Friday, June 18, 2010

Vegan in Spain: Barcelona & Madrid

Hoorah! The final installment of our travel food report... with just a few pics of note from Barcelona & Madrid. It's funny, looking at these pictures I find myself thinking "oh, there was lots of good stuff to eat..." but somehow I really spent a LOT of time in Spain being hungry. I even lost 7 lbs on this trip, so I know I wasn't making it all up. I think I usually got one good meal in, but there was never any breakfast - and I'm definitely a breakfast person, and exactly when I might find that one good meal was usually an unknown. Nonetheless, there were a few special highlight meals...

Oh, Maoz Falafel, how very very grateful I was to find you. Bread! Protein! Fresh Veggie! Cooked Veggie! All in one! Mmmmm. I went to Maoz twice in Barcelona and once in Madrid. Maoz is like a salad bar, but it's a falafel bar. You get a big pita, stuffed full with falafels, and then you get to pick from a big buffet of all sorts of goodies what you want to have added to your falafel sandwich. It is all vegetarian and about 90% vegan.

I liked mine with the chickpea salad, fresh tomatoey salsa, and the 5-star roasted cauliflower! Oh, and the green olive tapenade! Mmmmm.

Barcelona has a few really great big markets, full of stalls selling fruits and veggies and candies and nuts and various other non-vegan things that I won't acknowledge! So, there was definitely no shortage of nice fruit available.

Also in Barcelona, we discovered some of the small neighborhoody bakeries sold these great little pizza-type numbers - with no cheese!! Score! Being such a fan of baking and baked goodies, I loved looking at all the beautiful displays of baked goods... but there was almost never anything for me (other than the infamous plain bread). So, finding these pizza treats was very nice. I don't think I could emphasize how GREAT it felt to eat a hearty savory snack, with veggies and spices and flavors (ie. not plain crackers or plain bread or a ClifBar)... Or how so super sad I was when I dropped my slice of the zucchini one on the rainy street. I was very nearly reduced to tears. Sad, hungry Amey.

I also found this great little pizza deal with roasted bell peppers and roasted eggplant strips - it was great and I'm looking forward to recreating it sometime soon here at home. To my surprise, it had a little bit of sugar sprinkled on it. ! Unexpected, but not entirely unwelcome. On the left is a non-vegan, but delicious-looking, chocolate-filled treat belonging to Mr. Vegan Eats & Treats. Next time you are in Barcelona, definitely check out the bakeries for these pizza dealies, as they are definitely yummy! Also, eating this pizza thing will help you feel not so down in the dumps about not being able to find a vegan version of whatever Mr. VE&T is getting to eat!

We were only in Madrid for a couple of days, and generally I ate a lot of bread and fruit... but we did have one really truly delicious meal at Yerba Buena. Wow! It's in all-vegetarian menu with LOADS of all-vegan options, and also many gluten-free options!! I don't remember what Mr VE&T had, but I know he absolutely loved it. I ordered the paella, and it was very lovely. Fresh and flavorful, rich and full of veggies, and by the end of the meal that whole plate was CLEAN as a whistle, even all those little dots of green sauce were gone! Also, it's worth mentioning that they brought some really great (and big!) dark, whole-grain rolls before the meal and they were wonderful. I'm not a total healthnut, and I can definitely get behind eating loads of bread made with plain flour. But the bread here was hearty and substantial, and had a really great flavor, and I was very grateful for it.

Of course I ordered dessert! What do you take me for?! Chocolate ice cream with cornflakes (?!) - again, not something I would have ever thought of, but not altogether wrong either. The little wafer cookies weren't vegan, just to be clear, so Mr. VE&T took care of those for me. It's not a low cost spot, but the servings are generous at YerbaBuena and you would be crazy to skip this spot if you are in Madrid.

And last, but not least... airplane food!! You know you've had a less-than-perfect foodie travel experience when you are genuinely thrilled about your airplane meal. Sad, but very true. Delta Airlines brought me this "vegan" meal, and despite the "pure Irish butter" and the abundant feta cheese on my salad, I was totally stoked. Seriously, that little mound of spinach went down the hatch in seconds flat. How did they know that I was missing greens and beans more than anything else on this whole trip? I think I could have eaten four of those little entrees if they had let me.

Of course it's always nice to come home and see our pets and get back into our own little groove at home, but it was especially nice to get home the night before my favorite farmer's market here in Santa Cruz. You can bet I was down there the next day, spending wads of cash on fruit and greens and veggies and dreaming of piles of vegan food that I could cook up for myself. Ahhhhhh... home sweet home!


  1. When we were in Barcelona for two weeks we found a cafeteria-type restaurant that was vegetarian with vegan options, and we ate there practically every day! There wasn't a Maoz, unfortunately. We ate at Maoz in Florida last winter, and it was great! I love the salad bar where you can put anything you want on your falafel.

