spain.

Nearest Metros: Depends on the one you visit, you can reach the one at the city centre by Sol (Line 1,2,3).

Timings: 12pm to 6am.

Price: Budget

Reservations: Not available

What to Eat: Burrito (you fill it up with whatever veggies, meat, rice, beans, sauces you like), nachos served with pico de gallo (sauce made out of chopped tomatoes, onions, cilantro, jalapeños, and lime juice), guacamole, and crema agria (sour cream). See full menu here.

Burrito with cheese, veggies, chicken, brown rice and black beans

Okay, truth be told this is a Spanish version of the American chain Chipotle. I was a loyal patron of Chipotle in NY whenever I was broke AF. It is common knowledge that Mexican food is pretty big in the States and I got my fair share of it (besides Chipotle, I mean) while I lived there. After trying out a plethora of supposedly ‘authentic’ Mexican restaurants in Madrid, I ended up in Tierra Burrito and it soon became my regular haunt: The food is cheap (USD $10 for a burrito/3 tacos/salad bowl plus drink), filling, fresh and on point when it comes to taste. Besides unlimited soda refills, they have a large variety of beers, and can make you a mean Margarita (lime or strawberry).

And for what it’s worth, this is the only chain in Madrid where the staff can speak decent to fluent English.

FOODIE TIP: They have happy hours where a nachos and Margarita jug combo works out to be less than $15. Awesomeness. Moreover, they are open till 6am in the morning, so whether you have late night hunger pangs or are looking for a bite to eat post a night of clubbing, they got you covered.

  1. Tandoori Station
Indian Buffet: Basmati rice, chicken curry, palak paneer, biryani, sabzi, and dal

Cuisine: Indian

Location: Calle de José Ortega y Gasset, 89-91, 28006 Madrid

Timings: Tuesday to Saturday: 1.30pm – 4pm, 8.30pm – 12am; Sundays 1.30pm – 4pm; Mondays closed

Nearest Metros: Manuel Becerra (Line 2 and 6), Lista (Line 4)

Price: Expensive

Reservation: Recommended

What to Eat: Keema Samosa (Minced lamb samosas), Makhani Jhinga (creamy prawn curry), Murgh Palak (chicken with spinach), paneer naan (cottage cheese naan), Masale Wale Baigan (stuffed spicy aubergines), mango and coconut ice cream. See full menu here (the names are in Hindi and descriptions in Spanish).

When I moved to Spain, it didn’t take me long to realise that Indian food here is moderately okay at best and downright gross at worst, until I found Tandoori Station and the world was good again.
There are plenty of budget-friendly ‘Indian’ restaurants in Lavapiés, and you will find hordes of Spaniards eating there but please oh please take my advice and avoid them LIKE THE PLAGUE. As an Indian I can assure you that what you will find in these restaurants is poor quality, overbearingly spicy or rubbery/tasteless food masquerading as Indian cuisine. If you have any idea what Indian food is supposed to taste like, you will not have a fine dining experience in Lavapiés.

Craving for some real Indian food in Madrid? Tandoori Station is your answer.

Makhani Jhinga FTW

The last time I was here, it was the day before I was scheduled for a massive surgery, and I was looking forward to that ‘one

last epic meal from the homeland’ before the impending excruciatingly painful and tiring months. I had a Makhani Jhinga and  was not disappointed. If you enjoy seafood, I absolutely recommend any of the prawn and fish dishes they have on their menu. If you are vegetarian, they have a pretty good menu for that too though the options for vegans are limited. They also have gluten free naan.
Chef Naveen, the owner, is always happy to give recommendations as per what you like and is super friendly. A meal here would cost USD $25-30 (including a starter, main course, rice/bread, and dessert).

FOODIE TIP: They have a special Chef’s menu which costs USD $38 approx. that includes 2 starters, 2 barbecued dishes, 3 curries, 4 desserts, naan and pulao (aromatic rice with nuts and mild spices). I am usually stingy when it comes to spending money on food but trust me, it is so worth it!

It has been said that Madrid isn’t exactly as international as other European capitals such as Berlin or London when it comes to food, but even then it does have some pretty impressive restaurants serving global cuisine that don’t leave you with empty pockets. When you are in Madrid next, do try out at least one of the places on the list (based on your budget and taste), and let me know what you think!

Missing Spanish food already? Here is a picture of a typical Spanish meat and cheese platter complete with red globe grapes, black and red olives, cherry tomatoes, wine and for some reason, anchovies.

Note: All prices in Spain are inclusive of taxes, and you don’t have to tip unless you really want to.