We loved Chowhound suggestions, especially from Tom Armitage. Here are some newfound favorites:
Barcelona: Pou Dolc. (near Placa Real)
This was a find! It's small and friendly, and the food is superb. We had the 7 course special menu - dinner for two, including wine, tax, etc. was under $80. Each course was wonderful and unusual, and explained to us. This young chef is outstanding. We kept saying to each other, "Oh, wait until you taste this!" Also, it was informal, which pleases my husband.
Thanks, Tom, for Cal Pep, Els Pescadors, etc. And everyone, don't miss Pou Dolc - some of the best food anywhere!
Madrid: We loved a restaurant called El Bodegon. It was a cab ride (short) from town. It is in an elegant mansion in a lovely neighborhood, but completely comfortable ( my husband did need a jacket ). You start with the chef's selection of three appetizers, unusual and excellent. Fabulous service, and friendly. There is a large selection of entrees and desserts. I had the young Guinea Hen: marvelous. The prix fixe dinner is about $34.00 American; in NY or Philly it would be at least triple. Good wines were inexpensive. The little extras, amuse-bouche, truffles, cookies, etc. was all great. I'd love to go back.
Bilboa: Excellent dinner at Goizeko Kabi