Feeling like a local at Solo de Uva

In The Art of Travel Fall 2015, Madrid, Good places by Daniel McElroy2 Comments

You already know about my love for the most wonderful of Spanish traditions, the menú del día, which I wrote about a few weeks ago. Less than €10 and you get more food than you can finish plus a glass of wine and a coffee to top things off. I partake almost daily, and my favorite place to indulge is Solo de Uva (also making it’s second appearance on my blog this week)… it’s just near campus, has the most home-y atmosphere, and cannot be beat.

The trick to eating in Madrid is scouting out restaurants with a discerning eye. There’s a sharp distinction between your average taberna, serving all of Spain’s typical food, and something a little more special. The details are obvious if you know what to look for: more run-of-the-mill places have metal card tables on the outdoor seating terrace, Solo de Uva opted for wooden tables reminiscent of a picnic. Your average restaurant in this country serves water in glasses that are smudged and dusty, Solo de Uva (because it’s ‘Just Grapes’) is much more about the sparkling wine glass. The fun thing is that the good is always mixed in with the mediocre. There’s no spot where every restaurant is solid. So the only way to make your tongue and stomach happy at once is to go on an adventure.

The day I found Solo de Uva, I knew it was going to be my lunch spot. It just feels warm and cozy. From the checkered tablecloths to the racks of hanging pans, the dining room is like a rustic kitchen. And the food. Wow. They have this hamburger on the menu, which I’ve seen from the table next to me on multiple occasions, but which I’ve never tried because you see… the thing is… they have these specials. Every day. And every day I end up going with that. And being so satisfied. (My theory is always go with the special—the chef is excited about it, and he’s going to put his all into it—it’s never failed me yet). And for dessert, the chocolate fondant with candied orange. That with a nice café con leche always sets me up for a good second half of the day.

Obviously, I like this place. I love it. But what makes it the kind of place that I can hang out for hours, having glass after glass of wine, is the amazing staff. The regular lunch waiter knows me and my preferred wine selection now. He’s always excited to see us, los americanos, and though he knows basically no English he insists on a few very amusingly placed ‘Here you go’s and ‘Anything else?’s. He asks about my life and I ask about his. Every time I leave, it’s to the sound of a hopeful ‘See you soon?’

It’s hard to say what about Solo de Uva makes me most happy. I want to say it’s the food, which I’ve literally had dreams about, but that’s not why I keep going back. I keep going back because the ‘relationship’ I’ve built with the waiter (which, to be honest, he probably has with plenty of his customers) makes me feel like in some way, I’ve really become a local of Madrid. Someone recognizes my face, and that’s cool. Now, I just need to learn his name and we’ll basically be best friends!


  1. Hey Daniel, I love the Menu Del Dia in Spain! It’s a great way to get a lot of food for cheap and try new things (especially if you can’t tell what’s on it). I never actually got a chance to swing by the place your post is about (I was in Spain for the past two summers), but it sounds amazing! Reading your post made me really hungry actually. I think going with the special is a good tip. It’s so nice that the staff recognizes you there as well and you have “a lunch spot”. Hope the rest of your trip is filled with great food and interesting people!

  2. Daniel, I loved reading about your love for Solo de Uva! The food sounds incredible (you almost having me booking a flight to Madrid) and it’s wonderful and important that you’ve created a relationship with the staff. A sense of familiarity and community always makes the food taste that much better!

    I’ll keep in mind your notes on how to find a good restaurant in Spain when I visit in a few weeks. It’s really interesting that you’ve been able to figure out a pattern in just looking at the tables. I’m not sure whether we have so visual a clue here in Florence, though I’ll keep an eye out! Hope the specials keep getting better and better for you. Enjoy!

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