All the places I mention below, and more, are on this Google map.
I’ve basically divided them into two; posh and ordinary, although the former does not necessarily mean expensive. My info was garnered from the Guia Repsol and Lonely Planet guides, and the young school staff that I worked with.
For a posher tapeo (tapas crawl) you could start off in Plaza del Pilar which is due south of Plaza Mayor.
I began at the seemingly upmarket Bar Espana (High Intermediate B+) at 9 Plaza del Pilar where I had three complimentary tapas and a caña for a piffling €3.
The chewy Torreneos (deep-fried belly pork) and the insipid Asadillo soup were fine (B and B-) but the Tortilla with boiled ham and young fresh manchego knocked my socks off (A+). The tortilla had been cut in half widthways and used to sandwich the thin slices of ham and cheese before being sliced into segments and pinned with together with a toothpick.
I also had a beer next door (9 Plaza del Pilar) at the modern and fairly atmospheric (incense sticks in the loos) Bar Los Faroles (Intermediate B) but was unimpressed by their cold complimentary Patatas Bravas (C+).
From here you should go round the corner to Miami Gastro www.miamigastro.es (Advanced A) at 2 Avenida Rey Santo which is perhaps the best place to eat in town. Although you can have tapas, I came for a multi-course lunch one day.
The have four tasting menus priced between €30 and €45. I opted for the €40 version which began with Pan de Cristal con Paletilla Iberica, Tomate y Aceite de Oliva; light crunchy bread doused with olive oil and tomato pulp and topped with Jamon. It was excellent if rather messy to eat (A-).
I love a good Croqueta de Hongos (mushroom croquette) and this one was pretty decent (A+).
It’s hard to go wrong with simply salted Gambas Blancas Cocida, cooked white prawns (A).
The Ensalada Templada de Foie con Fresas, or seasonal salad with foie de gras and strawberries, was beautifully dressed and simply stunning (A+).
Codos de Bogavante en Tempura (lightly battered lobster) wasn’t available that day so I was given a huge portion of Tataki de Atun (seared sliced tuna), served with a wasabi mayo, instead (B).
Carrillada de Cerdo Iberico con Crema de Patate, or beef cheeks with potato puree, will always go down well with me (B+).
I can’t remember what the dessert was called but it was a kind of deep-fried crepe filled with vanilla pastry cream (B).
To drink I had three small glasses of Analiva Verdejo (B+) with the seafood and with the meat a glass of Casa Albali Gran Seleccion, a 2014 Tempranillo from the local Valdepenas DO which was fantastic (A). Sadly this vintage was no longer available when I looked on the internet. Both wines were made by Felix Solis Avanti, a winery based in nearby Valdepeñas.
With the dessert a glass of 2012 Pedro Ximenez Cosecha from Toro Albala which was also great (A). The amber colouring of this 17% PX was a revelation as it’s always been a very dark brown on the many occasions I’ve had it before.
Interestingly they serve Lavazza coffee here which seems like a nod to the superiority of Italian blends, although it wasn’t particularly well served(B).
The final bill came to €45.70 which was fantastic value given the quality and quantity of what I had. The bill also included a beer, a small bottle of water and a croquette and some crisps to eat while I was reading the menu. I thought that the otherwise excellent servers had forgot to add everything on but it was correct.
The best down-to-earth places are all next to each other in Plaza Mayor, in the centre of town.
Acuario (Elementary B) at 11 Plaza Mayor you get a free tapa with your drink which you choose from a menu of mainly fried items. They are particularly known for their filling Huevo con Béchamel; a croquette with a hard-boiled egg inside (B+). With a large beer the bill came to €3.30.
At El Portalon de La Casona (High Elementary B) next door at 9 Plaza Mayor they are known for serving good value-for-money tapas. I had their Migas (fried breadcrumbs with or without a fried egg) which was quite simple but tasty (B-). With a beer this came to only €2.10.
Next door again (8 Plaza Mayor) at El Ventero (Elementary C), the Migas is more varied with chunks of ham and other things, but not particularly nice (C-) and certainly not worth the €9.50 I paid.
They sell other typical Manchego dishes but I’m not sure I’d come here to eat again. However their tables outside are the best placed to view the Carillion clock which chimes at 6pm and 8pm in the evenings.
In the daytime you could finish with a sweet snack from Confitería La Deliciosa at 5 Plaza Mayor.
A good local wine shop is Vinalia at 4 Calle Lanza. I saw the PX pictured above for €18 there. They are also a wine bar.