Read Being a Vegetarian in Spain, part 1 here.
When I first arrived in Spain in September, I was saddened to learn about what the average Spaniard thinks of vegetarianism. My view of Spanish food had been pretty skewed by my local tapas restaurant at home that serves killer roasted veggies, garbanzo beans, and toasted almonds (strangely there’s no tortilla in sight…), so coming to the land of jamón was quite an awakening.
I found that to many Spaniards, not eating meat is a pretty foreign concept. As a “vegetarian” I was served steak, found jamón in all shapes and forms hidden in supposedly meatless dishes, and had more tuna than I knew what to do with on my salads. As my Spanish (and confidence) improved, I learned to assert my dietary preferences, and have become sure to ask not just if something has meat, but mention what exactly I mean. Though I still get many questions about how to eat a balanced diet without meat, I’m glad that I can enlighten Spaniards to the fact that eating beans, nuts, milk, and cheese works pretty well. Though there’s still the occasional slip-up with my host family or upon receiving my meal in a restaurant, I’ve found some solid options. I’ve shared four of my favorites below:
Madrid Río Grande Café: Now that there’s a location near Atocha, I’m ecstatic that I don’t have to travel over an hour to get pupusas. This delectable Salvadorian dish consists of a thick, filled corn dough pocket, that’s fried and topped with spicy cabbage slaw and tomato sauce. Though definitely not a health food, the pupusas are incredible. The restaurant serves all sorts of other Central American-inspired dishes if you want to accompany your pupusa with something else, though I’m partial to a meal made solely of pupusas de frijoles con queso.
Crustó: a recent discovery near the program center, Crustó is a great treat. Though a little expensive (10.90 is still just under our stipend!), the quantity and quality of the food definitely justifies the expense. You get a choice of two plates, that can include soup, salad, sandwich, quiche, or pizza, plus a dessert and drink (including smoothies!), and it’s 1 euro cheaper para llevar! And it’s probably the best brownie I’ve had in Madrid.
Vega: I wrote about Vega last October, but I’m mentioning it again because it’s just so good. It’s economical, efficient, and delicious. I’ve brought many carnivorous friends here for the menú del día, and I haven’t gotten any complaints. The food is fresh and varied, and I love the ambiance of the place (though sometimes it’s a little too hipster, if you know what I mean). Even if you’re a die-hard meat fanatic, I strongly recommend you expand your horizons with Vega as your first foray into vegan food. My only complaint is the lack of cheese.
Pum Pum Café: One of Genesis’s best recommendations, I’ve never had a bad experience here. Pum Pum is one of my favorite spots to have coffee and work, grab lunch, or get brunch on the weekends. The menu ranges from yogurt bowls, to focaccias, to shakshuka. The baked goods are delicious, and the staff is friendly. 10/10 for taste, price, and overall ambiance.