MADRID, SPAIN. Pan, jamón, y queso manchego – bread, ham, and manchego cheese – all foods that make up the majority of platos típicos in Madrid, and none of which I can eat.
I realized being a gluten-free, dairy-free vegetarian in Madrid wouldn’t be an easy feat on my first night in the city. Going out for tapas, I ordered a simple dish of huevos rotos con seta, scrambled eggs with mushrooms. As I sipped on my large glass of vino tinto, the house red wine, I eagerly awaited what would be my first of many Spanish meals. And then my eggs with mushrooms came – scrambled in with cheese, served with a side of ham, gratis – free of charge.
While I now know how to navigate Madrid with food restrictions, always specifying, “sin carne, queso, o pan,” without meat, cheese, or bread, websites like Happy Cow give hard-to-please eaters, like myself, an easy food guide to the city. Tucked away in a carnivore’s delight are plenty of options for celiacs, vegans, and picky-eaters alike. Located just steps from Madrid’s Plaza Mayor, a short walk from Puerta del Sol, is Yerbabuena, an upscale, yet reasonably priced, vegetarian restaurant. Yerbabuena’s menu specifies it’s vegan and celiac-friendly options, and servers are more than happy to answer any questions about dietary restrictions. While the restaurant’s à la carte menu offers a more flexible meal, hungry diners are best off ordering from the €20 prix fixe menu. The four-course meal consists of an appetizer of the chef’s choice, a first course, second course, dessert, and a beverage. My own personal feast consisted of a glass of the house red wine; a cold cream of green-pea cake with a cantaloupe gazpacho; a cold sautéed spinach dish complete with pears, raisins, pine nuts, almonds, and corn chips; a piping-hot Greek Musaka; and a decadent tri-chocolate mousse – all of which were gluten-free and vegan, leaving me stuffed to brim, yet giddy with my new-found dining discovery. Other more traditional Spanish options served up at Yerbabuena include paella and various montaditos. Yerbabuena is located at Calle de Bordadores, 3, in Madrid.
Those looking for a quick self-serve allergen-friendly meal should head to Ecocentro’s bio-buffet, about a five-minute walk from the Canal metro stop. Offering up all natural vegetable dishes, gluten free and vegan sautés, and a variety of desserts, the bio-buffet at Ecocentro allows the health conscious to eat as much or as little as they please, paying for food by weight. My light meal consisted of sautéed mushrooms and eggplant, with steamed broccoli and tofu. Other options include quinoa mixes, pre-made sandwiches, soups and salads. On either side of Ecocentro’s bio-buffet are two Ecocentro grocery stores, both equipped with plenty of hard-to-find health foods that other larger grocery stores fail to stock. Ecocentro also has a restaurant just below it’s bio-buffet for those looking for a finer dining experience. Ecocentro is located at Calle de Esquilache, 2-12, in Madrid.
For a sweet fix, chocoholics – and really, anyone with a sense of taste – will not be disappointed by the city center’s gluten free bakery, Celicioso, just a short walk from the Gran Via metro stop. Celicioso’s window display is enough to make any customer start salivating upon arrival, adorned with artfully decorated cakes and cupcakes, deep cookie jars, and variety of delicate pies. The bakery also serves up vegan and sugar-free options, along with gluten-free soups, sandwiches, and lasagnas for those lacking a sweet tooth. Unable to make a decision on my own, the waitress advised me to try the triple chocolate vegan-gluten free cake. It was this particular slice of gluten-free vegan goodness that convinced me that heaven had made landfall. For under €3, my taste buds experienced a rare euphoria. The texture was light, yet rich and moist at the same time, and I was swept in a love affair with my food, a cocoa-lovers paradise. Heaven on Earth, more commonly known as Celicioso, can be found at Calle Hortaleza, 3, in Madrid.
Gluten free in Madrid? Vegan? Lactose intolerant? With endless selections of sweet, salty, and savory options, Madrid’s allergen-friendly chefs cook up some of the tastiest cuisine that’ll leave their customers full, yet still fantasizing about their next plato de comida.