The Spanish Restaurant Where Ernest Hemingway Was A Regular

Restaurante Botin is perhaps the world's oldest restaurant. Being an aged institution brimming with old-school charm, Botin's was known to draw a literary clientele, including the likes of English novelist Frederick Forsyth, Spanish journalist Mariano de Cávia, and famed writer Ernest Hemingway. Born in 1899 in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois, Hemingway had already lived a life of adventure and danger by the time he first passed through the doors of Restaurante Botin. 

A teenage ambulance driver during WWI, Hemingway was wounded in an explosion that hospitalized him for the remainder of his service, per The Nobel Prize. According to the Ernest Hemingway Collection, he was living as a journalist amongst fellow American expatriates in Paris during the 1920s. It was at this time that he first traveled to Spain, where he developed a lasting love for the country and the local culture of bullfighting. Located in Madrid, Restaurante Botin quickly became Hemingway's favorite Spanish haunt. There he would befriend the owner's grandfather, Emilio Gonzalez, and establish himself as a regular addition to the restaurant's scenery. 

Restaurante Botin even game him a nickname

By the time of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, Hemingway had visited Restaurante Botin so much that he was affectionately called "Don Ernesto" by the owners and fellow diners (via Insider). As a friend of the family, Hemingway was allowed a certain amount of leeway. Though he was never again allowed in the kitchen after botching a paella, he was allowed to make his own martinis. He was also allowed to arrive early in the day to write at a table on the second floor. When he was finished working, he would descend for lunch and more booze.

According to The New York Times, Restaurante Botin is very proud of its connection with the famous writer and makes no effort to hide it. A quote from Hemingway is displayed not only on the restaurant's website but in their front window for passersby to see. Like his characters, the novelist preferred to dine on Botin's roast suckling pig, washing it down with several bottles of Spain's classic red wine, Rioja Alta.

Like the writer himself, the eatery is noticeably free of the frills associated with modern dining. Restaurante Botin theorizes that perhaps this is why Hemingway found a connection there. His simple, yet profoundly deep prose paired well with the simplicity and purity of the food served to him. Though merely conjecture, the restaurant knows better than most the inner workings of one of America's greatest writers.