By Abbie Digel Explorebigsky.com Editor
Cafe Madriz is one of the best excuses to visit West
Yellowstone since the inception of the National
Park. Elena de Deigo West, a native of Madrid,
Spain, brings generations of Spanish cooking to her
West’s parents came over from Spain with her
grandmother Vicenta, which was her first trip to the
U.S. They brought artwork to hang on the walls,
and material to sew the red-checked curtains that
hang in the windows in West’s restaurant, a quaint
space on North Canyon Street.
West’s Aunt Pili also came carrying the expertise of
a restaurateur; she started Prada a Tope in Madrid 25
years ago, which became a franchise and is one of the
hot spots in the downtown Madrid social scene.
West created Cafe Madriz because she thought the
area needed fresh, simple food made from scratch with
Spanish influence, of course. As an entrepreneur, West
is not lacking in experience or creativity. She has 7
years of HR experience at both the Yellowstone Club
and in Bozeman, and she and her husband run the
laundromat in West Yellowstone, a booming business
catered toward both locals and tourists.
It was easy for West to design her meticulous menu,
which is a replica of spreads seen at tapas bars in
Madrid. She put together the list of soups, salads,
cold and hot tapas, and three simple and decadent
desserts all based from her favorite Spanish dishes
and family recipes.
“I try to only use three ingredients in my cooking,”
said West. That way, she said, it tastes better, it’s not
overloaded with flavors and spiced, and its exactly the
way Spaniards cook. “A low flame and few ingredients
is all it takes to make a decent meal.”
A meal at Cafe Madriz is also an education in Spanish
cuisine, which is often confused with Mexican and
South American. “Forget tamales, tacos, enchiladas or
frijoles,” said West. “You won’t be able to find rice and
Spanish food revolves around tapas, small plates of
food meant to be shared, most of the time over drinks,
especially sangria. At
Cafe Madriz, the dining
room is filled with picnic
tables and bar seats at the
window, which in Spain
“patrons would be fighting
over,” said West.
Eating tapas is about enjoying company in a lively ambiance.
“Spanish food brings you to a place where food
is simple, cared for, and prepared perfectly.”
West and her small staff bring out plates full of
sautéed vegetables and seafood that taste like
their straight from the market. West doesn’t
use butter in her cooking, so it is rich with
the taste of smooth olive oil and guindilla
pepper, the main source of spice in Spanish
Don’t forget to share the Spanish olives marinated
in olive oil and spices and the meat and
cheese sampler: a plate of traditional quesos
and ibericos (pork cured meats) imported from
Spain. These small plates are a typical first order at
any tapas bar, and a definite hit on the menu. West
slices up quesos made from the milk of cows, sheep
and goats. The highlight was the Garrotxa, a soft
cheese with flavors remnant of blue cheese with an
herb and mushroom aroma.
The meats, from salty to sweet, are served with
a fresh loaf of country bread made right in West
Yellowstone. Don’t be fooled by the chorizo—this
time it doesn’t come served in a breakfast burrito.
The Spanish version of
the pork sausage is cured
or cooked in red wine
(served both ways at Cafe
Madrid), then seasoned
West’s most popular dish is paella, a heaping traditional
dish of Spanish rice seasoned with olive oil and
saffron, and served piping hot in a special pan that is
only used for cooking the dish. Paella is a century old
dish, where the most modern form originated in the
Valencia region of Spain in the 18th century. Traditionally,
men cooked the dish while working in the fields,
and used whatever they had on hand. The ingredients
were usually rabbit, chicken or duck with vegetables.
“Because Spain is a machista country some of the traditions
are still the same,” said West, but her paella is her
grandmother’s recipe: She learned by watching, and
doesn’t use a recipe for any of her dishes.
Make sure to ask for more bread after the food is gone;
it’s not rude to soak up the leftovers, and eave room for dessert.
By Abbie Digel Explorebigsky.com Editor