Over the weekend, I had an idea: to set my Zoom background to one of my favourite no-frills bars. When I joined my meeting, I was met with laughter and bewilderment, with one friend even asking how I got into a bar despite them being closed.
Bodegas Rojo, like any diamond in the rough, lies unbeknownst to many, tucked away on a residential street. Families and groups of teens walk by but few so much as throws a furtive glance its way.
The bares típicos are one of the things I deeply love Spain for. The way you can pop in for a coffee in a glass, a caña, a tapa, a few words with the person behind the bar and other people in the bar – a sense of connection to simple uplifting things.
Where I’m from, little buildings like this that look very different from those around them tell us where a bomb fell during WW2. Many pubs were destroyed during the war but new pubs were quickly erected (priorities) and they look a lot like Casa 42.
Allí está Maribel y los demás, sobre todo entre semana es raro el día que no ves a alguien con quien ya te habías topado en el mismo lugar. Mismo lugar, la bodega, y mismo lugar, el espacio que ese conocido ocupa en ella. Los habituales de los bares, tabernas y bodegas funcionan así, ya sabes.
The prices are low, the quality is fine, the service is quick, the menu is in Spanish and the soul and decor of the bar is utterly no-frills.
“I’m on the corner of Street of the Miraculous, and Bitterness Street”, laughs Mariano Casado Francisco. Rather than name his bar after the streets on which it resides, as so many no-frills bars do, he has named his bar after himself – the way his customers would inevitably have called it anyway.
Welcome to Bar La Muralla, a perfect, no-frills gem that does what it says on the window… and quite a bit more.
It’s 1979. Franco had died just four years earlier and the transition to democracy was well underway. Everything painted, moulded and built in this era would become a time capsule to Spain’s post-dictatorship optimism. Or, at least, what still remains of this era.
For the past few centuries, Spaniards from all over the country have been packing their bags, saying adios to their towns and villages and setting sail for the big city. When they arrive in Madrid, they disperse into many different lines of work, but there’s one business over any other that harks back to the most recent migration boom. You guessed it: Madrid’s no-frills bars.