The churrerías preserving Madrid’s disappearing street food culture

Author: Rishabh Agrawal

When I first moved to Spain, I lived in Alalpardo, a tiny pueblo about an hour’s drive north of Madrid. I would hardly ever come to the city, so of course within my first few visits to the centre, I was taken to San Gines to try their famous churros con chocolate. For a 16-year-old kid from India with a sweet tooth, the churros tasted like heaven.

[All photos were taken before the Covid-19 pandemic]

My curiosity got the better of me and I bought a few churros from the kiosk. Standing there on that cold, dark December evening, huddled around the bright lights, holding a steaming cup of chocolate in one hand and crispy, battered dough in the other was my best churro experience ever. The hot and crispy delicacies being made in front of me by the smiling churrero took me back to my childhood in India, standing on the street in front of a sweet shop, watching fresh Jalebis sizzling in a giant pan. 

Since moving to the city of Madrid, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see that roadside churrerías are not only fairly commonplace, but also have some of the best and cheapest churros around!

These stubborn little tin huts that churn out churros hold the torch of Madrid’s street food culture. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and our new desire for outdoor eating, they’re a way of life that may well return!

Dozens survive and business is still going strong, right across the full spectrum of generations. On any given evening, expect a queue to form under the glow of the churrería, lighting up the path for abuelos and their grandchildren, commuters grabbing a quick merienda on their way home, and groups of teens spending their pocket money. Here are just a few of my favourite churrerías in Madrid… 

Plaza Cristo Rey

This churrería is owned by Julia, 28, who has learned the art of churro making from her father, who has a mini empire of churrerías in Alcorcón. She opened her own churrería just two years ago after working with her father for nine years prior to this, and her experience shows as she serves up some of the best churros I’ve ever had. Not that Julia would ever admit to it,

You need to try my dad’s churros, they’re something else.

The chocolate covered churros are a must-have for those who can handle their sweetness. And if you order more than 1 euro worth of churros, you’re likely to receive an extra churro, ‘de regalo’. Its a sweet gesture that makes me feel special, even though I know it’s offered to almost everyone. 

  • Open September to May, Monday to Sunday 8 am–12 pm & 4.30 pm–9 pm
  • Six churros for €2
  • Location: Plaza Cristo Rey
Palos de la Frontera

This churrería tucked into a corner of the huge Ferrocarril roundabout and is owned by Kini, an ex-football player for AD Alcorcón  – a team that plays in the second division of Spain. Kini actually owns several such churrerías, including kiosks in Plaza de Castilla, Vallecas, Canillejas and more. Basically, if you see a churrería with the iconic rusty facade and golden lettering, it’s likely to be owned by Kini. 

Puente de Toledo

Kini owns another gem worth a shoutout: the kiosk on the corner of the round-about in front of the Puente de Toledo that passes over the scenic Madrid Rio. There’s no better place to take in the view than alongside Javier, a jovial 34 year-old Ecuadorian who runs this churrería, listening to him tell stories of his time in Spain while munching through a bag of churros.

  • Open September to May, Tuesday to Sunday 8 am–12 pm & 4.00 pm–9 pm
  • Six churros for €2.30
  • Location: Glorieta de Piramides
Plaza del Conde de Casal

This little churrería has being emitting steaming from its tiny chimney for 15 years. The store is run by a good-humoured, elderly Spanish man called Theo, a veteran of the churro-making industry with an amazing 32 years of experience behind him. His favourite time of the day is when the nearby school lets out and children of all ages come rushing to the churrería, uninhibited in their desire for some crunchy, hot churros at the end of a long school day.

This article was written and photos were taken by Rishabh Agrawal, an American-born Indian studying and playing semi-professional football here in Madrid. He feels happiest when in India, or on any football field, or, of course, in a no-frills bar talking about overthrowing the bourgeoisie. Read his article about Lavapiés’ iconic comic book store.

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