Local's Only: Carnavoire Locavore, Mad Cafe Madrid

Over the last couple of years I have become more aware of what I buy at the market and where the produce comes from. Luckily Spain has it's fair share of landscape and various terrains for growing fruits and vegetables, as well as livestock and dairy. Also unlike the US, food labels in Europe are required to call out modified ingredients. The question of what is organic is a completely separate argument, but none the less I always ask if the blueberries in season came from the north of Spain, and so forth.

When eating out this concept is almost completely thrown out the window. By sitting down at a restaurant, we throw our hands in the air, and assume as well as hope that the restaurant's management will be serving us local, quality and nourishing products. Sadly, I think the opposite is the general rule of thumb, what's cheapest in bulk produce comes from elsewhere, under standards that are often even unknown to the buyer. That however isn't the case at Mad Cafe. The chef told me that all of their ingredients are purchased from local, known suppliers within the surrounding Madrid perimeters. Everything is from scratch, the staff is friendly and passionate, and above all the ground beef is superb- making for some killer burgers.

Interesting to note the "American diner" concept is rather prevalent in the Spanish capital, actually the MAD in their title stands for "Modern American Diner". I can't tell you if Madrid has a higher percentage of US expats and they all happen to start restaurant businesses here, but one thing is certain, the hamburger is the most noteworthy and copied American classic in the city.

The team at Mad Cafe hand grinds their meat every morning, which is carne de cebón, or meat from a castrated male with less than 48 months of age. As a comparison here are some common names/terms of cattle; veal (ternera) is meat from cows between 8-12 months, an ox (buey) is a castrated male more than 48 months, the standard beef as we know it (carne de vaca) is from females over 48 meses, and in Spain the bull (toro de lidia) is an uncastrated male older than 48 months. So as I was saying...after the grinding process MC perfects their burgers over a grill of volcanic rock. Cool. Or I suppose hot.

The space has clean lines, natural light and is tucked away on a quieter street of the La Latina barrio, making it a nice alternative to the tourist packed Plaza Mayor and Sol sections of the city. They also boost a flexible schedule which insures you can easily satisfy your dining needs, whether you're a Northern European eating early or a Spaniard starting the evening meal at 11pm.

Prices are moderate considering the attention to detail and the peace of mind you receive from helping the community food chain. The standard burger will set you back 8.50€, the special of the month 10.80€ and the foie burger 13.90€, all are served with caramelized onions and french fries. I went for the hamburguesa del mes which included bacon and a slice of partially-cured goat cheese that was left on the grill for that warm, melty effect. As a whole, absolutely delicious, the meat is clearly the winning factor, but also hugely important on my list is bread, and Mad Cafe pairs their burgers nicely with a brioche from a nearby bakery. No industrial presence here. If you saved room, which I didn't, or need to indulge on the classic desserts from your 4th of July memories, help yourself to apple pie, brownies, carrot cake and NY style cheesecake from 5.20€.

Burger of the Month (September 2011)

Dining room tables at Mad Cafe Madrid. 

+34 911 884 604
Cava Alta 13
28005 Madrid Spain

Tuesday-Friday 13.00-16.00 and 20.30-23.30
Saturdays 13.00- 00.30
Sundays 13.00-23.30
Mondays Closed
Metro: La Latina (L5)

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