If Bar Iberia were to go out of business, I’m fairly positive that I’d be asked to speak at its hypothetical funeral. Granted, my Spanish would prove a hindrance, and admittedly, I’ve only eaten at the restaurant two heaping handfuls of times, but I think I’ve already demonstrated enough customer loyalty to merit a spot on the eulogy list. Luckily for me, I don’t think the life of my most dearly beloved lunch joint is in any danger. Bar Iberia’s success spares me the necessity of penning a teary goodbye letter, which is good, because I already have enough blogs to write.
Plus, more obviously, Bar Iberia’s prosperity assures that for the rest of the semester, I’ll continue to dine like royalty several times a week. I remember the first time I ate there like it was yesterday. (In reality, it wasn’t yesterday, but the last time I ate there was yesterday.) My initial emotion was one of indignation; a bunch of students and I had sat down at its outdoor terrace, and when I glimpsed the menu, the prices sparked a fleeting feeling of outrage. How dare this presumptuous restaurant charge one whopping euro more for its patrons to sit outside? Is basking in the early-September, madrileño sunshine over one’s lunch break such a desirable luxury that I should have to surrender a whole extra euro just to have the chance? (The penny-pinching jury in my mind is still out, but I can tell you that I enjoyed the experience enormously. (I can also tell you that I haven’t done it again.))
The Tufts-Skidmore Spain program allots us an average of 11 euros per day to feast on lunches or squirrel away as we see fit. Conveniently, most reputable restaurants in Madrid offer shocking bargains at lunchtime; they provide sturdy three-course meals (complete with bakery bread and beverages!) at prices that hover around, coincidentally enough, 11 euros. In the case of my Bar Iberia, the “menú del día” costs 10,80 euros during the week if one sits indoors, but on that sunbathed porch on that first day, I handed over 11,80.
Still, by the time I needed to cough up the cash, I did so in a dreamy state of contentment, and I was already doing the math to figure out how many lunches I’d need to eat inside there to drop my daily average back to 11 euros.
The answer was four. Since then, I’ve eaten well more than four lunches at Bar Iberia, and I’ve routinely found that their lunches are generous enough to satisfy the Russian army. I don’t know whether the Russians have ever invaded Madrid, but if any marauding militaries are interested, I’d highly recommend Bar Iberia to them, too. Its pantries hold true treasures. If I’ve eaten there 14 times (give or take), then I’ve been overjoyed with 26 of my 28 main dishes. On a daily basis, I sigh with pleasure as the bread’s crisp crust crackles and yields to a fluffy interior; I rip it piece by piece and dip it delicately in the simmering soups that I tend to order as my first course. When the waiters, who now know me (and my drink and dessert orders) by name, bring the soup, they don’t just bring a prefilled bowl. They bring an empty bowl and a merry vat of soup, which they transfer by the ladle into the eager bowl. They ask me to tell them when to stop doling out more, and I just don’t tell them. It saves me the embarrassment of surely botching my Spanish, and it allows me to receive more broth for my buck.
Once they whisk my soup away, they hurry over with my main dish, and I cannot help but smile. So much meat, and so many French fries (or salad, if one is so inclined)! I can vouch for the deliciousness of the chicken, beef, pork, turkey, and assorted fishes, but apparently, I’m not the person to ask when it comes to the quality of Bar Iberia’s preferred slice of stomach. You see, I have some difficulties with reading the menu; even if I understand the words on it, I don’t understand how the dishes are prepared. 95% of the time, I’m pleasantly surprised when my scrumptious orders come, but twice, I’ve been treated to entrees that, once I googled them afterward, I found to contain “tripas” and “estómago.” Call me a weak-stomached americano, but I can’t really stomach the thought of having stomach in my stomach. Still, I soldiered through those culinary setbacks, fortified by the knowledge that around me, good, solid citizens of Madrid were happily chowing down on the very same food that turned up my nose.
Just yesterday, I learned that Bar Iberia’s “sopa castellana” contains stomach (of what barnyard animal, I know not), but once I washed it down with some sparkling water (from a glimmering glass bottle) and a golden cut of hake, I planned my return trip for this upcoming Tuesday.
How could I possibly not go back to Bar Iberia? I don’t fully understand the ever-changing menu, and the waiters don’t fully understand my ever-evolving Spanish, but they consistently greet me with warmth, and the food warms my soul. I may not be local, but I am loyal. I will always return to Bar Iberia, even though they’ve fed me stomach. Twice.
No comments yet.