Places to eat in Portugal

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    Solar dos amigos: A favorite to locals

    by solopes Updated Jan 8, 2014

    If you're travelling in central Portugal, and want to go to a place where hundreds of Portuguese gather to eat, this is a good choice.
    A restaurant where each dish serves up to 4 people, with typical food well prepared and reasonable prices is a MUST to locals.
    The ambiance is controlled, because the usual crowds are distributed in many small rooms, with different themes and decoration, but always matching typical patterns.

    Favorite Dish: Polvo na telha
    Tiborna de bacalhau
    Cascos

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    Rei dos Leitoes: Best Suckling Pig of my Life

    by alexchip Written Dec 18, 2013

    We tried to eat at nearby Bussaco Palace but were too late (lunch served only until 3pm sharp) so we looked on TripAdvisor in Mealhada, which is a town well known for its roasted piglet. We are so happy we missed our initial reservation at the Palace (where we went after lunch for a coffee and found the staff disinterested and the grounds deserted and somewhat depressing despite the gorgeous architecture and sumptuous interior). Rei de Leitos is an unpretentious spot full of locals and great for groups or families. The décor is cheeky, with piggy banks lining the walls, and while the restaurant is clean and pleasant, the focus is clearly on the food. We enjoyed the wide selection of couvert options (3 local cheeses, shaved cured ham, pastries full of roast pig and mushrooms, marinated olives), and selected one of the cheeses and the shiny strips of ham. The couvert system is different from that of other restaurants, which charge you for bread and olives. At Rei de Leitos you are charged only for what you actually consume. We ordered two entrees, which was probably slight overkill. We started with the grilled octopus, thick tentacles the size of small bananas blackened on the grill just a touch and served in a pool of olive oil and garlic, roasted onions, thick spinach, sweet red peppers, and round potatoes. The octopus was tender but not at all mushy, the right consistency, and the flavors of the seafood and vegetables complemented each other well. The dish was 23 Euro, the most expensive item on our bill and quite a large portion so only a true octopus lover should order it! We then shared a portion of the roasted piglet, the house specialty. It was the best roast pig I have ever had, better than any suckling pig in Madrid, Zaragoza, San Sebastian or Barcelona I have tried. The skin was crispy but softened by the layer of fat beneath. The meat was so tender it could be separated with a spoon, and the flavor was fantastic. In fact, it was so good I forgot all about the accompanying sauce, a powerful explosion of salt, pepper, garlic and melted pig fat that, used sparingly, adds a real pop to a subtle, moist, tender meat that really does melt in your mouth. The salad on the side and the potato chips were fine, but superfluous. We washed all of this down with the restaurant’s “homemade” dark beer, which had nice notes of coffee and honey. There was not room for any dessert, and the total bill came to 66 Euros for a big lunch with beer for two. The pork itself was 16 Euro. Our waiter spoke excellent English and explained their unique couvert system carefully, which was much appreciated. He also took us to see the roast house after—the piglet we had eaten had been on a farm one kilometer away two days before, in the building that very morning, butchered onsite, and roasted for 2 hours before landing on our plates. A bit morbid to think about, but try finding a shorter route from farm to table. We left satisfied, fat and happy. Highly recommended.

    Favorite Dish: The PIG! Tender meat, melting fat, crispy skin, together it is the holy trinity of roasted swine.

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    Os Prazeres da Carne: Pretty Good Steak, Very Great View

    by alexchip Updated Dec 18, 2013

    Prazeres da Carne
    This Brazilian steakhouse sits in a premier spot overlooking the ocean, the terrace perfectly situated for warm afternoon lunches or sunset cocktails. The building itself is constructed around a few beautiful trees for a unique environment. Service was fast and friendly. We didn’t care much for the wine we selected (Casa Santar—a half bottle of red that lacked depth). My fiancée ordered the bife de chorizo cooked medium rare. This is similar to a New York Strip cut but not as thick. It had a nice strip of fat along the edge and it was pretty well cooked, right between what I would consider medium rare and medium. I would give the steak a 7/10 score, as there was not a thing wrong with it, but it lacked the flavor and juiciness of a top quality steak. The fries that accompanied her steak were tough and not very good. I had the mixed grill, which I was worried about for the right reason. As the meats were all small cuts they came medium to medium-well. I like my steak much more rare, so ordering a mixed grill of small cuts was my own mistake. The sausage was delicious and the fries that accompanied my meat, a different cut from those on my fiancee’s plate, were fantastic: hot and salty, just crispy on the outside. The side dishes were bowls of black beans, white rice (both done well), a tomato and onion salad in vinaigrette (delicious), and a breadcrumb consistency Brazilian side that we found difficult to swallow, literally. The bill was very reasonable, 50 Euro for two including two beers and a half bottle of wine, but given some of our other really great meals in Cascais at Hemingway, 5entidos, Monte Mar and Tertulia do Monte (in Estoril) we probably wouldn’t come back for steak. Maybe for a glass of wine to watch the sunset…

    Favorite Dish: Grilled sausage, the thin, circular fried potatoes, and the tomato/onion salad (given as a side with steak). The sausage had the most flavor of the several meats we tried, the fries were hot, crispy on the outside, and the tomato/onion had a very nice vinaigrette that really offered nice acidity to balance the red meat.

