Forks and Jets

The true story of a couple or amateur foodie travelogues going around the world


Belly of a Beast

June 5, 2009 Spain


There is an institution, a sort of difficult to predict but recognizable business, that foodies love. A worldwide institution, albeit not always easy to find: the mythical “Perfect Cheap Food.” We don’t mean fast food or a specific type of food such as tapas or appetizers. Perfect Cheap Foods comes from a particular restaurant that locals will line up out the door to eat at, like devoted worshippers. The taste of the food and the price make you certain it’s just some kind of magic trick, a mirage that will disappear when you leave.

An favorite example is Tito’s Tacos in Los Angeles. They serve a very limited menu of maybe six items such as tacos and burritos, allow no alterations or special requests and tastily stuff two people’s bellies for $12 dollars. If you ever find yourself in LA, go.

The funny thing is, this Perfect Cheap Food isn’t just in your city, or mine, it’s literally everywhere — you just have to know were to look. In Peru, we went to Juanito’s Bodega where they served four sandwiches, with no lettuce or tomato, just spicy aji peppers and meat or cheese. Cheap, even by Peruvian standards, these sandwiches were the kind that make you smile and notice how nice a day it is.

Here we are in Spain — it’s beautiful! The architecture, the people, the culture and even the weather have been amazing. But the prices are hard to swallow: a load of laundry can cost $20.

Ah, but we have some advice, a local secret of Madrid: El Tigre!

The beauty of El Tigre is that you can only order beer, only by little glasses. But each little glass comes with a heaping plate of food: Patatas Bravas (fried potato wedges with spicy sauce), Tortillas (frittatas), Tostas con Presunto (ham sandwiches), Lomo (pork loin) and chorizo, all for $2.40 — for the beer. San Miguel is an ok brew, but the food is great. How can such Perfect Cheap Food exist?

In fact the only real problem is you can’t eat more than 3 beers’ worth of food.


  1. jen laceda says:
    June 5, 2009

    Damn, how did you guys find this place? I always thought the “Perfect Cheap Food” was kind of an oxymoron. Perhaps, because if you’ve had disappointments after disappointments like I’ve had, it’s hard to keep the perspective. But it seems like El Tigre will make me believe again :) ! Even though I don’t drink beer (severe allergy), I’d go there in a heartbeat!


    • Team Rees says:
      June 6, 2009

      In Eva’s profession a lot of people refer to the triangle of options. On it you have “good”, “cheap”, and “fast.” The rule is that you can have any two you want, but then you’ll be sacrificing the third. We always hope that it doesn’t apply to food, and I think we manage to will it so quite often. We found El Tigre because we asked around for cheap eats, but sometimes we just cruise the neighborhoods at night seeing where all the locals are packed into. The great thing to us about Spain is the social eating, even late into the night. Restaurants serving tapas are set up to be a cheap, short stop. It’s foodie paradise in terms of variety — but we agree: not always easy to find the one.

      And everywhere the wine is almost as cheap as the beer. Incredible!


  2. Gillian says:
    June 6, 2009

    I love that you guys are finding all of these places! I hope we have such luck!!


  3. Da says:
    June 19, 2009

    “San Miguel is an ok brew” ??!!- oh no you didn’t; that’s the pride of the Pinoys there, yo!


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