We chose to spend the Christmas holidays in Malaga for their light displays. They’re often described as being one of the most spectacular in Spain, and it’s true. The nightly musical shows featuring an estimated 730,000 lights over Calle Larios were a highlight during our month-long holiday trip to Spain.
But as it turned out, the Christmas lights weren’t the only thing that made our trip to Malaga so memorable. The food had a lot to do with that as well.
Unlike Barcelona, San Sebastian, Seville, Valencia, or even Logroño, Malaga may not be recognized as a top food destination in Spain but this Andalusian city is no lightweight when it comes to delicious Spanish cuisine. Positioned along Spain’s famed Costa del Sol, seafood dishes are noteworthy here, especially espeto de sardinas which is the one dish that every food traveler needs to try in Malaga.
If you’re planning a trip to southern Spain, regardless of the season, then here are twelve restaurants to visit for a memorable meal in Malaga.
MALAGA RESTAURANTS QUICK LINKS
To help you plan your trip to Malaga, we’ve put together links to recommended hotels, tours, and other travel-related services here.
Recommended hotels and apartments in the city center, one of the most convenient areas to stay for people on their first trip to Malaga.
- Sightseeing Tour: Roman Theatre and Alcazaba Guided Tour
- Food Tour: Malaga Tapas Crawl
- Day Trip: Caminito del Rey Guided Tour
- Cooking Classes: Cooking Classes in Malaga
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BEST RESTAURANTS IN MALAGA FOR SPANISH CUISINE
Local dishes are always a priority for us but as middle-aged travelers, mindful eating has become increasingly important to us as well. I’ve organized this Malaga food guide into two categories – traditional Spanish restaurants / tapas bars and healthy restaurants. You can click on a link to jump to either section of the guide.
SPANISH RESTAURANTS / TAPAS BARS
There’s no better way to start this Malaga food guide than with Beluga, one of the best restaurants in the centro area. They don’t have a Michelin Star (yet) but they are recommended in the Malaga Michelin Guide.
Run by a couple originally from Alicante, Beluga offers Mediterranean cuisine featuring Spanish rice dishes and lots of seafood. They offer two choices of tasting menu with wine pairing but you can go ala carte as well.
We ordered ala carte and they started us off with green olives, some excellent olive oil, crusty brown bread, and this delicious lobster bisque.
As an appetizer, I ordered this trio of French oysters, two served raw and the third topped with turbot foam.
These oxtail and foie croquettes were amazing. Each croquette was filled with the most tender oxtail meat before being served in a rich sauce made with foie gras. Delicious!
For my main course, I had this interesting sea bass fillet encased in seaweed papillote. It looks as if the seaweed was wrapped tightly around the sea bass and served as the pouch in which to cook the fillet. The fish was served with a side of black and white cauliflower puree and glazed French onions.
For her entree, my better half enjoyed these tasty red mullet fillets served in an aniseed bouillabaise with couscous and pickled vegetables.
As described, Beluga isn’t a Michelin-starred restaurant yet but in the opinion of many, it’s one of the best restaurants in downtown Malaga. The tasting menus look interesting as do their rice dishes like monkfish and shrimp rice or duck, pumpkin, and foie rice. Like paella, you’ll need a minimum of two to order any of their rice dishes.
Beluga has a lovely dining room but we opted to sit here on their outside terrace.
Address: Pl. de las Flores, 3, Distrito Centro, 29005 Málaga, Spain
Operating Hours: 1-4PM, 7:30-11PM, daily
What They Offer: Tasting menus, Spanish rice dishes, seafood
2. Casa Lola
One local recommending a restaurant is enough for us to add it to our itinerary. But when another local recommends the same restaurant, then it quickly zooms up to the top of our list. Such was the case with Casa Lola, a group of ultra-popular tapas bars in the heart of downtown Malaga.
Casa Lola was recommended to us by our Uber driver and our Airbnb host. As our driver put it, Casa Lola is one of the best restaurants in the city to try traditional cuisine in Malaga. They serve delicious tapas at reasonable prices – a winning combination that has diners lining up for a table at all times of the day.
