February 11, 2011 - Posted by Erin in Culture, Food and wine, Spain

During lunchtime, the workers of Madrid hit the streets and head to their favorite local restaurants. After ordering, they are served a basket of bread followed by a generously portioned first course and then an equally as filling second course. While sipping on their glasses of wine, they contemplate whether they will finish with a dessert or an espresso. Finally the bill comes – each person pays their 10 euros, leaves some spare change for a tip, and heads back to work.

What was wrong with this picture? Surely not the wine, nor the generously portioned meal, and most definitely not the dessert. But did you raise your eyebrow when I said 10 euros? I bet you did.

Indeed meals like this are a staple of weekday lunches, and they come from what is called the menú or menú del día – and no that is not in reference to the regular menu as we know it (called la carta). Instead, it actually refers to a menu of the day, which usually includes several options to choose from for each course – a handful of firsts, seconds and even desserts. Drink included (that also means wine, my friends). All yours for roughly 10 euros (obviously more or less depending on the quality of the restaurant).

This menu concept, while clearly a killer deal, exists for various reasons. First, given that lunch is the biggest meal of the day here in Spain (not just in terms of quantity, but often in terms of length), it is important that people be able to have a reasonably priced meal while at work. In addition to this, the menu items, traditionally speaking anyway, are those that are homemade and often specialties of the house. Theoretically, having the menu allows the restaurant to make large quantities of their best dishes and then serve them to the masses. Given that Madrid is full of non-traditional restaurants, however, don’t count on the menu dishes being extraordinary. For 10 euros, though, I don’t discriminate much….actually for something remotely edible and a glass of wine, I’m pretty much pleased as Sangria-style punch.

So the next time you buy yourself an $8 glass of wine, and throw down another couple bucks as a tip (because you’re generous like that), just think, if you were in Spain, you could have not only had that wine, but an entire feast! Sorry to tease you like that – I suppose a trip to this fine land is an order, along with a Spanish value meal of course. Salud!


10 Responses to “The Spanish value meal”

  1. andi Says:

    There is no better cuisine in this world than Spanish cuisine. Que delicioso!

  2. Erin Says:

    I couldn’t agree more!

  3. Sabrina Says:

    I used to love the lunch meals when I was living in Paris way back when. So cheap and delicious!!

  4. An Says:


    I am so glad i came across your blog, I am going to be visiting Spain next month and your blog is so informative(love the tips and food entries). I hope this is not going to sound too silly, i just wanted to know how is the weather there in March? Is it cold, i will be travelling from South Africa.

    Thanks a lot

  5. Erin Says:

    Hi An – I’m so happy to hear that my site can be helpful as you plan your trip to Spain! The food is especially delicious if you know what to order and where to eat, so I hope that my recommendations will be helpful :). As for the weather, March can be hit or miss – some days feel like Spring is in full bloom, while others are chilly and brisk. So far, this year has been abnormally warm, so I’m hopeful that March will be more Spring and less Winter. Be sure to bring lots of layers, just in case!

    If there’s anything else that I can help with, let me know!

  6. An Says:

    Hi Erin,

    Thanks so much for your help. I am terribly excited and cannot wait to be there! I will be religiously reading your blog for more info. Do you have any recommendations for what places we should def see, or what we should eat?

  7. Erin Says:

    Will you just be in Madrid? If so, I’ve listed all of my personal recommendations here: http://www.latortugaviajera.com/travel/destinations/city/madrid/. If you have more specific questions, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email at latortugaviajera@gmail.com.

  8. Tumbit Says:

    The Menu del dia – quite possibly the only useful legacy of the Franco years !

  9. Erin Says:

    I had no idea that it was a Franco legacy – but that makes sense! Now you’ve got me googling this left and right to find out more…

  10. An Says:

    Thanks Erin, We will be in Madrid only. i can’t wait to be there. 🙂 i will let you know how it went.

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