Tapas in Alcalá
Muscles with vinaigrette topping
A tapa in Spain is basically an appetizer that is served in some bars or restaurants and comes with your drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic). This “traveling consumption” (in one place, you have one, then on to the next place) is called “tapeo” or “ir de tapas”. In many regions of Spain it’s pretty common to go out for dinner or lunch on the weekend and just eat tapas, which is a way to eat commonly referred to as “picar” or “picoteo”.
Tapas have become a hallmark of Spanish identity and they are served in the highest, most important reception banquets. Nowadays there are bars that offer tapa specialties and this phenomenon has been called “miniature cuisine”.
Tapas are mixed with the concept of socializing, which is why the tapa is linked to the action of “tapear”. The bars, which are seen as gathering places, are the ideal spot for tapas. From this concept come the verbs: “tapear” (eating tapas), “ir de tapas” (to go from bar to bar to eat different tapas).
In some parts of Spain, you have to pay for the tapa apart from the drink, and in other places it’s free, which is usually the “tapas dinner”, to the extent that the success of a bar can greatly depend on the quality and quantity of their tapas and they make up a key part of Spanish cuisine. Even some tourist groups offer tourist routes to have a drink with its included tapa, which is usually something typical from the area. In many other Spanish provinces you can also see cold tapas such as olives, potato chips or nuts, that are served for free at the client’s request, even if you didn’t have anything to drink, because these appetizers make you thirsty and make you want you order a drink.
Many believe that the history of tapas comes from a Spanish king’s visit to a bar, where he asked for a glass of wine. The city he was visiting was on the coast. When he ordered the drink, the wind began to blow and so that the sand that the wind had brought up in the air didn’t go into the glass, the waiter put a “lid” (tapa”) on top of the glass: a slice of ham. The king asked why he did it, and the wait told him.
Afterwards the king ordered another glass, and also asked that it had a new “tapa” on it. This is one of the most popular beliefs about how the tapas became to be. Another explanation going around says that in the Middle Ages, it was normal to put pieces of bread, ham and cheese as “lids” for wine and liquors, and afterwards these foods were eaten with the drink.
Alcalá de Henares is known for, amongst many other things, its gastronomy and particularly for its tapas. From CIEE, we want to make it easier for you, which is why we’re offering you our “Tapas Route” through Cervantes’s city. A great way to combine a visit of the historical city with the typical food in the city.
You can start this route from any point in the city, although our recommendation is to begin on one of the most emblematic streets in the city, Calle Mayor, where we can walk on a stone road, see Cervantes’s house, and go off on other close streets.
Macandé is a place to keep in mind for its different possibilities of where to sit or have your tapa. It offers a good quality-price ratio, daily and weekend menus, tapas, tostas (toasted bread with meats or cheeses on top), pates, etc. The terrace is open year-round, all this in the Jewish neighborhood.
Maimónides, is a pub, tapas bar and seafood restaurant. It has traditional Spanish cuisine, a daily menu, a long list of side portions, and generous quantities of appetizers. A large place with a seasonal terrace, also in the Jewish neighborhood, in front of Cervantes’s house.
Casa NINO founded in 1953. Homemade food, daily menu and à la carte, side portions, tapas, fresh fish every day (codfish is the specialty), beef, vegetables, homemade desserts, beer, terraces. Right in the old part of town.
If there is a must-see on the Calle Santiago, it’s the Campus University bar. It is a large bar for all types of people, with its English style and decorations, in the city center. Unique tapas from different regions, daily menus, exquisite side portions, live performances, and drinks at night.
The new restaurante LA TABERNA DE RUSTY on Calle Tinte just opened this new location that can hold 140 consumers. They have their traditional and also more modern tapas, a daily and weekend menu. A la carte selections including homemade meat and fish dishes and Mediterranean cuisine, right next to the Plaza de Cervantes.
The Cenador y Sidrería Sagasti are part of the “la Esquina Complutense” Group, right in the middle of the city. A charming place with an à la carte menu, group menus, banquets and ceremonias, daily menus, all with privacy and professionalism.
The Ruta de los mesones is the union of four establishments whose characteristics have made them typical spots to visit in the city of Cervantes. This gastronomic route is a must. The food is Spanish and seasonal. They offer daily menus, company meals, reservations, and a café-bar. Each of the four locations has an old style decoration and a unique monumental environment.
Las cuadras de Rocinante. Your tavern with “Cervantes taste” from the Golden Age, tapas, wine, breads, stewed coffee, checkered tableclothes, etc. Closed on Wednesdays.
C/ Carmen Calzado, 1, Tel.: 91 880 08 88
Mesón Casa Bayton Your restaurant in the center of Alcalá. Market cuisine, seasonal menu, inviting atomosphere, profesional service. Closed on Tuesdays.
Plaza de Cervantes, 21, Tel.: 91 882 39 94
El Otro Foro – Multipurpose location – café-bar, tapas, restaurant and club. Contemporary and avant-garde cuisine. Dancing and fun at night, great musical selection featuring the best DJs, chill, new-jazz, soul, komky, etc. C/ Gallo, 10, Tel.: 91 883 28 27
La Casa Vieja – Your great old-style tavern. Spanish cuisine, wood oven, brewery, summer terrace. Closed on Mondays.
San Felipe Neri, 7 (On the corner of C/ Mayor), Tel.: 91 883 62 81