A few nights before visiting Alcalá de Henares I was in one of Spanish actor Javier Bardem's tapas bars sharing some piping hot croquettes with my friend Erin of La Tortuga Viajera. I casually mentioned that I was planning a weekend day trip and thinking about trying a well-recommended Indian restaurant in nearby Alcalá de Henares. She looked a bit confused. “No!” she told me, “In Alcalá, you have to eat tapas!”
Who could argue with that logic? Coincidentally, Erin had just been in Alcalá de Henares and had written a post about what I now realize is one of the city’s best attractions: its free tapas! Thanks to her, I did my research and carefully planned our delicious tapas route.
I had six tapas bars on our list, an ambitious number for any eater, and despite our efforts we were only able to try four of them before feeling too stuffed to continue. Erin wasn’t lying about the tapas in Alcalá being enormous!
Here is my recommended route (always subject to change!):
Spanish Sabores Tapas Tour of Alcalá de Henares
- Indalo Tapas: Calle Libreros, 9I travel and eat based off of the opinion of others. I rely on blog posts, review sites, and twitter to get me the no longer exclusive inside scoop on what to see and where to eat. I made no exception for a day trip to Alcalá de Henares. It was clear after reading the reviews on 11870 and tripadvisor that most visitors and residents alike consider Indalo Tapas to be Alcalá’s number one dining spot. After trying it I can easily see why. The restaurant is located in the center of Alcalá, a few minutes away from Plaza de Cervantes. It has a beautiful copper bar and a large seating area for bar patrons, in addition to the formal dining room in the back. With each drink you order you may chose from one of about 15 different tapas. The choices lack innovation—but they do include the classics like croquetas de jamón, huevos rotos, and calamares fritos. We sampled the croquetas and huevos rotos (two of our favorite dishes) and were pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t a mind blowing experience—but we are talking big plates of free food! And the wine was also delicious. We comtemplated staying at Indalo Tapasfor the rest of our lunch, but I managed to be strong and encouraged us on (in the name of research)! It's worth mentioning that this popular place was also the most expensive of the day-- a glass of house wine & tapa cost us a whopping 2,85€ per person (sarcasm!).
- La Taberna de Rusty:Calle Tinte, 1This tapas bar and restaurant didn’t actually have too many reviews online, but it was on the next street over from Indalo, and I really liked its name! (What better reason to try a tapas place, right?). Luckily, we weren’t disappointed. La Taberna de Rusty actually gives Indalo tapas a run for its money as it has a cute rustic style, with beer barrels as tables in the bar area. You can also choose your tapa of choice from a long list and the house wine is a bit cheaper than Indalo at 2,50€ a glass, and just as good. The tapas also lacked creativity and were perhaps a bit more fast food style, but we liked them just the same (and they had some great choices for bread!). We tried a choripan sandwich (chorizo, bread, and chimichurri sauce) and a hamburger on mollete bread. It was also much less crowded than Indalo Tapas which makes it a great alternative.
- Las Cuadras de Rocinante: Calle Carmen CalzadoThe next place on our list was recommended in Erin’s post, so we had to try it! I loved the decoration—Spanish cowboyesque—and the bartender was really nice. We swiched to beer at this point (not really sure why) and were served a tapa of steaming hot garbanzos con callos (chick peas and stewed tripe). It might not be everyone’s preferred tapa and I’ll admit I didn’t eat all of the callos, but the flavor was delicious and the garbanzos were perfectly cooked. We paid 3,20€ for two small beers.
- Los Balcones de Alcalá:Calle Cervantes 2We ended our tour with another of Erin’s recommendations, Los Balcones de Alcalá. We were already quite full and a bit buzzed, but we made room for one more. The restaurant is very charming. It is patio style, with a small lower level which houses its bar and an upper dining room too. The menu was varied and the prices were reasonable. We ordered white wine and the tapa we were served looked and sounded fantastic—pork ribs and potatoes—but unfortunately the meat was really tough and the potatoes lacked flavor. Despite this drawback we didn't mind; the wine was good, the service was nice, and at 5,00€ for both of us we left with a smile on our faces.
Alcalá de Henares is the perfect place to visit to try Spain’s famous free tapas. The center of town is so concentrated that it is easy to stumble bar to bar, trying tapas until you run out of room in your stomach (or money in your wallet)! We know that we’ll be back soon—after all we have to try the two places on our list that we didn’t make it to:
Gringo Viejo: Ramon y Cajal, 8 28801
El Tapón: Avenida de Guadalajara
Click here to read about Alcala’s out of this world pastries, so good that the princess of Spain loves them!