Our current picks for great food, wine, atmosphere in Madrid, Spain

I made the case just last week that Insanely great airfares make this the absolute right time to book your Europe trip for later in 2017, so am following up this week with our fourth and final (for now) installation of our Wine:Thirty Flight Guide to Madrid, Spain with what is arguably the most important piece of the series: Our favorite places for great wine, great food, and great dining atmosphere in one of my very favorite cities.

Background reading: Catch up on the other installments of our Madrid series...

A city of over three million people is rather vast, so we're sticking with the city center around which we've encouraged you to focus your search for lodging and things to do.

Wine Bar: Angelita

You'll find Angelita a few blocks north of Gran Vía at Calle Reina, 4, 28004 Madrid, Spain (all addresses link to Google Maps). We were led here just recently by Amy at Restless Fork, so cannot take credit for the discovery. Angelita's wine list is vast, making it a great place to go if you're interested in trying many Spanish wines from across the country's many wine regions. It's more modern and upscale, yet wholly lacking in pretension. Go in with a plan to try something that you haven't experienced yet, and resist the urge to order a glass of the first Rioja you see. Reservations are desirable if you want a shot at a table.

Upscale Modern: Restaurante TriCiclo

TriCiclo is an intimate little restaurant serving up a contemporary atmosphere and menu back in our favorite neighborhood near Calle de las Huertas, at Calle Sta. María, 28, 28014 Madrid, Spain. Reservations are most definitely a necessity here. TriCiclo's menu really shines with one dish after another of great tasting and eye pleasing preparation. It is -- in our minds -- to food what Angelita is to wine, with both offering rather similar atmospherics.

Traditional: Taberna la Carmencita

Try Taberna la Carmencita if you seek something more quintessentially traditional Spanish, located a bit north of Gran Vía up in Angelita's neck of the woods at Calle Libertad, 16, 28004 Madrid, Spain. Here you'll find lovely soft lighting that illuminates charming tiled walls, wood floors, and a classic menu where Lamb is the order of the day but much else is available. The wine list is compelling, and we ordered the Syrah from Bodegas Arrayán in the Méntrida wine region just south of Madrid (a great day trip, by the way) before transitioning to a helado de queso (that's cheese ice cream... delicious... ice cream) for dessert.

Casual and Fun: Mesónes

Though often beset by tourists, I've previously recommended the Mesónes beneath Plaza Mayor on Calle Cava de San Miguel in a post I dedicated to these classic Madrid taverns last year. I will continue to do so, particularly Mesón del Champiñón, my favorite. As I wrote then:

There’s a truly wonderful street corner in Madrid, Spain - one of our absolute favorite cities - on which I’ve had so many memories both delicious and happy over the years. Walk down the steps leading away from the rather hidden, far southwest entry arch to Plaza Mayor, then bank a sharp right back up the block of Calle Cava de San Miguel to find the Mesónes: Small intimate taverns filled with wooden tables and stools, truly warm people who have worked here for decades, delicious food and sangría, and filled with tourists and locals alike such that you know you’ve come to the right spot.

The unique spaces help to make these places truly special. Even the largest are but a string of small rooms cut into the bricks of what feel like the oldest part of the city, winding their way back into the depths underneath the plaza above. There’s nothing luxurious here, yet I’ve loved every minute of the hours I’ve sat on those little stools over the years. Each has unique special qualities, and they lend themselves to trying out until you find the perfect one for you. They are not to be missed when you visit Madrid.
— Me, in a post on November 7, 2016

Out and About: Mercado de San Miguel

If you're out and about around lunchtime (that's mid-afternoon in Spain, not noon) -- and you don't mind a zoo of people -- walk just up the street from the Mesónes to find the Mercado de San Miguel. It's a carnival of food and drink here, a big and open indoor space in which throngs fight for attention amongst rows of vendors preparing anything from sandwiches to empanadas, an array of tapas, and all the sangría, glasses of wine, and beer you need. It's fun, lively, and packed with variety. I recommend you stake out a bar table or some slab of horizontal food eating space, leave behind anyone in your posse who you don't absolutely need to help gather food and drink (the better to hold down your temporary real estate), and then go get lunch. Alternatively... walk around and graze. Oh, and don't think about using anything that isn't cash here.

Just a Drink: Your Neighborhood

As I've said before, Madrid is a great city for neighborhoods, and no neighborhood is complete without the little bars and restaurants that give it character and a place to celebrate life. I have several favorites on Calle de las Huertas where we like to end the night. Whether you're indulging in my suggestions here, or others you've found elsewhere, don't neglect to try at least a drink in the little places you find in the neighborhood where you're hanging your hat. You'll be really pleased with what you find.