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What is a tapas bar? All you need to know

In previous posts, we talked a lot about this famous Spanish appetizers — our beloved tapas! We have talked about a wide variety of tapas, from the lovely garlic shrimps, going through paella, to the star dish, Spanish tortilla. We have also mentioned some of the best tapas bars and tapas restaurants in Madrid, and the different places that you will visit with us in our different tours. But, what is a tapas bar?

In this post, we are going to explain in depth what is a tapas bar and how the tapas’ world work. Because at Enjoy Tapas Madrid we want to show you the best tapas spots and the history of Madrid and its tapas!

What is a tapas bar?

As its name indicates, a tapas bar — or bar de tapas — is basically a bar where you can go to eat tapas. Of course, you will find other dishes on the menu, mainly Spanish food, but the tapas are the protagonists.

In Spain we use the expression “ir de tapas — which in Spanish means to go eating tapas — or the verb “tapear, which basically means to eat tapas. When you use one of these two, it means that you are going to have lunch or dinner just eating tapas.

But maybe you are wondering if tapas are enough for a meal. The answer is definitively, yes. It depends on you and how hungry you are, but you can definitively have a full meal combining a few tapas, or maybe eating just one. It also depends on the tapa. So now, you are probably wondering what is the kind of tapas that you can find in a tapas bar.

What is a tapa and what tapas can you find in a tapas bar?

A tapa is an appetizer or snack of Spanish cuisine, so it could be translated as a small portion of any kind of Spanish food. This first part question is easier to answer, but the second one is a bit more complicated.

This is basically due to there are infinite tapas and each bar has its own specialty. So, at Enjoy Tapas Madrid, we have created a list with the different kind of tapas that you can find in our routes in the city, and some suggestions depending on your tastes. Off we go!

bar tapas

Different types of tapas

Now that you know what is a tapas bar and what is a tapa, we have to tell you that there are different types of tapas. Tapas are not all the same. They are not thought for the same time or the year, or maybe they are just different due to its origin.  Let’s discover what kind of tapas are in a tapas bar!

Hot tapas

▷ Tortilla de patatas. Looking for the quintessential Spanish food? Tortilla de patatas is a simple omelette made with potatoes, eggs, salt and sometimes onion! It is the best proof that you don’t need a lot of fancy ingredients to prepare a delight. This is a dish that you can also try cold! So, if you visit Madrid, don’t hesitate to try it!

▷ Patatas bravas. This is another relatively simple dish. Patatas bravas are crispy, fried potatoes covered with a spicy tomato sauce. Many bars serve their tapa of patatas bravas with alioli sauce as well. They are one of the most popular tapas in Madrid!

Croquetas. Croquetas are loved by the vast majority of Spaniards. They are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and you will find them in every bar across Madrid. They can be filled with a wide range of ingredients, but the classics are ham, bacalao (cod) and mushrooms. What is the best tapas bar to eat croquetas? Come with us to Casa Labra!

Pimientos de Padrón. This delight comes from the luxuriant and green region of Galicia, located in north-western Spain. Pimientos de Padrón are little peppers, but don’t underestimate them. Most of these peppers have a mild and delicious taste, but some of them may burn as hell! The refrain says, “some are hot and some are not,” do you dare to try them?

spanish tapas bar

Calamares a la romana. These squids are definitively one of Madrilenian’s favourite. This top seafood tapa is basically battered and lightly fried squid rings. If you try them, we recommend you to try them with a bit of lemon juice. That makes them perfect! We encourage you to feel like a real Madrilenian and try them!

Cold tapas

What are your expectations when it comes to a tapas bar?  Maybe you thought that all the tapas were hot, but you were wrong. All of the dishes listed below are our cold tapas suggestions to try during your next trip to Madrid.

Ensaladilla Rusa. This is one of the favourites among Spaniards in all the tapas bars, as well as for Sunday dinners or celebration. So it is a must if you visit Spain!

Melón con Jamón Serrano. Serrano ham, salty and full of flavour, makes an excellent contrast with the sweet and juicy melon. This tapa is not very common in tapas bars, but if you see it, don’t hesitate to try it!

Pimientos Rellenos de Atún. This is a great tapa for the summer or anytime of the year. The tuna is mixed with a bit of green onion and olives and then stuffed into roasted red peppers. You have to try them!

Jamón, Salchichón y Chorizo con Pan. These are just some examples of the best Ibérico cold meat, including Iberian ham. You will find them in almost every bar in Madrid during the whole year. It is delicious anyway, but we recommend you to try it with a slice of bread. A real delight!

restaurant tapas

Salmorejo Cordobés. Salmorejo is basically a mash consisting of tomato, garlic and bread. It is original from Córdoba, a city located in Andalusia at the south of Spain — that’s why we say “Cordobés”. It is one of the favourites during the summer season!

Pinchos (pintxos)

A pincho, pintxo or pinchu is a small snack, typically eaten in bars as tapas. The only difference is that — most of the times — tapas are free, but pinchos are not. They are original from the north of Spain, and they are especially popular in the Basque country, Cantabria, Asturias, and Navarre.

But, as you probably know at this point, in Madrid you can find whatever you can imagine — from the best tapas bars and the best Spanish restaurants, to the most sophisticated international restaurants.

What is very curious about pinchos in a tapas bar is that they are always served with a toothpick. Why? Because this way you don’t have to use your hands to eat! So now, let’s see a couple of pinchos that you can find during your next trip to Madrid.

Pincho de morcilla– Blood Pudding. Blood pudding is an ingredient very used to make pinchos. Sometimes you will find them with a fried egg on top. Delicious!

Pincho de angulas – Young Eels. This delight is normally served with smoked salmon, but you can find it in many different ways. We are quite sure that you will love them!

tapas dishes

If we have solved your doubt about what is a tapas bar and you want us to solve any other doubt, don’t hesitate to contact us!

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