Casa Lola offers a wide menu of tapas, pinchos, seafood dishes, and cured meats. Pictured below is a small portion of grilled tuna belly with onions doused in a generous amount of olive oil.
The tuna belly was nice but this plate of cold roasted peppers was incredible. I couldn’t get enough of this in Malaga! The peppers taste sweet and smokey when roasted and go exceptionally well with any seafood dish.
One thing we noticed many locals ordering were these small sandwiches called ligeritas. Casa Lola offers a few on their menu but what caught our eye was this torito bravo. It’s made with the most tender chunks of ox tail served with goat cheese and truffled mayonnaise. ¡Que rico!
The ligeritas are a popular item at Casa Lola but so are these pinchos. An iconic dish from northern Spain, they refer to a type of tapas dish skewered with a toothpick or small stick, often to a piece of bread.
On the right below is the cojonudo de jamon made with jamon iberico, a padron pepper, and a quail egg. On its left is the carpaccio de pulpo. It consists of a thin, tender slice of octopus served with paprika and garlic aioli.
The Casa Lola branch along Calle Granada is one of the most popular tapas bars in the city center so be sure to arrive early if you’d rather not wait too long for a table. We arrived about half an hour early and we weren’t even first in line! Walking by Casa Lola everyday, there was always a group of people waiting to get one of these high tables or a seat in their spacious dining room.
The Calle Grande branch was the most popular so you may want to try their other branches if the wait here is too long. There’s one on Calle Strachan and another at Plaza de Uncibay. You can refer to our map for their exact location.
Address: Calle Granada, 46, Distrito Centro, 29015 Málaga, Spain
Operating Hours: 12:30PM-12MN, daily
What They Offer: Tapas, pinchos, ligeritas, seafood dishes
3. El Tapeo de Cervantes
Like Casa Lola, El Tapeo de Cervantes is one of the most popular tapas bars in central Malaga. They serve a good range of tapas – from traditional dishes like porra antequerana and flamenquin to less traditional tapas like smoked salmon rolls and lamb stew with couscous.
You’ll find plenty of tasty options on their permanent menu but be sure to check out their daily specials as well. It’s where we found this delicious grilled octopus tentacle served over mashed potatoes and chopped vegetables.
What you’re looking at here are grilled sea bream fillets wrapped in eggplant and served with candied carrot puree and juniper sauce.
As is often the case, the simplest dishes make the biggest impression. Such was the case again here with this tasty platter of grilled artichokes, asparagus, and thick juicy mushrooms.
This was another standout dish. It consists of a juicy and succulent cut of grilled Iberian pork served with roasted pumpkin and pineapple marmalade.
Here’s a look at the restaurant’s dining room. Great for intimate dinners, it’s a cozy but tight space which is why reservations are a good idea.
El Tapeo de Cervantes
Address: C. Cárcer, 8, Distrito Centro, 29012 Málaga, Spain
Operating Hours: 1-3:30PM, 7:30-11:30PM, Tue-Sun (closed Mondays)
What They Offer: Tapas
4. Meson Mariano
Meson Mariano is yet another ultra popular tapas bar in Malaga. They offer a variety of local dishes but what they’re really known for are their artichokes. Unlike most Spanish restaurants and tapas bars that serve just one artichoke dish (two if you’re lucky), Meson Mariano offers several artichoke dishes prepared in different ways.
To start, we were served a small portion of pipirrana. Similar to Moroccan salad, pipirrana refers to an Andalusian cold salad made from chopped vegetables and seafood dressed in olive oil.
Artichokes are delicious any which way but for me, grilling and lightly seasoning them with salt is the best. The generous platter you’re looking at below is just a half-portion of grilled artichokes.
Grilled artichokes are the most common preparation you’ll find in Spain. A few restaurants around town serve grilled artichokes but at Meson Mariano, you can also get them fried, breaded, candied, or cooked Montillana-style.
