As in any other major European city, Madrid has a wide variety of restaurants to choose from. You can find almost any type of cuisine here in Spain's capital, but of course most visitors will be interested in trying out typical Spanish food.
Madrid is fortunate in terms of restaurants, because the freshest produce reaches the city from the four corners of Spain, early every day and direct to the enormous MercaMadrid central distribution center, from where it is transported to the many local markets and shops and then direct to the restaurants.
The different regional communities of Spain are all represented in Madrid and thus the capital also benefits from the varied regional dishes such as paella from Valencia, seafood (marisco) from Galicia, fresh fruit and vegetables from Andalusia, tasty fish from the coast, pata negra, Iberian dried ham, from the mountainous regions, and roast, stews and soups from the interior.
Most Madrid restaurants will start serving lunch around 1:30pm and end around 4pm, but most typical time to get started is something between 2pm-3:30pm. Dinner is usually much lighter than lunch and dinner typical starts between 10 and 11pm.
Both quality and prices vary tremendously, particularly since Madrid has become a major focus for international tourism. Over the past years, central Madrid, particularly the area around Plaza Santa Ana and Plaza Mayor, has become a major tourist trap where prices have sky-rocketed and quality has generally dropped.
A much better option is the La Latina neighborhood just south of Plaza Mayor, especially along the Cava Baja street. If you want to find a restaurant on your own, you should try wandering through the area bounded by the Alonso Martinez, San Bernardo, Noviciado and Chueca metro stops. There are a number of tasty, reasonable priced restaurants in this area along with a lively nightlife. One can also eat well and relatively inexpensively at a number of Madrid's local bars, especially in the city center. At bars, one generally orders various sized plates, a ración meaning a full dish, a media ración a half dish or a smaller version which would be a tapa, a pinxto or a pincho.