Tapas & Tapapiés: Why Andalucía Has Ruined Me!

31 Oct

I Think I’ve Been Spoiled…

When I first came to Spain back in 2007 I was studying abroad in Granada— you know, that beautiful student paradise where every drink comes with a free tapa. The quality of the free tapa varies a lot, but did I mention that it’s free!? By the time I left Granada I’d tried my share of tapas, and, although there was nothing mind blowing that I recall, I went home happy with plenty of savings still in the bank!


Yes, those are tapas!

Hungry in Granada = 3 beers/glasses of wine + 3 free tapas = 6,00€ (como mucho)

A couple of years later I graduated from college and decided to avoid a 9-5 by moving to Seville. At first I was disappointed that this bigger city didn’t offer the same deal as Granada. But it turns out it was better that they didn’t! The lack of free food forced me to choose my tapa and, as a result, I began to truly appreciate Spanish products and Spanish cuisine. The night I met my husband I fell in love—but it wasn’t with him (yet) and rather with Spanish food! That night he introduced me to Iberian pork, fried fish from Cadiz, and the most amazing cold soup I ever imagined. I spent two years in Seville eating out around four times a week. Was I rich? Absolutely not! But the tapas there are often almost the same price as buying the ingredients to cook them at home. Needless to say we took advantage of this.

Galician Style Octopus-- Amazing!

Hungry in Seville = 3 beers/glasses of wine + 2-3 amazing tapas = 7,00€ – 10,00€ (on average)

Now I’m living in Madrid. I can’t say I have ventured out too much—we’ve been busy and cooking mostly at home. But when I have gone out I’ve seen tapas ranging from 3,50€-10,00€ each! And while I’m sure they are great (in one bar I had the most amazing tortilla of my life) the price (that slice of tortilla cost 6,00€!) makes me think twice before ordering them!

Hungry in Madrid = 1 beer/glasses of wine + 1 tapa = what I can afford right now!


When I heard about one of Madrid’s tapas festivals I was excited to try it out. Tapapiés took place in the Lavapiés neighborhood, a very international barrio close to my house. The participating bars featured one tapa that cost 1,00€ not including any beverage. International tapas? Close to home? 1,00€? It had potential!

Unfortunately, it didn’t deliver. I went on a Thursday night with some great company—the husband and two Madrid language assistants/bloggers, Shana and Cassandra. It was great to meet the girls and, lucky for me, they knew the area quite well. We visited 6 of the 31 establishments, and maybe I just had bad luck, but I doubt it.

Why didn’t Tapapiés impress?

Crowds: It was a Thursday night towards the end of the festival. Obviously I expected it to be crowded, and it was. But I didn’t expect some of the bars to be so unorganized and for the waiters to be rude. If ever there was a time to smile it was then—I was assessing these places for future dates, drinks, visitor spots, etc. Not impressed.

Quality: I dream of owning a restaurant. I love working in them, eating in them, reading about them… If I had a restaurant I would use a festival like Tapapiés to really shine. I would present something well executed and creative. I would showcase the best my staff could do, hoping to attract more business. I don’t think these places had that kind of mentality. The majority of the tapas were boring and basic. Many were poorly executed—cold when they should’ve been hot, lacking salt, super greasy… They didn’t take advantage of this opportunity and that makes me sad!

Price: 1,00€ tapas sound pretty cheap but they were all as tiny as a tapa could be. I normally eat 3 tapas when I’m really hungry and here I ate 6! Add that 6,00€ to the 3 glasses of wine I drank at around 2,20-2,50 each (and I always ordered the house wine) and it comes to a not so cheap dinner of about 13,00€.


Once again Spanish businesses have proven to me that they don’t care enough about attracting new clients and being even the least bit creative. I hope (for the sake of this economy) that people wake up and start being a little bit competitive. Raise the damn bar already!!! (If anyone wants to loan me 1 million euro I’ll open an awesome business here, I promise you!)


Please excuse their quality!

a)     I’m learning… it’s slow progress but I enjoy it!

b)    Lighting?! How on earth do people take good food photos at night!!!???

If anyone has any photography advice please leave it in the comments; I’d really appreciate it!

And if you went to the festival what did you think? Am I just being spoiled? Let me know!

La Otra Casa: Doblez de Berenjena-- Not a bad try (one of the best of the night in fact) but definitely bite sized and swimming in grease!


It was filled with ground beef, eggplant, and onion.


Lo Máximo: Chile Con Carne-- Why did we try a "Mexican" place? I don't know. I could make better chile in my sleep! It was bland, boring, NOT spicy, and not quite hot enough...


The bar at Lo Máximo was nice enough to give another shot... for a beer!

La Inquilina: Papas Con Mojo-- This place was packed and had a cute atmosphere. Ale made fun of us for wanted to try such a "basic tapa" but I know that when done right this can be delicious. Mojo is like a beautiful homemade barbeque sauce and over potatoes it's delicious. Unfortunately served cold it's kind of gross...

La Inquilina did have a cool wine boat!

The cold papas... 😦

Eucalipto: Dos Quesos Con Piña-- Everyone knows I love goat cheese served almost any way... but with canned pineapple on soggy bread it wasn't quite appealing. Unfortunate because the bar was cute.

Yum, soggy bread!