Pictured below are the Montillana-style artichokes. The artichokes are sauteed and then served with jamon iberico in a Montilla-Moriles sherry-saffron sauce.
Can you guess what these tasty-looking tidbits are? They’re mollejas de cordero, otherwise known as lamb sweetbreads in English. If you’re an adventurous eater, then you need to try these.
Like El Tapeo de Cervantes, Meson Mariano has a permanent menu but they also offer daily specials. Luckily for me, one of those specials today was this beautiful skewer of grilled monkfish with shrimp and vegetables. I was expecting tapas so I was pleasantly surprised to be served this hefty skewer as long as my forearm!
Grilled monkfish is one of my favorite seafood dishes in the world. If you enjoy a meatier type of fish, then I highly recommend trying this at Meson Mariano. So simple but delicious.
You can’t tell from this picture but Meson Mariano was packed at the time with a queue of people quickly forming outside. We couldn’t get a table in the dining room so we were seated at that one barrel table outside. It was a bit unnerving having hungry people peering over my shoulder and eyeing my skewer of monkfish. Ha!
Address: C. Granados, 2, Distrito Centro, 29008 Málaga, Spain
Operating Hours: 1-4:30PM, 8PM-12MN, Tue-Sat (closed Sun-Mon)
What They Offer: Artichokes, tapas, meat dishes, seafood
5. Picasso Bar
We discovered Picasso tapas and wine bar when we scoured Google Maps in search of the most highly-rated restaurant in Malaga. With its impressive 4.7 rating even after 18,000+ Google reviews, we knew we found the right place!
Picasso is a traditional tapas bar that offers a wide range of tapas, Mediterranean dishes, and local specialties. They even offer a good selection of vegetarian tapas like padron peppers, patatas bravas, and hummus.
The choices can be dizzying so if you’re unsure what to get, then you can have the chef choose for you. For EUR 16 (December 2023), you can try the five tapas platter, all of which will be chosen by the chef. It was a fun concept that we didn’t see anywhere else in Malaga.
We knew exactly what we wanted so we ordered ala carte, starting with this bowl of pipirrana. It was made with chopped peppers, tomatoes, onions, shrimp, and surimi.
Blistered up and seasoned with salt, roasted padron peppers are something we always need to have no matter where we are in Spain.
If you like Spanish chorizo, then a bowl of chorizo al vino or chorizo a la sidra is a no-brainer. We tried the latter and the apple cider gives a nice punch of sweetness to the spicy, smokey chorizo. It makes it more tender as well.
When I think of my favorite Spanish dishes, paella is one of the first things that comes to mind. Not far behind is callos, a smokey and seductive Spanish stew of tripe slow-cooked with chorizo, jamon, morcilla, and pimenton. ¡Dios mio!
Nothing beats callos a la madrileña but pictured below is a simpler version made with chorizo and loads of garbanzos.
On a sunny day, Plaza de la Merced was one of our favorite areas to sit outside and eat tapas over glasses of vermut or Malaga wine (sweet wine made from Moscatel and Pedro Ximenez grapes). It’s a small square with over a dozen restaurants and tapas bars, the most highly-rated being Picasso.
To be honest, we had our doubts after seeing those reviews and going through their menu but Picasso turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The tapas are tasty, the choices plentiful, and the service is amicable. It really is a great place to eat and enjoy a sunny day out in Malaga.
Address: Plaza de la Merced, 20, Distrito Centro, 29012 Málaga, Spain
Operating Hours: 10:30AM-12MN, Mon-Fri / 10AM-12MN, Sat-Sun
What They Offer: Tapas (including vegetarian options), traditional Spanish dishes
Uvedoble is another highly recommended restaurant in central Malaga. It’s a contemporary tapas bar that offers a more modern twist on classic dishes like fideua, tortilla de patatas, and albondigas.
We started our meal at Uvedoble with this plate of green asparagus spears served with romesco sauce.
Roasted monkfish is delicious any which way but it’s even better when served in a garlicky sauce enriched with its own liver.
