Baco Y Beto

Located in a narrow space in the heart of Madrid’s gay district, Baco y Beto is the kind of neighborhood restaurant you show a friend or client, and then see there a week later with their friends. Suddenly you wish you had never brought them, because the place is packed—it seats 20, with additional standing room at the bar—and you don’t have a table. You’re jonesing for the wild mushrooms nestled under aioli and infused with black truffles; you can almost taste the artisan foie gras, paired with caramelized banana that melts in your mouth as Beto, the owner, whisks past you to serve them.

The grey walls are bare, punctuated by exposed wooden beams and silver tubing  in a marriage of industrial aesthetic and polished sophistication. A silver spout pours vermouth at one end of the wide, pine bar, and a cluster of Spanish reds beckons. Baco, of course, pays homage to the God of wine. The menu is a mélange of flavors culled from Beto’s world travel and Cuban roots, like the smoked cheese native to the Canary Island of Hierro, served warm with a velvety red pepper mojo picón sauce. Tonight, Beto serves a special dish not on the menu—Cuban-style chicken and rice like his mother used to make, because he had a hankering for it at the morning market. This is the essence of Baco y Beto—an ever-evolving menu inspired by an experience; food that is meant to be shared.

Beto exudes charm and grace that stems from a genuine delight in feeding people. With assistance from a Portugese chef and a Spanish waiter, he cooks, greets and serves. It should be noted that the kitchen is miniscule—it doesn’t fill 30 square feet.  Ultimately, one of Madrid’s most lauded gastronomical gems is manned by three individuals preparing delicacies in a space smaller than your bathroom. Beto fingers a patch of small, circular grooves indented in the bar. “A friend who dances flamenco climbed up here to perform one night,” he says, and his smile explains everything.

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– Laurie Smolenski