Best street food in Madrid: Traditional calamari sandwich

December 03, 2019
Cecilia Cambero

Landlocked Madrid is more than 300km from the ocean; Spanish cuisine tends to be all about the meat and potatoes, so you might be surprised to discover the ingredients of this traditional Madrid sandwich.

Buttered calamari rings are deep fried in Spanish olive oil and served in a delicious, crispy baguette. It’s finished off with a drizzle of handmade alioli and a splash of lemon juice. And the perfect accompaniment? Beer of course – it’s the ideal pairing for this super simple (and super tasty) sandwich. Sabroso!

So where’s the best place to find it? Two words – Plaza Mayor. This place has been the heart of Spain’s capital for decades. It’s a beautiful place to hang out with friends, spend time with family or simply indulge in a spot of people watching. And since it’s one of Madrid’s most popular areas, it’s no wonder so many sandwich vendors have chosen to set up shop here. In fact, there are so many, you’ll find yourself inhaling the aroma of fresh calamari as soon as you step into the square.

La Campana have sold the Madrid sandwich for 70 years, during which time they’ve maintained a great reputation for their fast and welcoming service. Queues here sometimes snake 100 metres down the road, but don’t be put off – you’ll still get service with a smile – and a delicious sandwich in less than 10 minutes. Result. And if you want to sneak a peek at how this famous dish is crafted, just take a look through the street-level windows to see the chefs at work in their sparkling clean kitchen.

Still wondering why Madrid’s signature dish is seafood-based? Well, history tells us that the initial importation of fish and shellfish into Madrid was prompted by restrictions on the consumption of meat for religious reasons. As a result, cod and calamari fast became key ingredients for Madrid cuisine. And since they can both be easily preserved using salt, this was no problem for the 17th century Madrilenian’s who would spend up to 12 days travelling by horse and carriage to deliver fresh fish from the coast. OK, OK, we hear you – a cod sandwich sounds pretty unappetising. But freshly baked bread, stuffed with buttered calamari and a pinch of lemon quickly became a local delicacy. And when you taste it, you’ll soon see why.

Visit Plaza Mayor on a Sunday and you’ll join many local people – they love to spend “the day of rest” here, taking a leisurely stroll through the city and finishing with a bocadillo de calamares at La Campana, one of the (many!) purveyors of the Madrid sandwich at this city centre plaza. A dedicated distributor comes here daily to deliver fresh calamari, sourced from the town of Vigo

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