Automático: Salmorejo con Bacalao... wait, where's the bacalao?! -- Good... but why wasn't there any bacalao? I came to try something new!



18 Responses to “Tapas & Tapapiés: Why Andalucía Has Ruined Me!”

  1. Cassandra Gambill October 31, 2011 at 8:01 pm #

    You did get a terrific picture of the wine boat! I also love the picture just above it, of La Inquilina.

    And–I too had tried to seek out the salmorejo con bacalao the previous weekend, but was met with a cod-less dish. I assumed it was simply because I was out and about on a weekend, but apparently there was some fishy advertising going on. Another strike against the fest!

    • Lauren November 1, 2011 at 4:14 pm #

      Thanks for the compliments Cassandra! If only the food pics would turn out okay… and the bacalao situation was not okay! Totally false advertising lol.

  2. Christine November 1, 2011 at 7:06 am #

    What a bummer! Being a lover of food and wine, I know how you must of felt (insert cry here lol!) I just came back from a Tapas festival in Sanlucar, you are so right, Andalucia spoils you. The tapas were amazing and executed quite nicely and for 2 euro a piece they were nice size and down right yummy.People were so nice… Is it me or is it something about a friendly smile and exchange of saludos(in my horrible Spanish) that complete the package even more?
    I wish I had the million euro to give… :o)

    • Lauren November 1, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

      I wish you did too Christine! I’m jealous you went to the Sanlucar festival– some friends of ours go every year and love it! Where are you living? I miss Cadiz…

  3. Mandy November 1, 2011 at 8:43 am #

    Unfortunately, there seem to be more bad tapas in Madrid than good. It’s been my experience over and over. I don’t know why they can’t get it together like other parts of Spain.

    • Lauren November 1, 2011 at 4:12 pm #

      Too bad! I guess maybe Madrid is best for the menu del día? I’ve seen some pretty tempting ones around! Unfortunately I hardly ever dine out for lunch… 😦

  4. Kaley [Y Mucho Más] November 1, 2011 at 11:54 am #

    I find smaller towns to have better, cheaper tapas, although it helps to know a local who has already tried all the bad and good ones so you don’t eat any bad ones!

    • Lauren November 1, 2011 at 4:11 pm #

      Ahh– I just wrote you a reply and it erased! Oh well, I definitely agree– small Spanish towns usually guarantee great food and having a local always helps. I feel like I could give a culinary tour of Seville after only two years living there so I can’t imagine someone who was born and raised! I want to visit Zamora one day… when are you coming back? 🙂

  5. Kirstie November 1, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

    I was visiting Madrid from Sevilla for the weekend and hit up Tapapiés on Friday night. I was pretty disappointed as well. I mean, I got to try some new things and get filled up for 3 euros, but it definitely could have been done better (and it would have been much nicer had it been a bit less crowded). But I had forgotten how neat of an area Lavapiés can be (if you choose the right restaurants), so it was nice to be back.

    • Lauren November 1, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

      The area is really cool– but I think I’d prefer to go back another time when it’s a bit less crowded to really enjoy! I’ve eaten at one of the Indian restaurants on C/Lavapiés and it was amazing for the price; I cant wait to go back! Next time you come to Madrid let me know if you want to hunt for a good meal together!

      • Kirstie November 2, 2011 at 11:14 am #

        For sure! I studied abroad in Madrid, so it felt amazing to be back, and I hope to visit a few more times while I’m here (and maybe even do a second year of auxiliar-ing there), so I’ll let you know!

  6. Miriam November 1, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

    I completely understand you! I studied abroad in Granada the summer of 2010 and LOVED IT! I was hoping luck would send me back there this year, but I’m in Logroño. It’s not bad, but I have to agree that there is no one trying to raise the bar, well, with anything really. They’re quite comfy in their routine. Maybe the younger generation will try something 🙂

  7. Barton November 1, 2011 at 8:35 pm #

    Great photos and I miss the free tapas of Andalucia, think it should be like that everywhere

    • Lauren November 2, 2011 at 5:51 am #

      I know! I think free tapas are beneficial to society. Less drunks and more smiles!

  8. Melanie November 1, 2011 at 10:23 pm #

    Try the bar de los amigos or bar de los enemigos in Madrid. I can’t remember where they are located (although they are right next to each other), but you can look them up. They give you lots of free tapas with each beer! Definitely the most value-for-the-tapa I’ve seen in Madrid. Suerte!

    • Lauren November 2, 2011 at 5:53 am #

      Thanks Melanie! I will check those out. And don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind paying for tapas when they’re worth it!

  9. Shana November 3, 2011 at 6:14 pm #

    I’ll definitely be going back to El Inquilino for a drink sometime… bummer about the food, though. And I completely agree about the chili! What a disappointment!


  1. Gee, Cassandra » Blog Archive » Tapapiés - November 3, 2011

    […] A few days later I went out with fellow bloggers Lauren and Shana on a chilly Thursday night. It was my first time to meet Lauren, and the first time I’d seen Shana since June. We chatted over eggplant, papas con mojo, and goat cheese. ”Better not take my camera if there’s a chance of rain,” I thought, but later had camera regret. I know the trip was well-documented by those two ladies. You can find Lauren’s thoughts on the night here. […]

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