This fideua negra is one of the most popular dishes at Uvedoble. If you’ve never had fideua before, it’s similar to paella except it’s made with pasta noodles instead of rice.
I love how they present this dish. Served with a side of alioli, they make it look like a nest filled with baby squid.
Tuna tataki may be a Japanese dish but it’s something you’ll find quite often on tapas bar menus throughout Spain. At Uvedoble, they serve it with a side of porra antequerana – a thick Andalusian soup similar to gazpacho or salmorejo.
Uvedoble is located just a stone’s throw away from the Alcazaba. Being so close to the city’s most famous tourist attraction, I had my doubts about this restaurant but the food did turn out to be pretty good.
Address: C/ Alcazabilla, 1, Distrito Centro, 29015 Málaga, Spain
Operating Hours: 12:30PM-12MN, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays)
What They Offer: Tapas, traditional Spanish food
Like Beluga, Blossom has a reputation for being one of the top restaurants in central Malaga. It isn’t a Michelin-Star restaurant but it does have the distinction of being a Bib Gourmand awardee.
Helmed by Argentina-born chef Emi Schobert, Blossom offers modern fusion cuisine using products sourced from the coast and inland regions of Malaga. We dined at Blossom for lunch where we had a choice between the tasting menu and a four-course lunch menu. If you come for dinner, then only the tasting menu is available.
We went with the four-course lunch menu which started with this trio of appetizers. In the foreground is a beef tartare amuse-bouche with radish slices and mustard seeds.
What you’re looking at here is a peanut praline tartlet made with carrot cream and paper-thin slivers of radish, carrot, and beets.
The last of our three starters was a slice of wild trout amuse-bouche served on a slice of cucumber with kimchi, salmon roe, and lemon butter.
For the second course, we were given a choice between two starters – silver snapper ceviche or roasted scallop. I went with the ceviche which was served with avocado and wildflowers in a yellow pepper sauce.
Isn’t this dish gorgeous? I loved the tuile which was made to look like stylized fish scales. A visual and culinary delight, this dish was every bit as tasty as it was beautiful.
My better half went with the roasted scallops for her second course. The scallops were infused with vanilla and then served in a brown butter emulsion with foie gras, sweet potatoes, apples, and almonds. If you like, then you can have it topped with caviar as well. Delicious!
Like the starter, you’ll be given a choice between two dishes for your main course. I went with the grilled catch of the day (possibly sea bream?) which was served with Iberico pork jowl, roasted cauliflower, fish fumet, cream, and roe.
For her main course, Mrs. Traveleater went with these perfectly cooked strips of Angus tenderloin. They were served with pickled portobello and beetroot, mushroom sauce, and duxelles cream.
For dessert, you’ll be given a quenelle of chocolate ganache served over crumble with dollops of red fruit coulis and seasonal fruit jam.
Unlike the second and third courses, diners aren’t given a choice for the dessert course. I couldn’t eat chocolate at the time so as an alternative, the kitchen was kind enough to prepare this bowl of parmesan cheese with seasonal fruit jam just for me. ¡Muchisimas gracias!
As an extra dessert, we were both given these chocolate-coated fresh raspberries.
Blossom is a tiny restaurant with just three or four two-person tables inside. They have just a few more tables on their terrace so it’s essential to make reservations beforehand. You can do so through their website.
We enjoyed one of our best meals in Malaga at Blossom. Food enthusiasts looking for creative dishes (and wanting a break from traditional tapas) may want to enjoy a meal here.
Address: C. Strachan, 11, Loc 2, Distrito Centro, 29015 Málaga, Spain
Operating Hours: 1-4PM, 7-11PM, daily
What They Offer: Tasting menus
8. El Tintero
El Tintero is one of the most fun and unique restaurants in Malaga. Located along Malaga’s long stretch of sandy beaches, they don’t offer anything different that you can’t get anywhere else but what makes a meal at El Tintero a must is the experience.
Similar to a yum cha experience in Hong Kong or a kaitenzushi restaurant in Japan, servers at El Tintero walk around the large open-air restaurant offering diners freshly cooked plates of seafood. They yell out the names of the dishes they’re carrying so if you hear something you like, then you just flag the server down and grab a plate!
