Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tasty Tuesday: Casa Julio

a.k.a. I Eat Where U2 Eats
a.k.a. If It's Good Enough for Bono, It's Good Enough for Me

What happens when three girls are left with enough money to feed themselves for a week and are told to enjoy “a nice dinner”? They go out for drinks, of course!

A while back, one of my roommates’ dad came to Madrid for a business trip. We met him briefly and he seemed nice, although apparently he was also super generous, because he left my roommate a huge wad of cash and told her to treat us to dinner.

After some deliberation, the three of us (our other roommate was home in Milan for the week) decided to ir de marcha Spain-styles, which means bar-hopping all night long, hitting up six or seven different venues in a single night.

One of our first stops was a place my Spanish roommate had mentioned, a place that was sort of well-known but not on the typical tourist’s path – Casa Julio.

Casa Julio is famous for two things: their croquetas and for being “The U2 Tavern.” Apparently, one night in 2003, when U2 was in town for a shoot, they were wandering the streets of Malasaña (my neighbourhood!) when they stumbled into Casa Julio. They loved the little tavern and the croquetas, made by a teeny little old lady with an impressive crown of fluffy, white hair, named Maria Teresa, whom Bono called “Mamá.”

Since then, the bar has developed a bit of a following with the younger set. From experience, I can tell you that cute, local boys can always be found here in the evenings, especially on weekends, knocking back a beer or two and enjoying some munchies.

The tavern itself is pretty small, but it’s always packed, unless you decide to dine at a very unSpanish 7:30pm or so. The décor is simple, but welcoming, and all the tables are wiped down scrupulously by the kind lady who works the bar. Her husband(?) goes around to collect glasses and bottles as soon as they are emptied.

But of course, you must, must, must come here for their famous croquetas – they’re the best I’ve had in Madrid, and the prices are more than reasonable. Six croquettes cost 5€ and a dozen cost 10€. Unlike the ones I’ve had at other places, their croquetas are perfectly round spheres – more common are the oblong/egg-shaped versions.

What sets their croquettes apart, besides the fact that they’re made fresh to order, are the variety and the quality. They come in…maybe seven or eight different flavours, including Spanish jamón, spinach and gorgonzola, cod, morcilla (blood sausage – I promise this tastes way better than it sounds!), mushrooms…and a couple other ones I can’t remember.

What I love about their croquetas is that they’re super flavourful. A croqueta/croquette is basically thickened béchamel sauce that’s made into a mass and fried. Whenever I had it somewhere else, it’d just taste like…salty creaminess with not much flavour and a surprise in the middle, whatever filling it’s supposed to have. But Casa Julio croquetas are made in such a way that the béchamel sauce itself is completely infused with the filling ingredient and its flavours. They are so, so yummy. Jamón is my favourite.

A caveat: don’t be silly like me and eat a half dozen all by yourself. I nearly wanted to puke afterwards because they are very filling. Instead, I’d suggest going with friends and sharing a plate – after all, sharing is caring, right? :D

Casa Julio is located at:
C/ de La Madera, 37
28004 Madrid

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