“Cafetería Javi” – a.k.a. “Bar Ramos” – on the Calle Sagrados Corazones, 25, in Madrid, near metro station Alto de Extremadura (L6), is my favorite neighborhood bar at which to have a wonderful, and economical, “Menú del Día” for just 7 Euros!! You really can’t beat that. Actually, you can, but you have to know where to go.
MARCH 2013 IMPORTANT UPDATE: Just 3-days ago, Cafetería Javi raised their prices from 7 Euros to 8 Euros for their menú del día. Still a good deal for a “home cooked meal”.
“Cafetería Javi“, run by the thin and never-stopping 40-something Spaniard Javier, has been a my local favorite 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.
I order the “Cocido Completo“, which includes the first course of “sopa de cocido” – short noodles (half-inch each noodle) in chicken broth, the second course of stewed garbanzo beans, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, chicken, beef, pork, chorizo, and “tocino de cerdo” (pure pork fat- yuck, I never eat that), and the dessert. For dessert, I chose the home-made “flan con nata” – “flan with whipped cream”. MAN, DON’TCHA JUST LOVE SPANISH FOOD?!?!? Oh, wait. I already said that. And, of course, the obligatory bread is included in the price of the “menú del día”, too. They gave be 3 good-sized pieces of bread, but only ate two. Gotta sop-up the sauces after the soup, cocido, AND the flan, don’tchaknow!! Oh, gawd, don’tcha just love Span… Okay. Okay. That’s enough, already.
So HOW can Javier serve all this for a meager 7 Euros? He came by my table, called me “Campeón“, as always, and asked how I was doing. It’d been a month since my last visit but told him I was happy to see him. He’d come by at least twice to see if I was enjoying my meal (that’s a very “American” customer service, but not so very Spanish, in my experience), and I told him it was as good as the elderly couple next to me had expressed to him directly only moments before.
Javi said he’d lowered his prices to 7 Euros, not because of the crisis or fall-off of customers, but rather to make things easier in the kitchen by NOT including the free salad at the beginning and the free “chupito” (“liqueur” – it aids digestion, SO THEY SAY!!) at the end as he did before when the price was 8.50 Euros. I guess that makes sense. Not everyone wants/eats the salad so that would be a partial waste. And not everyone wants/drinks the “chupito” at the end of the meal. He made a smart business decision, I’d say. This way they can not only be more efficient but also more economical and, also, more considerate to the needs of the customer. If the customer DOES want the salad, (s)he can pay extra for it. If the customer DOES want the “chupito” or coffee afterwards, (s)he can pay for that. Invariably, they’ll let you substitute a coffee for the dessert, and that’s a nice detail.
Since “Cafetería Javi” isn’t in Madrid’s Old Town, there’s little chance 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!Share THIS on Facebook!
Sounds delicious! Just today, one of my classes had to make a “Menú del Día” I explained to them that it is a more economical choice, but I still had some pricing theirs at 72 euros or more…! I will share the items on your meal as an example for the rest of the classes. Thanks again for sharing about your daily life. How lucky to have 2 blogs in 2 days!
My, my, my! 72 Euros or MORE for a “Menú del Día”? That’s simply barbaric! 2 Blog entries in 2 days IS unusual for me, that’s true. Not sure how much longer I can keep this up. For me, living here, the mundane doesn’t seem too interesting – but many have commented that this mundane”, day-to-day activity is actually exciting for those stuck back in the USA! I’ll try harder in the future. I remember well how it was to be in the USA, yearning to be in Madrid, and simply listening to online radio from Madrid, hearing how the traffic was on the M-30, gave me such a sense of connection that carried me through my day.
Oh, this sounds fantastic! I could really go for a menú like this on a chilly, late-winter Minnesota day! I’m totally gonna check this place out the next time I’m in Madrid. I like that it’s a neighborhood place.
Brrrr… Minnesota.. I LOVE the midwest, but it can be downright COLD in the winter! Come to Madrid and I’ll take you to this bar for some warm-up food!
