Madrid's restaurant scene is not especially revered on an international scope, but there are tons of sumptuous corners to grub if you know where to look.
Regional Madrid cuisine is generally hearty - stews, meats, beans, eggs - and rife with fried options (see Food in Madrid for more). The capital's strong point, however, is its wide selection of restaurants from other Spanish regions (Basque, Galician, Catalan, Andalusian) and rich tapas culture. International restaurants are also helping to energize the city's gastronomical status with their ever-increasing variety and quality.
Madrid Restaurant Prices
It's still very possible to get an excellent meal in Madrid with spending an arm and a leg. See our list of cheap restaurants in Madrid for the best deals a budget. On the other hand, there are plenty of opportunities to fork out more than 35€ per person if high cuisine suits your fancy.
Lunch ("la comida") is the meal most valued by Spaniards and you'll do well to follow their lead if you want to spend light. Most restaurants offer a "menú del día" at lunchtime. This is different from the "carta" -- the normal menu. Menú del día is a prix fixe meal with appetizer ("primero"), a main dish ("segundo"), dessert ("postre") and a beverage all included. The price range is generally between 7.50€ and 15€.
Madrid Restaurant Hours
Most "cafeterías" open for breakfast at 8am or so. A typical "desayuno" in Madrid consists of coffee/ juice and pastry/ toast or, for those with a bigger appetite, a slice of Spanish omelet ("pincho de tortilla").
Don't expect to eat lunch before 1:00pm at the very earliest. Most Madrid restaurants will start serving lunch around 1:30pm and end around 4pm, but the most typical time to get started is sometime between 2pm-3:30pm.
Craving an afternoon snack? Your best bet will be any old cafetería because most restaurants close between 4pm and 8:30pm.
The early birds - in other words, tourists - may start dinner at 8:30pm. But Spaniards don't start their "cena" until 9pm at the earliest. Dinner is much lighter than lunch and on the weekends it's typical to meet to dine between 10 and 11pm.