If you are like me, one of the best parts of traveling is to sample the local cuisine. I could not travel anywhere without knowing what the most famous dishes of a particular region tasted like.
One dish that I have grown to love in Madrid is hot chocolate con churros. The Spanish do not joke around when it comes to chocolate. Spanish hot chocolate is made with dark chocolate and is thick, rich and delicious. Chocolate and churros is a pair that you must eat together. One without the other leaves you feeling less than satisfied. Sure, you can buy this dish at many of the bars or cafes, but really, if you want the best, you have to go to a chocolatería. And when I talk about the best, I am really talking about the chocolate, because who can mess up deep fried flour?
Spaniards eat this dish for breakfast, but it can be enjoyed throughout the entire day, which makes it a rather versatile snack.
I have personally visited 3 chocolate cafes in Madrid, all of which are located in the city center. There are others that are a little bit further out but even I, sadly, have not ventured to visit them.
San Ginés – Pasadizo de San Ginés, 5 (Metro Sol)
A quick Google search of chocolaterías in Madrid or a flip through any guidebook will always come up with the same name. San Ginés has been around since 1894 and is the most centrally located chocolatería. They are open until 7 a.m. so when the late nighters exit the bars and dance clubs, they all head to San Ginés to put something greasy and sweet into their empty stomachs.
It is an admittedly attractive space, with velvety green seats, marble tables and lots of mirrors. There is no menu because it is obvious what people are going to eat. One can order a coffee or a slice of some baked goodie sitting on the counter, but this is not why people come here. Because it is so popular, expect to wait a bit for a table at any hour.
The churros are fresh and the chocolate makes for a nice accompaniment, though when I attempted to drink it straight, there was a tinge of some flavor I could not recognize, leaving a strange aftertaste in my mouth. The chocolate here is just a thick sauce served in a coffee cup used for dunking your churros. If you want, you can add some powdered sugar, but really, you no not need it. One serving will cost you 3.20E.
Valor – Póstigo de San Martin, 7 (Metro Callao)
Valor has been in the chocolate making business since 1881. Their label is very famous and one can buy bars of their chocolate in virtually any supermarket, though you can also sit down and enjoy a variety of chocolates at their chocolaterías. Due to its superstar status, customers will have to pay a little bit more here than at other chocolaterías.
There are two Valor chocolaterías in Madrid, one of which is located in the center and is only a few minutes away from Puerta del Sol. This location is well lit and cozy with outdoor seating available which is quite lovely during the summertime.
The hot chocolate served here is the sweetest of all the three places I have gone to. I am not a big fan of really sweet chocolate but if you are, be prepared to order a glass of water to wash away the sugar from your teeth. The churros do not have the trademark gear shape, but look more like they were churned through a sausage machine. Perhaps they also have a unique recipe because they tasted a bit heavier and greasier than what I am accustomed to.
I have not tried all their assortments of chocolates, so if you fancy something a little more exotic than chocolate with churros, you are sure to find something in their extensive menu. One serving will cost you 3.95E.
Chocolat – Santa María, 30 (Metro Antón Martín)
This little place is tucked away on a street with little foot traffic. I only found it by catching sight of the large digital sign hanging outside on the corner of the building where one can spot it from down another street.
It is small and dainty with about 6 tables and additional seating at the bar. The waiters are all young men, one of which is the owner, very friendly, and always ready to serve you. They do not have a menu available, but are happy to tell you what kinds of treats they have on offer for the day. After you order, they return to your table with a tray of complimentary appetizers (chocolate candies wrapped in colorful paper and some other bite sized goodies).
This is by far my favorite place for chocolate con churros. I have searched the web for any mention of this place, but found that San Ginés’s fame leaves little space for this gem to be noticed. The hot chocolate is served in a goblet with a design on the rim mimicking dripping chocolate (nice touch). It is a great dunking chocolate and the churros are always fresh and crispy. But what makes this my absolute favorite is the quality of the chocolate. It is thick, as it should be, not that sweet and completely drinkable. The mixture is perfect: dark, rich, and lightly sweetened to perfection. The price is easy to swallow too. 2.60E
Photo of churros and hot chocolate originally posted by Sami Keinänen