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 restaurants – adds to Ponzano’s appeal. Here are a few examples of the traditional, the modern and the wacky places found along this bustling Madrid street.
Over 400 wines are served by the glass at Taberna Averías © Cassandra Gambill / Lonely Planet
Fantastical surroundings at El Arrogante
With a large, wind-up key plunged into the side of the building, El Arrogante coyly toys with passersby. This restaurant-bar’s aesthetic is eye-catching, adding a magical twist on the industrial interior design trend. A deconstructed merry-go-round hangs above the counter, while the walls and lights are decked out with elements as eclectic as a tennis paddle, corn on the cob, a trumpet and zebras. In addition to these faded playthings, distressed tables and exposed brick contribute to the vintage vibe. At night, moody lighting completes the look and pairs surprisingly well with a gin and tonic.
Memorable decor at El Arrogante © 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, as well). 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 as well.
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.
Crowds gather along Calle Ponzano on a Saturday evening © Cassandra Gambill / 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 © Cassandra Gambill / Lonely Planet
Youthful ambience 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 © Cassandra Gambill / Lonely Planet
Seaside bites at Lambuzo
To recharge during a #ponzaning marathon, make a pit-stop at Lambuzo, a restaurant and bar with specialities straight from Cádiz. Seafood and fish make up the bulk of the menu – don’t pass up the croquetas de gambas al ajillo (croquettes with a garlic and shrimp filling) – although there are also non-fishy dishes such as the oxtail hamburger and fried aubergine. The adventurous should ask the waiter if there are fresh ortiguillas (snakelocks anemone) available. Even if you aren’t in the mood to have tapas, Lambuzo – like every bar on Calle Ponzano – also has a wide variety of drinks. Round out a meal here with a glass of sherry or Lambuzo’s special orange wine from Seville.
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