When looking for the best restaurants in Madrid, it´s common to go straight for the Spanish tapas, or the modern, gastro-style restaurants, which are abundant and flourishing in Madrid. Those places are great, but if there is one thing that Madrid is great for, it´s the abundance of various cultures and ethnicity that co-exist in this city, which means there is a flourishing culture of ethnic restaurants that are cooking the most flavorful dishes from their home countries.
One of these great Madrid restaurants, that absolutely blew me away, was Baobab, a modestly decorated and unsuspecting Senegalese restaurant in Lavapies. While writing this article, I learned that Baobab actually means “a short tree with a very thick trunk and large edible fruit, living to a great age.” This is definitely one of those “you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover” type of places when it comes to the restaurant style and the indiscernible food that you will be served. With that being said, trust me when I say that you need to push your reservations aside and give this place a go.
I had passed it a million times before, always taking note of how it draws a huge crowd for beers out on their expansive patio on nice days. What I didn’t know is that this seemingly average place has some of the most delicious and flavorful food I have ever had in Madrid-and possibly- my life.
My friends suggested something different from the usual tapas and “gastro” food for our Sunday Night Restaurant Dinner, so we decided to give this place a try. We were looking for ethnic and, hearty home-cooked food and were blown away by what we got!
The menu at Baobab is quite short and basically follows the theme of “Senegalese rice + your protein of choice.” It offers stews as well as and your typical meat and potato plate. We loved that each dish was so reasonably priced!
We had looked at pictures online before coming, and if you´re new to ethnic food, the pictures can be intimidating, but don´t let them scare you away. Trust me when I say: you will love this food. At the restaurants, we each ordered rice and either chicken or fish. We placed our orders and sat patiently, taking note of the very, very simple decor (similar to any neighborhood cafeteria in Madrid), with the small groups of people hanging out to catch the game with a round of beers. Within minutes, we had big plates of hot, insanely flavorful rice, vegetables, fish (for me), and preserved lemons that were out of this world
The rice was chewy and hearty, while the yuca and carrots were loaded with whatever spices they use to create a multitude of flavors. The fish was cooked perfectly, adding some protein and heft to the meal. Paired with the preserved lemons (which I had never had), it was quite the culinary experience. We “mmmm-ed” our way through the entire meal, vowing to come back as soon as possible. By the time we left, the restaurant was completely full of people trying a variety of dishes- from rice, to stew, to various meats. And…. needless to say, we did a pretty decent job of cleaning our plates. What’s left on the plates was only there because we were stuffed to the brim and actually sad that we couldn’t eat more.
If you´re looking for some hearty food in Madrid, bursting with new flavors, check out Baobab in Lavapies. Get there early! It fills up quickly.
Address: Calle de Cabestreros, 1, 28012 Madrid
Closest metros: Lavapies, Embajadores, Tirso de Molina