Menu del Dia – Menu of the Day for cheap lunches

Today’s is a post-lunch, pre-siesta blog entry which I feel the need to write quickly so as not to fall asleep on my keyboard.

Yup, it’s now nearly 2:30pm on a Tuesday. I’ve just returned home from a good lunch at a neighborhood bar offering a “Menú del Día” – which is the “Menu of the Day”. “Menus of the Day” are offered at bars and restaurants throughout Spain and are always a good value.

At about 1pm I was walking around the adjacent neighborhood running some errands. While there, I popped into the local 2-level market and visually scanned the numerous fish stands, cheese and sausage stands, and the a-little-bit-of-everything stands. Impressive. I love these city markets.

By the time I was finished with my errands it was about 1:30pm – just a little early for lunch. But knowing that I had little food in the house to eat I decided to search for an inviting and not-too-expensive “Menú del Día“. I walked up and back several area streets. The Chinese restaurant offered a 6.95 Euro Menú which could serve my needs. But I was wanting something more “Spanish”. I saw places offering just one item option per plate and other places offering several items per plate.

When bars and restaurants offer the Menus of the Day they always have a board outside which lists the options for the first course (i.e. “primer plato“). Below that they’ll list the options for the second course (i.e. “segundo plato“). Below all that they’ll usually write that the drink, bread, and dessert is included, and then the price at the very bottom. Sometimes the drink is extra – I hate it when they charge extra for the drink. Just raise the price of the lunch and I’ll pay more! I hate the “surprise” extra charge for the drink at the end since drinks are normally included in the price.

After scanning a half a dozen bars I found one which caught my eye. It offered about 5 first and 5 second course options. That’s always a good sign. And the price was right too, 8 Euros with bread, wine, and dessert included. PERFECT! But even better than all that – or at least AS GOOD – was they were serving “Sopa de Cocido” (“small noodles soup and broth”) for the first course and “Cocido Completo” (“cocido”) for the second course.

BINGO!!!! I’ve found my lunch! Good offerings and a good price. Walking in I saw the bar and one small paper-covered table near the front door. Hmmm.. “I’m going to have to sit HERE?”, I thought. The bar tender greeted me and I asked, “How’s the cocido?” in Spanish. He surely thought my question was silly and motioned me over to the woman standing at the end of the bar. She asked me, without answering my question either, if I was staying for lunch. I said yes, and she led me to the back dining room which had about 10 paper-covered, 4-person tables, all ready for lunchtime guests.

She put the small, plastic-covered, hand-written menu on the table and waited as I sat down. Looking at it briefly, I told her I wanted to “sopa de codido” and then the “cocido”. She asked if I wanted red wine and I said yes. With that, she took the menu, turned back towards the bar, and shouted, “!Un complé¡“, which apparently meant a “complete cocido meal”.

Maybe 1 minute later the waitress, a heavyset, late 50’s Spanish woman with white hair, brought me my large bowl of cocido soup or “sopa de cocido“. She next brought me a small plate of salad and a big basket of bread along with a nearly full bottle of red “table wine” and a bottle of “Casera” water. Casera water is carbonated water which you usually add to lower-quality wines to hide or “shield” the wine’s true flavor.

The soup was served in a large, broad, white ceramic bowl which appeared to have been through the dishwasher about 5,000 times and was losing it’s white-ness. Still, the soup was good and the bread I dunked into the broth was tasty too.

About 10 minutes later I finished and the old woman quickly came to take the empty bowl and replace it with a LARGE white ceramic plate, equally as worn, but full of COCIDO: garbanzo beans, potatoes, morcilla, chorizo, stewed beef, pig fat (called “tocino” and which I never eat) and cabbage (called “repollo” – also which I never eat). It was a huge, steaming plate of tasty-looking food for a hearty appetite. I was going to enjoy this.

AND I DID! By now there were a couple other tables occupied by Spaniards whom presumably were working in the neighborhood. Each and everyone came into the dining room, glanced at me with a half-smile and said, “Que ha proveche“, which means, “Enjoy your meal”. Isn’t that a nice detail? I love that custom in Spain. You’d NEVER get someone in the USA saying something like that as they were arriving or leaving the dining room of a restaurant.

So the cocido was good, typical, not fantastic or the best I’d tasted but it was good, a good portion, a fair (yet “cutre“/kitch) place, all Spanish service, and a decent price right here near my neighborhood. Could you beat that? NOT!

I’d refilled my small beer glass (yes, a beer glass) near full of the cheap red table wine and topped it off with casera water for about the 5th time, realizing I’d drunk about half the bottle, when I’d finished my cocido, pushing the plate away from me. This signaled the waitress and she asked, “¿Postre?” (that’s “dessert” in Spanish). I said, “Sure! What available?” and she went through the long list. I paused at the “flan con nata” but decided on the “pudin” instead. I always get the flan so I thought to get something different. And it was good. Clearly homemade as the flan certainly would have been as well.

After the topper the waitress asked me if I’d like coffee. No thanks. I was going to make a bee-line to my bed at home.

So I asked how much I owed her, already assuming the fair price of 8 Euros. She said, to my surprise, “6 Euros. You can pay at the bar.” Huh?!?!? 6 Euros? I didn’t blink but instead thanked her and got up and went to the bar. I asked the bartender how much I owed him, thinking there surely was some mistake, and he told me the same thing. SIX EUROS!! WOW! I paid the man, thanked him, and walked out, pausing to take another look at the Menú del Día sign. Hmmmm.. That hand-written number 8 MIGHT just be a 6 with a little extra swirl. Or maybe they gave me a 2 Euro discount for my winning smile? Nah. Doubt that.

DAMN! THAT WAS AN INCREDIBLE DEAL for a good meal!!!! I’ll be certain to go back to that place!!

Now on to the best part of my day. The Siesta!!

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1 Response to Menu del Dia – Menu of the Day for cheap lunches

  1. Pingback: Another GREAT Menú del Día in Madrid | MadridMan's Madrid Blog Spain

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