MadridMan: Madrid menu del dia in the neighborhood
MadridMan gushes about his favourite neighborhood bar and its EUR 7 “Menú del Día”.
“Cafetería Javi“, run by the thin and never-stopping 40-something Spaniard Javier, has been a my local favorite in recent years as much for their food as for their prices and personal, friendly service. It’s a neighborhood establishment, across the Río Manzanares and the Puente de Segovia (bridge) but not all that far from the tourist center of the city. Maybe they’ve been open for all of 5 years, but I’d just discovered them about 3 years ago on one of my walks to/from other bars or stores, always trying to take a different route in order to educate myself of my surroundings.
This is one of those neighborhood bars where “the regulars”, nearly 100% Spanish clientèle, tend to have their lunch and/or their pre-lunch drinks. The bar is at the entrance, but the dining room, with all of 10 2-person tables is just past the bar. The nice-looking, 20-something waitress, also Spanish, is so friendly, and I have to wonder if, maybe, she’s Javier’s wife. I’m afraid to ask for fear of embarrassment.
Today I got to the bar early, around 1:15pm (HARDLY Spanish lunch time, mind you!), and only 2 of the tables were occupied. The one I took was at back, the last table below the big-screen, flat-panel, wall-mounted TV with TVE1′s cooking show on; the male chef plus 4 female, high-heel-and-tight-pants-wearing “hostesses” cooked up some chicken dish.
The table next to me was occupied by an elderly couple, probably in their late late late 70s or early 80s, and both impeccably dressed. She was in a dress, heels, costume jewelry, and a hair-do which was likely done that morning. He was in dress pants, black leather shoes, a button-down shirt, tie, and a cardigan sweater. (you can see this couple walking away in the above photo)
Upon walking amongst the occupied tables, I smiled and nodded at the customers and gave the obligatory “Buenos días. Que aproveche” or “Good morning. Enjoy your meal.” Remember, it’s not officially afternoon until 2pm in Spain!
On a previous neighborhood walk, I’d noticed Javier had lowered his prices from 8.50 Euros to 7 Euros. Hey, 8.50 Euros was already a good price for a “Menú del Día” so I was curious as to what caused the drastic lowering of price. Surely Javier would tell me the inside story. Could it be the economic crisis? Were they losing customers? Was there some danger of closing my favorite bar and losing a good, neighborhood friend? Turns out, no.
Since today is Thursday, and since nearly every bar serving a “Menú del Día” today is serving “Cocido Madrileño“, THAT’S what I ordered. Man, I love Spanish food. REALLY!! HOW could anyone in their right-mind prefer a hamburger, fries, and a Coke to this before me?!? It’s totally INCONGRUENT!!! Makes so sense whatsoever! The story goes that Spain’s dictator for 40 years, General Franco, enjoyed hunting in Madrid’s Retiro Park (okay, this is my recollection and could be totally wrong! I’ll attempt to confirm this later today) on Thursday mornings and, afterwards, would insist on this garbanzo bean, carrot, and meat stew for lunch. And so, by ordering “cocido madrileño” on Thursdays, am I supporting fascism and dictatorship?!?? Hmm…. I’ll have to give that one some thought….
So back to the meal at Cafetería Javi… I take my seat and notice the tables are no longer covered with paper sheets, but instead by white cloth table-cloths, on top of which is another, narrower, yellow table cloth covering. “¡Qué Nivel, Maribel!” Looks like we’re movin’-on-up! The napkins are still paper, but big deal.
The aforementioned Spanish waitress moves in fast and asked me what I’m drinking with my lunch. “The Usual, ” I say, “Vino con Casera” – “Wine with Casera-brand carbonated water.” “Casera” is a brand name, but the general, trade-name is “Gaseoso” – or “carbonated water”. Why the Casera, you ask? Do you HAVE to ask?? Historically, bars tend to offer red “Table Wine” or “House Wine” with meals as it’s cheaper and of lower quality. The effervescent and slightly sweet “Casera” water “cuts” or “diverts” attention away from this fact. I always order the “Casera” for this reason, but also to have water left over at the end of the meal. Wine is included in the meal’s price and they don’t charge extra for requesting “Casera” water – although it’s clearly an added expense to the bar/restaurant.
Since “Cafetería Javi” isn’t in Madrid’s Old Town, there’s less chance that any of you reading this will patronize his establishment, and that’s okay. His clientèle is mainly the neighborhood and, it seems, with that he can make a living. That’s what’s most important. But should any of you desire to experience “neighborhood cooking and service”, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly to accompany you if you should feel, in the slightest, uncomfortable or out-of-place in this neighborhood establishment.
Oh, and by the way, since it’s practically a custom, I DID order the “chupito” of “Liqueur de Hierbas” after the meal – for 1.20 Euros. That’s not bad after the great price paid for the meal, and it adds a little to the bottom line of my buddy Javier’s bar. Oh, and as a side-note, the bar-side terraza is busy in nice weather, too!
MadridMan is the online persona of an American living in Madrid since 2005. He started his Spain Travel & Tourism company, Martin Media, in 2006 and enjoys living - and sharing - life as a tourist on a daily basis.
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