Madrid Menu del Dia for 7 Euros in the Neighborhood

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!

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