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[Photographs: Erin Zimmer]

"The only place for churros in Madrid is here," e-mailed a friend of mine who's lived in Spain for a while and gave me a rundown of must-visits before my trip. She was referring to Chocolatería San Ginés, which has been around since 1894, tucked in a quiet alley behind a secondhand book stall next to the San Ginés church.

Churros con chocolate is a quintessential Madrid treat for breakfast, afternoon snacking, latenight munching, or anytime really. The menu at Chocolatería San Ginés is straightforward, pretty much limited to churros, chocolate, coffee, and beer, or some combination of the above (why bother with anything else?). When I walked in, the man behind the marble counter already started plating my not-yet-uttered-but-obvious churros con chocolate order.

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The footlong churros—which are cut with scissors from longer, quickly-fried churro ropes—come five to an order (3.50 euros) with a small coffee cup's worth of thick, melted chocolate. The powdered sugar shakers are waiting for you on the countertop. Shake as much as you wish, and definitely shake it.

The churros themselves aren't actually sweet: they're yeasty, doughy with crisp edges, and slightly salty. The chocolate isn't either—bittersweet, not candybar-sweet, and just a tad warm but not tongue-scorching-hot. These definitely aren't the cinnamon-and-sugar-drenched churros you'd find at carnivals and movie theaters.

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Something about Chocolatería San Ginés reminded me a bit of Cafe du Monde and Morning Call in New Orleans, but more Spanish and with churros instead of beignets. It has a similar old-timey feel with a dressed-all-in-white staff and, well, a covered-all-in-white risk you take after all that powdered sugar shaking.

Chocolatería San Ginés

Calle del Arenal 11 (Pasadizo de San Ginés), Madrid Spain (map)

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