Madrid “para llevar” — saving small food and drink businesses, one takeaway at a time

More voices from Madrid’s restaurant sector. Some restaurant owners have graciously shared their honest thoughts with me about navigating these difficult economic times amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s very, very difficult, none of us are going to make money right now,” said D., a co-owner of a popular restaurant chain in Madrid, who requested for anonymity to be able to speak freely. “Obviously in a crisis some industries profit, some don’t. In the hospitality industry, we’re not going to make any money at this time. But we have to keep on pushing to minimize the damage we’re all going to take. From my side, I have to do my best to limit the economic damage to my business.”

I asked D. about the strategies they’ve had to adopt during these “new normal” times. “It’s really about trying everything new, thinking differently and adapting. Right now, it’s about finding out how the market has changed —  the way people are eating has changed. So now for us it’s about adapting, it’s not anymore the traditional way of being a restaurant. But the access to customers is still there, so that means trying new initiatives by going to offices, going to people working at home, or offering kids meals for children staying at home to make more family-friendly meals, and working more closely with the delivery platforms.”

“Life is a pendulum”

Another restaurant owner of a small but successful burger chain, N. — who also requested to hide his identity — shared, “In the past 2 -3 months, many restaurants have had to transform into an online business, whereas before, online was more of the icing on the cake in terms of turnover. Now it’s flipped around. Home delivery has become 100% of the business. But it’s not just about that, we also have to be very creative, offering new dining menus and trying to appeal to your customer base. ”

So in these difficult times for the industry, is there light at the end of the tunnel? D. replied, “Of course there is, we just have to fight a little bit harder and have the patience to ride out the storm. Life is a pendulum, as far as it swings one way, it will swing the other way. Obviously there will be a time when we’ll have a successful business again, but until that moment comes, we have to struggle and fight, think differently and adapt, adapt, and adapt.”

My local picks

As Madrid gradually opens up — albeit ever so slowly (as I write this we are in “Phase 0.5” meaning restaurants can open for delivery and takeaway but social gatherings are still prohibited) — here are my recommendations for some excellent, non-expensive local restaurants and shops to order from. (Take note of these hashtags #ApoyaalasPequeñasEmpresas #SupportSmallBusinesses if you’d like to promote them on social media!)

YokaLoka

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Yoka working tirelessly behind the counter (Photo: Jane Mitchell)
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This is aptly called the “Sushi Fiesta” – will feed the entire family! (Photo: Jane Mitchell)

YokaLoka inside the Mercado Anton Martín is run by the husband and wife tandem of Yoka Kamada and Stephane Shoji — she is Japanese, he is Japanese-French, and both are longtime Madrid residents and restaurant industry veterans. In pre-COVID times, their popular Japanese hotspot in the Mercado would always be packed with customers, and many times you’d have to wait to secure a seat. Since the lockdown, they haven’t stopped hand rolling fresh sushi and ramen noodles to keep up with their online delivery orders. I highly recommend the “Sushi Fiesta” (photo above) to feed big groups or a very hungry family.

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Art of sushi on a plate (Photo: Jane Mitchell)

 

Radicals California Fried Chicken

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Wing men.

A recent online discovery — If you love deep fried American-style chicken, Radicals is a must-try (and try and try again, their food is absolutely addicting.) Their tasty crispy wings are dipped in a special house recipe batter and go perfectly with their buffalo, barbecue, or jalapeño and honey sauces, with gravy and fresh coleslaw on the side. I like their “Combo 2” for a good generous mix of wings and chicken cuts, for just over 20eu, good for up to 4 people!

Trikki

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That’s Rodó handing over my gumbo
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And that’s my favourite comfy spot right there.

Right across the popular Calle Ponzano, Trikki has been kind of like our home away from home, with their cozy brick-walled interiors, craft beers, and incredible Cajun and Creole cooking made with so much amor by partners Yuli from New Orleans, USA and Rodó, from Caracas, Venezuela (which explains the delicious arepas, ceviche and pabellón criollo also on the menu). This week, they’ve reopened with a delivery and takeaway service, so it didn’t take long for me to pop by and order their spicy gumbo and massive po’boy sandwich to savour at home.

Los Grifos

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Craft beers to go!

In the “before times”, Los Grifos was a favourite, cozy Malasaña watering hole owned by friendly barman Alex from Lyon, France. They have a neat little ordering system — you’re handed a rechargeable card to load credits on to and for the rest of the night you can sample their craft beers from taps (hence “grifos”) and enjoy watching football on giant flat screens. So you can imagine how happy this household was when we found out that they just started offering delivery in their online store.

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Beery happy.

Pepita y Grano

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Just down our street is our neighbourhood happy place Pepita y Grano,  a shop that sells “a granel” or by weight —  here we sourced top quality, ecological grains, beans, spices, nuts, dried fruits, seeds, all sorts of flour, salt, artisanal chocolate — you name it. Co-owned by Cristina and Gustavo, Pepita y Grano espouses a “zero waste” philosophy that shines in their “slow shop” promoting responsible and sustainable consumption. They’ve had to temporarily close their physical shop during the lockdown, but the good news is that their online delivery platform is open from Mondays to Fridays.

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Espousing a “zero waste” philosophy

Kitchen 154

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With products named “Salsa Cruel” hot sauce, how can anyone resist? My favourite quirky spice temple just doesn’t miss a beat, with cooking classes on social media, a “Manual de Apocalipsis” with awesome Asian recipes you can try at home, and now an online store that has just expanded their delivery radius around Madrid. Their vacuum-sealed curries are top notch, it’s just like hosting Kitchen 154 in your own kitchen.

La Mejor Tarta de Chocolate del Mundo

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Chocolate cake at your doorstep (Photo: Eyad Tomeh)

And finally, something for those with a sweet tooth — “the best chocolate cake in the world”. This bakeshop with Portuguese roots offers a special flourless chocolate cake using fine artisanal chocolate from the French confectionery Valrhona. They offer two options, 70% and 53% cacao (I personally prefer the 70%), and guess what, they also deliver!

Happy online ordering everyone!

P.S. Gracias to TripDuck

Recently, I got some welcome good news that Kusina Madrid was named as one of the “50+ Best Madrid Blogs and Websites” by TripDuck.! And it was truly an honour to share some of my favourite Madrid restaurants in their “Insider’s Food Guide” sharing where the Madrid locals eat. Muchísimas gracias for the honour TripDuck!!

Do check out the TripDuck travel platform, with as we look towards happier days of travel and tastes ahead when the storm passes!

 

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