Support the locals

Little restaurants in big cities that deserve your attention

Now more than ever, local businesses around the world depend on their faithful clientele, as well as curious explorers, to survive. And that includes those businesses in the otherwise typically touristic, busy cities of Europe. Here are some tips by locals from 3 of Europe’s culinary capitals, describing their favourite foodie spots where you can help chip in to the local economy, while at the same time enjoying an unforgettable meal!

Madrid, Spain

Always seasonal

This restaurant inside Torrijos Market is so committed to always serving seasonal food that it changes its menu four times a year, every three months. Hence its name Tres por Cuarto, Three times Four. It specialises in Spanish dishes with delicious twists – e.g. patatas bravas with tuna tartare and egg yolk or Mexican notes (seasonal tacos, anyone) – owing to the friendly and communicative chef and owner, Alex Marugan, who has spent time on the other side of the Atlantic.

Photo by César Gonzalez

Tapas off the tourist trail

Cerveceria Alonso is a wonderfully traditional bar, just behind the National Auditorium in the Cruz del Rayo/Prosperidad district. It has all the Spanish classics in all their fresh and simple glory. Do as the locals do: go with company and order some “raciones” (portions) to be shared between you – e.g. boquerones fritos (fried anchovies) or a plate of bravas (just the right amount of spicy). Don’t be shy to also draw inspiration from what the people around you are ordering!

Photo by Camellia Williams

Don't judge this book by its cover

If you weren’t pointed straight towards La Alhambra, you would probably never step inside. Even if you did, the interior would probably not win you over. That would be a shame! Local Andrea dropped by with an Algerian guest and since then it has become one of her favourite places to eat. Affordable and consistent, with great couscous, traditional harira soup, Moroccan meatballs… there’s nothing fancy about it, but the food is amazing and has a home-cooked quality to it.

Photo by Andrea Roberts

A tortilla unlike any other

Tortilla de patatas (Spanish omelettes) are a point of contention among Spaniards - some like it runny, others prefer it dry, some like it with onion… you catch the drift. At Casa Dani they make them without onion and on the runnier side, but everyone agrees, no matter their taste, that this place makes the best tortillas in Madrid! Catch their weekday lunch menu for a real deal and add some callos (tripe stew) to your omelette to take the experience to a different level.

Photo by César Gonzalez

Rome, Italy

An off-the-wall neighbourhood meeting point

Creative duo Alessandro in the kitchen and Luca on the floor, really fill this restaurant with their personality – local Rudy says Dar Parucca’s familiarity and eccentricity were just what he had been looking for in a Roman tavern. The walls are covered with Luca’s art (look for his graphic novel about the Congo) and Alessandro churns out dishes like pasta amatriciana, gricia or chianina’s meatballs. Plus, every day there’s at least one surprise vegan dish.

Photo by Rudy di Giacomo

Where ties decorate the walls

In Betto e Mary, ties are not allowed: as the story goes, the accessories decorating the walls were once confiscated from oblivious diners. There’s no menu, so you can expect the waiter to pull up a chair while he recites the day’s specials to you in this cosy and chaotic restaurant. Vegetarians beware: most dishes are meat-centered here – let’s just say if you ever wanted to try horse, this is your chance. Just bring your appetite and have a good time!

Photo by Betto e Mary

Great pizza in Trastevere

Local Matteo claims Dar Poeta makes pizza that can rival the pizzerias in Naples. The name literally means “at the poet’s”, referring to some famous Roman poet, but you might as well say that the pizza itself is the poetry here. Hidden in the picture-perfect streets of Trastevere, if you’re lucky you’ll even catch a seat outside! Try the sarmonata (with salmon) or the gorgonzola (with rocket) – Matteo’s favourites.

Photo by Matteo Mueller-Thies

An authentic trattoria

Another Trastevere favourite, this time of local Miranda. Il Duca doesn’t look like much from the outside, but by now you should know that’s not really important! Here you’ll find Roman artichokes, alla giudia or alla romana. The all-time classic cacio e pepe is also especially noteworthy here, though Miranda’s go-to is the bucatini all’amatriciana. Friendly staff, nice terrace in the back, reasonable prices – what’s not to love?

Photo by II Duca

Paris, France

A winning trio

The warm, nice decoration, the homemade brunch and the reasonable prices all set Clint apart, one of Eloïse’s favourite lunch places ever since a friend introduced her to it. It’s in the 11th arrondissement, close to Père Lachaise cemetery (which it combines well with a visit to). Try the oeufs avocat, a dish composed of muffins, avocado, poached eggs and smoked salmon and accompanied by a green salad; or enjoy their perfect shakshuka.

Photo by Eloïse Cirak

The best steak tartare in Paris

Local Constan usually opts for Au Metro when he’s really feeling like some meat. This restaurant offers specials from the French Basque country, and one of them has to be their exceptional steak tartare with a tantalising mix of capers, pickles, mayonnaise, onion and egg yolk. Constan recommends ordering it “just passed by the plancha” (in French: steak tartare poele), which will give it a crust of caramelised beef and its characteristic taste.

Photo by Constantino Longares

Vegan heaven

If instead of meat you’d much rather have something plant-based (not as easy as you might expect in Paris!), then Wild & The Moon should be your go-to spot. This beautifully designed restaurant is aptly reminiscent of an urban jungle hideout. They serve one hot meal per day, as well as salads, sandwiches, desserts like matcha truffles or drinks like rose lattes. Local Cristina’s favourite is the Ocean Dream smoothie (coloured baby blue by the spirulina).

Photo by Wild & The Moon

Modern African family restaurant

BMK was created in 2017 by two brothers, Fouss and Abdou, who had the idea to fuse African and Western cuisines to introduce Parisians to the gastronomy of the African continent in a modern way. Their whole family helped them realise their idea, and today it remains a real family business – you can feel it by how warm and friendly it is! Local Eloïse recommends the chicken yassa, but don’t miss the mafé, with a typical bissap juice to drink and some revisited banana bread or chocolate cake for dessert!

Photo by Eloïse Cirak