Pictured below is a heaping plate of my favorite seafood sidekick in Malaga – pimientos asados or roasted peppers.
If you could try just one dish in Malaga, then that dish would have to be espeto de sardinas. Meaning “sardine skewer”, it refers to a simple but delicious dish of skewered sardines roasted over charcoal, usually in an old boat that’s been filled with sand and firewood. It’s an interesting and mouthwatering sight that you can find all along Malaga’s sandy coastline.
We were chatting with the Uber driver who took us to El Tintero and according to him, this Malaga classic is best in the months that don’t end in the letter “r” (January-August). We were in Malaga in December and found the roasted sardines to be incredibly delicious, so I can only imagine what they must be like during peak sardine season.
If you like fresh fish, especially when it’s prepared simply, then you need to try espeto no matter what time of the year you visit Malaga.
Scallops (zamburiñas) are a bit pricier than other types of seafood in Malaga so a plate at El Tintero contained just four pieces.
Mussels, on the other hand, are much cheaper.
Razor clams are one of my favorite types of seafood and something I enjoy no matter where we are in Spain.
These were interesting and not something we saw anywhere else in Spain. Known in Spanish as conchas finas (literally “thin shells”), these reddish-orange mollusks are an essential part of Malaga’s coastal cuisine. Sweet and briny, they can be prepared in different ways but I read the clams are best when eaten raw. Delicious!
There are dozens of restaurants along Malaga’s coastline but few are more fun than El Tintero. Unfortunately, it’s located on the far end of the coast, about 7 km (4.3 miles) east of central Malaga, so it’s best to go there by Uber.
El Tintero is a big restaurant but it’s also super popular and can get pretty chaotic. We arrived a few minutes before they opened for lunch so we didn’t have to wait at all for a table.
If you plan on enjoying at least one meal at one of Malaga’s many beachfront restaurants, then I recommend having one here.
Address: Av. Salvador Allende, 340, Málaga-Este, 29017 Málaga, Spain
Operating Hours: 12:30-11:30PM, daily
What They Offer: Seafood
If you’re a health-conscious eater, then here are a few top-rated restaurants that serve vegan or vegetarian food in Malaga.
Mimo is one of the best vegan restaurants in central Malaga. Many vegan or vegetarian restaurants serve simple food like bowls or wraps, but Mimo makes truly creative dishes that make you forget you’re consuming 100% plant-based food.
Apologies for the dark picture but what you’re looking at here is Mimo’s spaghetti limonetti. Made with lemon, garlic, mint, and cayenne pepper, it’s Mimo’s take on the classic pasta al limone but with the Mimo twist – spinach leaves and “tuna” made from jackfruit.
The dish is topped with cashew parmesan, toasted sunflower seeds, fresh pepper, olive oil, and an edible flower (though we were warned the flower is more for show than food).
Mrs. Traveleater wasn’t too hungry today so she ordered just this rawsome lemon cake. It’s a no-bake creamy “cheesecake” made with walnuts, oats, pistachio-white carob cream, and homemade meringue.
Address: Avenida de Manuel Agustín Heredia, 20, Distrito Centro, 29001 Málaga, Spain
Operating Hours: 1-11PM, Wed-Sun (closed Mon-Tue)
What They Offer: Vegan food
Kinoa is another highly-rated vegan restaurant, this time along Calle Marmoles, in an area of central Malaga that most tourists probably don’t get to visit. They offer a wide range of vegan dishes like burgers, empanadas, poke bowls, and pizza.
Kinoa offers a few ready-made poke bowls but you can also create your own from scratch. Pictured below is the Will Fly for Food original with edamame, mushrooms, avocado, carrots, cherry tomatoes, and other good stuff.
We found many restaurants serving vegan burgers in Spain. Same thing with wraps. But it wasn’t often that we found places that made vegan pizza.
