In Spain, people don´t take a bagged lunch to work... it´s just not done. And most companies do not have cafeterias on-site, so the vast majority of workers (both blue- and white-collar) go out to eat for lunch. To help the workforce of Spain eat lunch cheaply, most restaurants and bars have a menú del día during lunch hours (in Spain, typical lunch times range from 1:30pm to 3pm; but this does not stop them from refering to lunch time as ¨mediodía¨).
The menú del día is a pre-fixe menu that usually has 3 or 4 starters, 5 or 6 mains, and includes a drink (most people have beer or wine), dessert, and coffee. Depending on the level of the restaurant, the menú del día may cost between €8 to 15. Needless to say, this is something we need to import to the U.S. Each restaurant/bar posts the menú del día in the window or outside so you can decide if you´re interested.
If you walk around town looking at the menús del día, one dish you will often see is Cocido Madrileño. Madrileños are very proud of this dish because it is native to Madrid (most of the famous Spanish dishes are from the provinces). It´s quite an interesting dish because it is both a starter and an entrée.
Cocido Madrileño is a chickpea stew with vegetables and several types of meat. It arrives at your table in a small clay pot, and is accompanied by a bowl of fidoes (tiny little pieces of pasta). Using the lid of the clay pot as a strainer, you pour the broth (and only the broth) of the stew into the fideos, and there´s your starter (this is actually my favorite part). When you´ve finished that, you pour the solids remaining in the clay pot onto a plate, and this is your entrée. It´s not cocido madrileño without chickpeas, but the rest can be any number of a combination of vegetables and meats. Typically you´ll find carrots, potatoes, various sausages, beef, chicken, or even callos (Callos translates to stripe in English, but I´d never heard of this word to refer to a food before... I´ll talk more about callos in a future post).
It´s not my favorite Spanish dish, but it´s a necessary part of the Madrileño experience, and can be quite good depending on where you go. Taberna La Bola has a reupation for the best cocido madrileño in town, and it´s certainly the best place I´ve had it.