Ohh!! near my school in Tembleque street. I’ll go sure.
That price not to bad for all the food you had… it looks delicious…. glad you enjoyed it…..
Such a joyful blog entry! Loved reading it and just picturing the entire scene and meal as you described it so well.
Aren’t you kind, Esperanza. Thank you. I enjoyed writing it, too, although it does take a lot of time and mind. I think I spent nearly 2.5 hours on this blog entry alone. Hard to believe, I know. But the writing, editing, re-writing, preparing the photos, then sharing the link around is pretty involved and I don’t think I did any other “work” yesterday. But, hey, with work like THIS I can’t complain!!
Yummy! I will go with you in June! Sounds and looks delicious!
You got it! I’m already looking forward to another trip there for lunch.
MM: Once again, “you’re killin’ me.” Say sí to flan and pay the extra for the Liqueur de Hierbas.
Mmm…. Flan.. MMMMM.. Liqueur de Hierbas. Mmmmm…. Does it show that I LOVE SPANISH FOOD?!!? hehehehe…
Was the entire bottle of wine included in the 7 € Menú del día? If so, this is quite a deal.
Good question! I should have included those details in the body of my blog entry. But, YES, there WAS an entire bottle of wine included in the 7€ Menú del día! I suppose it would be okay for one person to consume the entire bottle, but I don’t think that’s really expected. They probably wouldn’t say anything to you if you drank it all, but I also don’t think they’d be happy. When two persons sit at the same table, the still only put one bottle of wine the table, to be shared by the 2 persons eating. I usually consume half a bottle on my own (or just a little more) and I feel okay about that. What do they do with the wine leftover when the customer leaves? Your guess is as good as mine. I rather imagine they collect it all and pour it into “common bottles”, also for customer consumption. But invariably, when I go for lunch and they plop-down a bottle on my table, the bottle comes UNopened and you have to use a knife to peel off the security plastic covering the cork or the topper. So at least in these cases you know you’re getting a fresh, unopened bottle of wine. Again, these are lower-quality red wines and they’re almost always served cold – to further mask their low-quality. Surely the bar/restaurant pays less than one-Euro per bottle and buys them in great quantities.
I’m a spanish Javier’s friend. Thank you very much for this post. It’s very nice to hear this such good things when he’s trying hard to cope with the actual crisis!
Hello, Miguel! Thank you for your comment. No problem at all. When there are wonderful things in this world one must share them with everyone. The crisis is terrible for everyone. Javier’s Cafetería is probably the best in the neighborhood and Javier, himself, is a very nice guy, too. I’m happy to tell people about it. In fact, I’m taking two couples of American friends there in the next few months. After writing this blog entry, they wanted to try it, to try an “authentic” Spanish bar for lunch. It would make me very very happy to know that “Cafetería Javi” became a little “famous”. It’s not in the downtown Madrid, but sometimes a little travel is worth it to know other things. Thanks again for your message. I’m going to send you this reply to your email, too. Saludos, “MadridMan”.
javi , da gusto comer en tu restaurante , pues cocinas bien como lo hacias en santander y con ese precio no merece la pena hacer la comida en casa , ire mas veces . besos desde cantabria mjose
María José, sabia que era de allí porque me lo ha dicho. Y ademas, tiene muchas fotos colgadas de Santander en su bar. ¿Dónde trabajaba a Javi en Santander? ¿Como se llamaba el bar/restaurante?
We´re going to Madrid in July. What (inexpensive) restaurant would you recommend us? Mostly dining places, I mean.
Hi, Kikka! What’s your price range? Here are a few good lunch places, but they’re open for dinner, too, and have very good prices serving typical Spanish food in Old Downtown Madrid:
Restaurante la Puebla and Restaurante la Sanabresa.
Thanks. I we have visited Sanabrena before but I think it’s worth of visiting again, really cheap place.
The other one we don’t know yet, but we’ll visite there also.