Sunday, 12 October 2014

Churros con Chocolate at Chocolateria San Gines

                                Image from

Ah Churros con Chocolate.  The quintessential Spanish breakfast of fried dough sticks and rich, spoonable  hot chocolate.

The first time I had churros con chocolate in Spain, I had a mild shock.  The churros was bland with just a hint of salt, and yes it was greasy.  This was not the cinnamon-powdered sweet dough sticks I have learned to think of as churros.  So I do understand how tourists are divided after they try their first truly Spanish version of churros con chocolate.  It´s   a love-it or hate-it thing but definitely something one must try at least once when he finds himself in Spain.

The past month, I´ve had a couple of people visiting me in Madrid.  My brother came for a two week European vacation, and then just last week, one of my best friends from Holland came for a weekender.  Of course, they had to  have the churros con chocolate experience.

And what better place to have churros than at Chocolateria San Gines,  the most famous churreria in Madrid.  San Gines is just a five minute walk from the Madrid  Puerto del Sol  Metro station,  right in the city centre.   Thus a breakfast at San Gines is a perfect start for a day of touring Madrid since it is close to most of the usual tourist spots --- Plaza Mayor,  Mercado San Miguel, Cava Baja (the street famous for their tapas), and the Gran Via shopping street.  It is also open 24 hours, so you can drop by whenever you want. In fact it is a favourite  after-gimmick stop of revellers from the clubs and bars nearby.

A chocolateria with more than a hundred years of history must be doing something right.  

San Gines, despite its popularity, is quite small and the place can get really busy. On weekend mornings the queue made up of  both tourists and locals ambling for their morning treats can get very long and the place becomes a bit frenzied with the store staff whizzing through with plates of fried doughs and cups of hot drinks.  If one wants some quiet with his churros, then visit San Gines at off-peak hours,  say after lunch or at dinner time when most people are preoccupied with other things.
                                The Chocolateria at a busy time

Despite its fame,  San Gines is in essence a very down-to-earth establishment.  The ordering process is simple,  you go to the till, order your treats,  get the receipt, find a table and wait for a waiter to check your receipt and serve you your churros.

San Gines only serves churros, porras and a cake or two, though why one would go to San Gines for cake is beyond my comprehension.

Churros, I am sure, you are familiar with. But porras?
                                Photo from

Porras is the big, bulky brother of Churros.  Think churros but heftier, like three times the girth of a regular churros.  Because it is thicker, it has a more bread-like texture than churros, but the taste is the same:  the slick, salty, bland flavour of fried dough.

                                            My brother and his churros

Although tourists troop to San Gines like ants to sugar, it is definitely not a tourist trap.  The staff aren´t artificially cheerful nor condescending. Sometimes, when the place becomes busy, they might even be mistaken as rude.  But don´t take offense and  just enjoy the busy atmosphere.  Madrilenos also love the place.  Because, what´s not to love?  A plate of six churros and a cup of thick chocolate costs only 3.80€.  Beware though,  six pieces of churros might be too much for a single person to consume. Those dough sticks are pretty heavy on the gut.  What we usually do is order a set of six churros and a cup of hot chocolate and one additional cup of hot chocolate (2.5€ a cup). At less than 6€, a pretty inexpensive yet filling breakfast for two.

So how is the churros at San Gines?  Well, they are freshly fried, clean-tasting and crispy.  Nothing to complain about, really.  But to my mind  there´s a limit to the deliciousness of  fried dough sticks.  There´s not a hint of sweetness to them, they are bland and greasy so after a few sticks, the novelty wears off.  Of course, that is why churros is partnered with thick hot chocolate.  Dip the sticks into the cacao liquid and you get the sweetness and chocolate richness you long for.  And that is what makes San Gines a cut above the rest.  Their churros is good, albeit I think not the best, but their hot chocolate is liquid gold.  You dip a spoonful, take a lick and it is the full on chocolate flavour that dominates, not sweetness, not vanilla, but bold chocolate goodness.

                                 Image from

I can go without the churros from San Gines, not because they´re bad, but because I personally do not like churros that much.  But their hot chocolate, now that´s something worth coming back to.  And so, really I think Chocolateria San Gines is aptly named.  It is first and foremost a place to get a cup of the thickest, most delicious hot chocolate in Madrid.  While it is the churros that draws people  to visit San Gines, I bet that for most,  it is the thick, delicious chocolate that  they remember most, the churros, while good are secondary:  long fried sticks used as edible vessels to carry forth thick chocolate goodness.

Chocolateria San Gines
Pasadizo San Gines, 5 Madrid
Walking Distance from the following Metro Stations ( Puerta del Sol, Gran Via)
Open 24 hours


  1. As much as I love churros, I feel I'm missing something I don't have a couple of porras as well.

  2. Hi Marox! I sometimes like porras more than churros too! The first time I tried porras was when I was in Andalusia for a break, I ordered some churros and served me these thick fried dough sticks which turned out to be porras!


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