Calle Ponzano: where to go on Madrid’s hottest street

Calle Ponzano, a street lined with tapas bars and cocktail spots in Madrid's Chamberí neighbourhood, has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years. In fact, the term #ponzaning is on heavy rotation around social media, and refers to the mix of old-school roots, contemporary fare and lively atmosphere that have become Calle Ponzano's hallmarks.

As most revellers make multiple stops in an evening, the variety of options – from boisterous bars to romantic restaurantsadds to Ponzano’s appeal. Here are a few of the best places found along this bustling Madrid street.

Crowds gather along Calle Ponzano on a Saturday evening
Crowds gather along Calle Ponzano on a Saturday evening © Cassandra Gambill / Lonely Planet

Micheladas and margaritas at Taquería La Lupita

Taquería La Lupita, on the corner of Calles Ponzano and Maudes, offers casual Mexican fare to those looking for something outside the realm of Spanish tapas. Diners come here to down meaty tacos with micheladas (beer mixed with tangy spices and citrus juice) while kaleidoscope-coloured Day of the Dead skulls observe from their perch above the bar. If in doubt, the waiter will help you decide between a range of pork, beef, chicken and fish tacos. (For those who don’t eat meat, there is typically one vegan option on offer). After the night picks up, food becomes secondary as patrons wave over more rounds of Dos Equis and cocktails. During weekends, the margarita gigante, an enormous margarita meant to be split between six people, often makes an appearance too.

The colourful bar at Taquería La Lupita, Calle Ponzano
The colourful bar at Taquería La Lupita © Cassandra Gambill / Lonely Planet

Cervecería El Doble: classic beer, classic bar

Conveniently located by the Alonso Cano metro station, Cervecería El Doble has been dishing up tapas and drinks to thirsty regulars ever since 1987. With bright overhead lights, fast-flying Spanish, and patrons packed in for multiple rounds of beer, El Doble is an unpretentious neighbourhood haunt that many madrileños would love to have on their street. It's the kind of laid-back Spanish establishment where you're expected to throw napkins on the floor and keep a running tally of how many beers you’ve had (you’ll be asked when you pay). Above all, the bar is famous for its draught beer, which comes as a generous doble (approximately twice the size of the tiny, ubiquitous 200ml caña). Expect something small to come with your drink, such as crisps with salty anchovies or pickled mussels. If the Alonso Cano location is full, check out their other bar a few blocks up at Ponzano 58.

The exterior of Taberna Averías, Calle Ponzano
The exterior of Taberna Averías, Calle Ponzano's hottest wine bar © Daniel Welsch / Lonely Planet

Taberna Averías: small space, but worth the squeeze

There is only one bar on Calle Ponzano that doesn’t serve draught beer: Taberna Averías. In fact, with over 400 different wines by the glass, this bodega unapologetically defines itself as a 'wine cult'. The friendly owners and employees are passionate about helping you find something new to tickle your personal palate; if a wine doesn’t suit, just explain what you’re looking for. With a menu crafted by the same mastermind behind La Tasquita de Enfrente, the food is nothing to scoff at, either. Cured meats, cheese plates and smoked salmon are a few of the nibbles that can accompany that glass of red or white. And, of course, there are plenty of sweet wines to choose from when it’s time for dessert.

Chalkboard recommendations at Taberna Averías, Calle Ponzano
Chalkboard recommendations at Taberna Averías © Cassandra Gambill / Lonely Planet

Youthful vibe at La Malcriada

Open daily from noon until late, La Malcriada is enjoying its heyday thanks to a faithful clientele of university students and 30-somethings. With wooden floors, exposed brick and Iberian-inspired tile accents, the simple decor reflects the current industrial aesthetic while giving a nod to its Spanish roots. During weekdays, expect a low-key vibe as friends share drinks and tapas such as spicy fried potatoes, ensaladilla rusa (Spanish potato salad) and mushroom croquettes. The volume goes up several notches on the weekend, when you can prepare for elbow-to-elbow traffic as patrons spill out onto the street.

The main counter at La Malcriada, Calle Ponzano
The main counter at La Malcriada © Cassandra Gambill / Lonely Planet

Serious coffee at Rebel Café

Hipsters, digital nomads and sharp local professionals are united by their love of the coffee at Rebel Café. You can stop in for an espresso, a flat white, a cold brew, or even coffee made by AeroPress or Chemex. With a cosy environment of vintage chairs and reclaimed wood, it’s an inviting addition to a jaunt along Calle Ponzano. The pastries are homemade, and they have sandwiches, wraps and acai bowls if you need extra energy. If you’re there later in the day, you can also enjoy one of their craft beers.

Pastries on display at Rebel Café, Calle Ponzano
Pastries on display at Rebel Café © Daniel Welsch / Lonely Planet

All things tuna at DeAtún

If you love seafood, look no further than DeAtún, with a menu based almost entirely on tuna dishes. With a clean, modern Andalucían feel and flamenco music piped in over the speakers, it’s a little bit of Cádiz in Madrid. The red tuna is freshly wild-caught off Spain’s south coast, and you can fill up on delicious tapas or order a full meal if you prefer. Try the toast with wasabi mayo and black truffle, the tartare or the tataki. Even the house wine, a full-bodied red from Cádiz, references this exquisite fish in its name: Sangre de Atún.

The fishy interior of DeAtún, Calle Ponzano
The fishy interior of DeAtún © Daniel Welsch / Lonely Planet

Classic and modern cocktails at Catarsis

The first things you might notice when you enter Catarsis are the many bottles of 'magic potions' lined up on shelves behind the bar. These are original cocktails made using herbs, fruit and other ingredients that have been macerated or infused in gin, rum or whisky. The bartenders’ knowledge of cocktail chemistry is second-to-none, with specialities including passion fruit and spicy mango gin and tonics. Some drinks are served in unusual ways: if you’ve ever felt like drinking from a glass slipper or a tiny inflatable pool float, Catarsis is the place for you. And if not, don’t worry: you can get all the classic cocktails here as well.

The 'magic potions' at Catarsis, Calle Ponzano
'Magic potions' lining the shelf at Catarsis © Daniel Welsch / Lonely Planet

First published in April 2018.

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