Find below my 2012 recommended restaurants list.
All places with the exception of those included on the "top notch" category are medium priced (say 20-30 euros per person with wine, although this of course depends on how much food you order and/or how expensive that wine is!).
It is based solely on my personal experience (I have tried all these places), so many of you might not agree with my comments. Feel free to elaborate or comment on the list, this is all TA.com is about.
I hope you find it useful. Enjoy!
a) Modern tapas
Souvi (C/ Afligidos, 3). A top chef opened this tapas place not long ago. Try the vinegar marinated anchovies omelette, which as much more delicious than it sounds.
Alumbre (C/ Strachan, 11). Cuisine from Málaga with a creative twist. I eat here quite often. The moroccan style marinated sardines are wonderful.
El Tapeo de Cervantes (C/ Cárcer, 8). Hugely popular here in TA.com, it is truly good. Very small and somewhat uncomfortable, but worth a visit nonetheless. Reservations encouraged.
Gorki. (C/ Strachan, 6). An institution in Málaga. They have been serving the same stuff for 20 years with a huge success.
La Moraga de Antonio Martín (Plaza de la Malagueta, 4). It is based on a concept by Michelin starred chef of the Calima restaurant in Marbella Dani Garcia. Good location on La Malagueta beach.
b) Traditional tapas
Orellana (C/ Moreno Monroy, 3). The oldest tavern in Malaga. Greasy and run down, but unbeatable for traditional good Malagueña food.
Lo Güeno (Calle Marín García, 12). Similar to the one above. Small and cramped, but authentic and traditional.
El Trillo (Calle de Don Juan Díaz, 4). It is common to find tourists eating at the restaurant, but I much prefer to eat tapas on the counter.
La Rebaná (Calle Molina Lario, 4). They have been serving, among other delicacies, bread rolls of Spanish stew (cocido) for ages.
La Cosmopolita (Calle de José Denis Belgrano, 3). A long standing bar which has seen most of the 20th century go by on Calle Larios, now sadly substituted by a multinational clothing chain, it opened on a new location with a completely different concept, but they sill serve wonderful tapas of local specialities.
c) Fried fish and seafood
Preface: It should be a crime to come all the way to Málaga and not enjoying the local speciality, fried fish. Chiringuitos (seafood restaurants located right on the beach, or very near) are must visits for anyone who likes seafood.
La Reserva del Pastor (C/ Sánchez Pastor, 3). This place is run by a friend of mine who also owns three other restaurants in Málaga and La Carihuela. They serve the highest quality goods with an excellent cooking. Try also La Reserva XII in C/ La Bolsa and arguably the best seafood restaurant in town, El Envero (Calle de Luis Barahona de Soto, 6). It is quite far away from the centre but near the Museo Automovilísitco, which makes a good day out.
Gutiérrez Playa (Paseo Maritimo Antonio Banderas, 6). One of the best chiringuitos on the western promenade, which has been named Antonio Banderas promenade (with the same dose of local self esteem and bad taste I'd argue). The grilled sardines ("espetos" in Spanish) are to die for. There is another one with barely the same name a little bit nearer the city centre, but I prefer the original one which is located a little but further away in the west.
Pescadería Los Mellizos Arroyo de la Miel (C/ Pacharán, Arroyo de la Miel, Benalmádena). This is the only place I'm recommending outside Málaga but it is really worth a visit. It is a fish shop that also runs like a restaurant. They run two other restaurants in Málaga city centre (Los Mellizos Málaga) and La Carihuela (Casa Juan). One of the best.
Refectorium del Campanario (Paseo de la Sierra, 36). A bit off the beaten track but worth a visit for the fantastic food and views. Local traditional food. Try the "ensaladilla rusa". You won't regret the journey.
Contemporary other gastronomies
Most of our visitors prefer local fare, but in case someone doesn't like it or wants a change here are some of my favorite places in town
Asako (Calle Carretería, 96). One of the most popular Japanese restaurants in Málaga.
Osteria Pastrani (C/ Strachan, 7). The best Italian restaurant in town IMO. The Italian wine list is poor but the food is excellent. I love the Tagliatta di Manzo.
La Plaza (Plaza de la Merced, 18). Restaurant that, as a curiosity, is located near Picasso's birthplace. Owned by an English expat the food is delicious. I love this place.
Montana (Calle del Compás de la Victoria, 5). Haute cuisine in a traditional district of the centre of Málaga which is located on a beautiful mansion with hosts a great courtyard.
José Carlos García (Centro Comercial Muelle Uno). He has just recovered his first michelin star. It is located on the new developed port dock (Muelle Uno). It is a nice walk through Málaga park.
Med (Calle de las Mercedes, 12, Torremolinos). One of the best restaurants in Torremolinos with wonderful views.
Pimpi (Calle Granada, 62). Although they also serve food, the best of this atmospheric place full of casks is having a sweet wine before heading somewhere else for lunch or dinner.
La Casa del Guardia (Alameda Principal, 18). Another institution. Waiters dressed in white and not in a very good mood (don't worry, they are the same with us locals) write your order down with chalk on the counter. A time travel to Málaga's first 20th century years.
Bodegas Quitapenas (Pasaje de Chinitas, 5). In addition to have one great name ("Sorrows Remover" would be a bad literal translation) they serve all kinds of wines from Málaga and good tapas.