  2. Amy you make being vegan sound kinda awesome and brave : )

  3. Oh no! I'm sorry your zucchini pizza fell on the street, I would be so sad about that, too! But I'm glad you were able to find a couple of good eats - I love reading about vegan travelling. I love Maoz, too, but I've never seen those things in the salad bar over here. Your pita looks delicious :)

    Hope you got to enjoy lots of delicious homemade veggie food when you finally had the opportunity to cook again! :)

  4. You make being vegan in Spain sound difficult, but I was in Madrid and Barcelona for 8 days and never once went hungry. I had a luna bar or clif bar for breakfast (I was kinda expecting breakfast to not really happen, but eating bars for breakfast helped me save money for the other meals, too!) but every other meal was eaten out in a restaurant. I did research before I went and found vegan, vegetarian, and vegan friendly meat restaurants everywhere. The only time it was hard to find somewhere to eat was on Christmas day right after I got off the plane! (It's a catholic country, everything was closed! we had Chinese and it was delish!) I know you say you are a wanderer not a planner, but with a little planning you would have eaten much better and gotten to try lots of vegan places!

  5. ah! Maoz! I've been there! Well, to the one in Paris anyways. I was so excited when I found it. Looks like your travels are really going great!

  6. @ Molly -
    Yeah, I actually did a lot of planning and found all these great places that I DID find on Happy Cow. I'm not saying Spain was the worst place ever to be vegan - just that it really required planning. Like if we ended up investigating some quiet residential part of town for the day, you could pretty much bet that it would be really hard to find much to eat. Also, my boyfriend isn't a vegan, so I try not to totally dominate the travel agenda around my specialized eating needs - after all, he likes to sample the local spots and such. I think that increased my sense of there not being too much for me to eat, because we were spending a lot of time in traditional eateries full of hanging pig legs and such. Boo! But I agree with you that HappyCow is a total lifesaver ... what an incredible resource!

  7. It looks like you had a blast! What fun! And what beautiful, fresh food. Everything looks delicious, but those adorable little pizzas stole the show. YUM!

  8. Anonymous7:40 AM

    Oh, that's great to know they have Maoz in Barcelona and Madrid! I just recently went to the one they opened in Berkeley and had a very delicious and nutritious falafal salad plate. That must have been so great to have that on the trip.

    Loved the whole review of the trip, and glad that you survived (though wish you had had few more options) and got some new cooking ideas out of it!

    :-) jen e.

  9. Mmmmm, Maoz! I've been to the new one in Berkeley a few times, and it's so good. Last time I got the salad instead of the sandwich just so I could dump more stuff on top. The roasted broccoli and cauliflower is the best! The fruit stall and focaccia pizza look awesome too. And...Delta, tried, right?

  10. Anonymous6:07 AM

    When I was in Barcelona I definitely gained weight! I loved the maoz falafel and thank you for the pizza tip. I never saw those. Probably because I didn't expect to find vegan pizza. Yerba Buena sounds like a fantastic spot, too!

  11. ^ that was me :)

  12. I've been wanting to try Maoz! Ice cream with cornflakes is so Japanese!

  13. Anonymous7:25 PM

    I lived in Madrid for 6 months, and although I wasn't vegan then, I did enjoy Maoz and Yerba Buena. In addition, there was this great natural food store/vegetarian buffet on Calle de las Huertas, but it seems to have closed down. (I highly recommend checking out that neighborhood anyway.) There was also a salad buffet called Fresc Co (not 100% vegetarian).

    If you are traveling to Spain, some safe bets are vegetarian paella, gazpacho, bread with olive oil, patatas bravas, tostadas con tomate (a great savory breakfast choice) and horchata. A typical salad will have tomatoes, lettuce, sometimes chickpeas and a simple oil and vinegar dressing. If all else fails, go to a Mercadona and stock up on canned beans, rice, fresh veggies and soy milk. Buen provecho!

  14. I stumbled on your blog searching for "vegan spain"! so and my friend are vegans from the US in Spain blogging about our trip!

  15. Anonymous7:39 AM

    When I was in Spain in '98, I met my first vegetarian restaurant, in Madrid. Does Vegetalia still exist? It was so good. :-)

  16. Hi, I'm vegan.

    I have just been in Yerbabuena (my lunch today). The place is simple (in a nice way), people is extraordinarily sympatethic and the food very very delicious and with a great variety.

    Just for your information, the restaurant staff told me the chocolate icecream is not vegan. Anyway, I took a vegan icecream (among mango, lemon and melon I chose lemon) and it was very tasteful (and normal icecream alike).

    Ah, by the way, their bread is awesome. I even asked them not to put anyone more on my table or I wouldnt stop eating. I'm serious!

    It's my second time in Madrid and "Yerbabuena" is surely in the list of great places to go here. I would also reccomend the restaurant "El Vergel" (actually they are not only a restaurant, but also a small supermarket/grocery).

    Surely for the next few days I'm here and for the next trips I will use both places to have some good food (not only to feel full).

  17. Anonymous12:11 PM


    I'm in Madrid at the moment and I must say that Spain is one of the worst places to be vegan!
    Everytime I ordered a vegetable sandwich I found tuna in it and if I ordered it without tuna and eggs I got it woth tuna and eggs and mayonnaise! I got crazy and angry about it! I have to say that I'm on this little trip with non-vegans, but it's terrible! They ignore everything and aren't able to understand that there are some people who don't eat everything!
    Except these meal desasters there's another thing which makes me very sad - nearly everybody wears fur and nobody cares about environment or animals!

    Nice that you all have better experiences - probably because of doing better research!



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