Kinoa offers vegan pizzas made with a whole wheat or buckwheat flour crust and either vegan cheese or mozzarella. Called “de la casa”, their house pizza is made with tomato sauce, peppers, carrots, zucchini, eggplant, onions, and chimichurri sauce. Instead of cheese, they use a paste made with chickpea and hummus.
It was nice having a vegan pizza made with buckwheat flour but I think whole wheat would have been better.
There isn’t much reason for tourists to visit this part of town but if you want good vegan food, then Kinoa is a great place to visit in Malaga.
Address: C. Mármoles, 39, Distrito Centro, 29007 Málaga, Spain
Operating Hours: 10AM-4PM, 7-10:30PM, Mon, Wed-Sat/ 1-4PM, 7-10:30PM, Sunday (closed Tuesdays)
What They Offer: Vegan pizza, burgers, empanadas, poke bowls
Byoko isn’t a plant-based restaurant but they do offer lots of healthier food options like buddha bowls and buckwheat galettes. You choose one of their ready-made salad bowls or galettes and then have the option of adding protein and/or a side dish.
Pictured below is the campesina galette. It’s made with artisanal goat cheese, red peppers, and caramelized onions.
This rather plain-looking mango-glazed salmon was perfectly cooked and delicious but it was supposed to be topped with pico de gallo and mango. I asked that the side of roasted vegetables be served without the mojo picon sauce but our server misunderstood me and omitted the pico de gallo instead. Bummer!
We had lunch at Byoko on Christmas day so we let it slide.
We enjoyed pots of organic tea to help us digest on this cold Christmas-y day in Malaga. ¡Feliz Navidad!
We went to the Byoko branch at Plaza de la Merced, just a stone’s throw from Picasso Bar, but they have a more centrally located restaurant along Calle Strachan as well.
Address: Plaza de la Merced, 22, Distrito Centro, 29012 Málaga, Spain
Operating Hours: 9AM-10:30PM, Sun-Thurs / 9AM-11PM, Fri-Sat
What They Offer: Buddha bowls, galettes, healthy options
We don’t usually go for non-local cuisine when we travel but healthy food is an exception. At Kimchibowl, you can try a healthier interpretation of Korean food with their build-it-yourself bibimbap bowls.
Kimchibowl offers pre-made bowls as suggestions but I preferred to make my own from scratch. Feast your eyes on my beautiful bibimbap bowl made with grilled avocado, tofu, mango, sauteed mushrooms, broccoli, spinach, coriander, and quinoa.
Pictured below is the Kimchibowl salad made with grilled chicken, lettuce, avocado, mango, wakame, edamame, cucumber, Japanese vinaigrette, and kimchi mayonnaise.
Kimchibowl is located in a less crowded part of the central district, about a couple minutes’ walk from Meson Mariano (#4).
Address: C. Juan de Padilla, 3, Distrito Centro, 29008 Málaga, Spain
Operating Hours: 12NN-12MN, daily
What They Offer: Bibimbap bowls, poke bowls, salad
To help you find these restaurants in Malaga, I’ve pinned them all on the map below. Click on the link for a live version of the map.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE FOOD IN MALAGA
We went to two restaurants on the Michelin Guide in Malaga – Beluga (#1) and Blossom (#7). If you want to dine at a restaurant that actually holds a Michelin Star, then you’ll have two to choose from in the central district – Kaleja and Jose Carlos Garcia.
Kaleja is located near the Picasso Museum while Jose Carlos Garcia can be found at Plaza de la Capilla in the Port of Malaga. At the time of this writing, both have one Michelin Star though Kaleja has the better reviews.
Of all the restaurants we went to in Malaga, I’d say that Meson Mariano (#4), Casa Lola (#2), and El Tintero (#8) made the biggest impressions. El Tintero is a trek from central Malaga but in my opinion, it’s worth the Uber ride out. After all, it isn’t everyday you get to flag down a screaming waiter carrying a plate of octopus salad.
“¡Ensalada de pulpo…gamba a la plancha…pipirranaaaaaa! ¡Esta muy rica!”
So much fun!
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