Madrid Eats: Cafe Melo's famous "sneaker" sandwich

Madrid Eats: Cafe Melo's famous "sneaker" sandwich

Lest you think that I only eat at high-end tapas places in Madrid based on my last posts on Juana la Loca and Sala de Despiece, let me introduce you to Cafe Melo's Bar in the Lavapies neighborhood.

When I go to Madrid, I usually stay with my friend in the Retiro neighborhood to the east of the Retiro park, and if not, there's an "hostal" (this Spanish word does not translate to hostel, it's more like a guest house) next to the Thyssen Museum which I love: great value and a central yet quiet location. Well, that unbeatable combination leads it to be consistently booked up, so on my last trip I needed to find another place to stay.

I decided to try out an hostal in the Lavapies neighborhood, an immigrant-heavy recently hip (unsurprisingly) area a bit northwest of the main Atocha train station. Eating options included a TON of Indian restaurants one after the other, Senegalese food, and hipster souvlaki and Neapolitan pizza joints. I decided to try out Cafe Melo's, since it seemed to be a place that's been around for a while, and has a super-focused menu which I love.

I would recommend getting there right at 8pm when they open, because by about 8:20 it is so packed, you can't move a single inch!

Cafe Melos interior

I absolutely LOVE that their menu is so tight - only 8 items, and actually one of the quesos together with the lacón (cooked ham), form the famous zapatilla ("sneaker") sandwich. So they really only have just a handful of ingredients on hand: lots of cheese, and a ton of pimientos!

The sign on the right rhymes: "If you want to enjoy eating a ton, order pimientos from Padrón." Maybe the owner, who basically runs the whole place, is from Galicia? The cheese and the Padrón peppers are from there...

So what is the zapatilla "sneaker" sandwich? It is a HUGE sandwich of griddled bread, with lacón (cooked ham) and cheese spilling out. I think there were a couple cheeses melting inside, one of which was a tetilla ("tit") cheese. The picture below shows a 1/2 sandwich, which can really fill two people up! And it goes for only 6€ (a whole zapatilla goes for 11€).

Cafe Melos Zapatilla

I also had to of course try their croquetas, which were likewise oversized, and well-executed with a molten interior (each one is 1.60€). It doesn't look like a lot of food, but the 1/4 zapatilla and one croqueta per person were a bit much to finish for dinner!

I loved Cafe Melo's: the throbs of people turning out for a menu with just a handful of items is a testament to the quality of the food. Eventually, the crowd turned out to be a bit much, where people had to eat standing up with nowhere to put their food. I can imagine eating a croqueta like that, but how do you tackle the monster zapatilla? I'd recommend getting there early to stake out a spot on a little ledge on which to perch your food - it's worth a visit especially if you're hungry!


Cafe Melo's Bar

Calle del Ave María, 44

28012 Madrid


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