The Spanish really do love their pork products, and since no bar in Spain is complete without being decorated with dangling legs of “jamón,” cured Spanish ham, keeping kosher while traveling the Iberian Peninsula seems next to impossible. While kosher eateries are few and far between in Spain’s capital, Madrid, they do exist if you look beyond the bars and restaurants downtown.
Spain is a predominantly Catholic country, but since 1968 there has been a boom in the Jewish community, and the culture since then has flourished. Jewish travelers nowadays have the option to sample Sephardic cuisine at a restaurant or can simply go self-catering with kosher ingredients from one of the delis close to the Beth Yaacov Synagogue in the neighborhood of Chamberí, that is accessible from the city center by public transport.
There is only one kosher restaurant in Madrid that is hechsher certified, and while this does limit your choices when it comes to eating out, there are alternatives in the city to consider, such as the Chabad of Madrid, which offers kosher meals on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays and also welcomes Jewish travelers to partake in their Sabbath hospitalities.
The district of Chamberí, close to the metro station Iglesia, is a residential neighborhood characterized by 19th century apartment blocks with individual artisanal features and iron balconies; the streets are lined with trees, with the occasional fountain in punctuated squares. Chamberí is also home to a small modern day Jewish community, with a Sephardic synagogue and cultural center, but you’ll also find a Sephardic restaurant and kosher delicatessens nearby. La Escudilla is a restaurant in Madrid with kosher standing offering a range of traditional Sephardic cuisine.
This family-run restaurant has a wide selection of meat dishes, salads, soups and desserts with a North African influence. The restaurant is also affiliated with the Carnicería Shalom, a local butcher offering kosher products all year long. Next door to the synagogue in Calle Balmes is “La Comunidad Judía de Madrid,” the Jewish Community of Madrid, that has a restaurant which caters for groups via reservation, not to mention the Carnicería Elias, a kosher store that is more than just a butcher, but also sells groceries and packaged kosher food to go. You can also find kosher bread at the Boutique de Pan round the corner, although some of the pastries and bread do not have kosher standing so you’ll need ask for “el pan de la comunidad judía.”
The El Corte Inglés is a chain of department stores located all around the city, and they also carry kosher products in their gourmet supermarket.
For those seeking something on the informal and funky side, you might be interested in Marion Café/Bar, a restaurant, bar and art gallery close to Madrid’s center. Though Marion Café/Bar may not be hechsher certified, this Jewish-owned café offers vegan and kosher Sephardic “tapas,” Spanish style appetizers, and serves kosher wine with hechsher. This bohemian joint close to Plaza España runs regular events such as poetry readings, live music, flamenco and various performances, allowing you to enjoy Madrid’s nightlife —the kosher way.
Keeping kosher while visiting Spain’s vibrant capital may appear to be a challenge, but whether you want to sample kosher Sephardic cuisine in a restaurant, eat with the local Jewish community, opt for self-catering or if you prefer to delve into Madrid’s vibrant art scene over vegan Sephardic tapas, there is something for everyone looking to keep kosher while traveling in the country of ham—no matter what the budget is.