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    Monte Mar: Fresh seafood and elegant ambience with a view!

    by alexchip Written Dec 18, 2013

    Reservation is highly recommended at this upscale seafood restaurant unless you want to come “early” and eat at 8pm. I assume the view of the ocean crashing against the rocky coast is beautiful, though you can’t really tell in the evening. A long lunch with a bottle of white wine and a mountain of shellfish may be the way to go at this pricey seaside spot. My fiancée and I made reservations through our hotel and were delighted to see the lobsters swimming in a large tank and an iced display of the frut de mer: barnacles, prawns, spider crabs, oysters. Legs of cured ham hang on the walls and the interior is standard elegance for a traditional restaurant of this caliber: white tablecloths, shiny clean glassware and cutlery. We were seated underneath a rather bright light just in front of a busy serving station, so not very conducive to romance (no candles and intimate shadowy corners here) but by the end of the meal we felt any ambience shortcomings were made up for by the excellent food and service. The couvert, as at most restaurants, was overpriced and forgettable: bread and olives. We began with the lobster soup (a special not on the menu), which was perfect for a cold winter evening. Dark, smooth, not too creamy, not too salty, with chunks of fresh lobster swimming in the satisfying broth. We also had as a starter the Jamon de Pata Negra, black foot Iberian ham for 8 euro. This ham tends to be very expensive and I thought it was a very fair portion for the price, and the quality was top notch: the perfectly sliced slivers were moist, marbled with fat but not overwhelmed by it, and the right balance of salty, nutty, and rich. Our very helpful waiter, who spoke near-perfect English, recommended a bottle of white wine that complemented perfectly the starters and the sea bass for two we next shared, which was a special for the evening. A whole fish baked with golden potatoes and caramelized onions, filleted table-side. The fish was hearty, flakey but firm, a great texture, and the traditional dish tied together the ingredients wonderfully. The sweetness of the caramelized onions, saltiness of the perfectly cooked potatoes (no mushiness), and meaty sea bass stuck to our ribs without being heavy. We had no room for dessert and left feeling that we had experienced traditional Portuguese cooking of the coast at its highest level. The bill matched the quality, and the meal for two (couvert, one bottle water, one bottle of wine, two starters, whole fish for two) was 150 euro. We found this neither a great value nor overpriced, but just right for a fine meal of this quality. The service was attentive and helpful, and with a large menu and a page of specials in Portuguese only, this becomes all the more important. I would come here with a family or as a couple or with friends, and next time we’ll try lunch to enjoy the ocean view. Even in winter reservations aren't a bad idea, and I assume in summer they are essential.

    Favorite Dish: Certainly the whole sea bass cooked in traditional Portuguese fashion with golden onions and potatoes: it was as satisfying as a stew for a winter night but delicate enough that I'd still order it in summer.

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    Pôr do Dol: Drivers Hunter

    by solopes Updated Dec 17, 2013

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    Once upon a time, some guys decided to open a restaurant in the main road from Lisbon to Porto, in a empty section not far from Lisbon. It became a reference, because it was well located, the variety and quality were good, the service was quick as needed and the price acceptable. But one day the highway that stopped at Vila Franca de Xira was enlarged, with a new exit further north, in Aveiras.

    What to do? Of course, move to Aveiras. And there was born Por do Sol 2, with better parking and facilities.

    More years passed, the highway was finished, and business faded. The new solution? Yes, move to the highway. And that's why they opened I think that 5 restaurants in Portuguese highways (but not in Aveiras). The service is different, more adapted to the even quicker demands of the highways, but they keep being a good chance for those (like me) that won't surrender to fast-food.

    Of course, the now isolated restaurant changed its profile, and it is now a place for... slow, or festive meals.

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    Hemingway: Sleek setting, cool cocktails, innovative cuisine

    by alexchip Written Nov 19, 2013

    While the restaurant is a little hard to find (in the heart of the marina on the second story), and the website doesn't offer a photo gallery or menu, it is well worth the visit. Hemingway is a restaurant that wears many hats, with packed balcony tables overlooking bobbing boats in the harbor outside under heat lamps, an impressive bar churning out cocktails both trendy and traditional, and a whimsical dining room that offers tables and booths. We were greeted by name and led to a spacious booth separated by curtains for privacy. A few lit candles and we were ensconced in romance and intimacy, though the restaurant was busy and fresh. The cocktail and tea menu are daunting, but fun to peruse. Every cocktail served was well mixed and proportioned. I don't remember our exact appetizers but I do recall that the steak we shared was beautifully cooked, served on aesthetically pleasing slate slabs. They served the 1 steak and sides we had ordered on 2 plates without us even asking, anticipating our request. One of the highlights of the evening was the attention that the manager paid to us. Not only did he help us select a wine but also made recommendations on what the restaurant had fresh that day and popular choices from other patrons. He then extended the conversation to how we liked our first trip to Cascais and offered recommendations for activities. He made us feel special without crossing the line into obsequious fawning, and it was clear he loved his job. We enjoyed some tea at the table and a final glass of port on the terrace beneath the humming heat lamps. After a week of (delicious) traditional Portuguese food in Cascais and Lisbon, we were ready for something a little more sexy and daring, and Hemingway exceeded our expectations.

    Favorite Dish: Rib Eye steak, nice crust, well cooked, well marbled but not too fatty. Paired very nicely with the wine recommended by the manager.

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    Dom António: Our first "Pilgrim" meal

    by haikutaxi Updated Feb 15, 2013

    Dom António is a popular local restaurant that has lots of inexpensive daily plates ... including a "pilgrim" special for those walking the Caminho Portugués. It is located in the historic pedestrian zone of Barcelos. down a short passageway on the street level of an old town house. The interior is very simple and rustic, the service efficient and polite. The restaurant features hearty soups, bacalhau Dom António (a popular house specialty containing codfish, onions, and potatoes), shellfish rice, grilled salmon, grilled steaks, and grilled pork chops.

    Favorite Dish: We opted for the salmon dinner from the daily "pilgrim" menu ... we got wine, soup, fish, potatoes, dessert and coffee all for an extremely affordable price. The food was simple but fresh and delicious and the portions were enormous.

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    5 Sentidos: Casa do Largo: Seafood for the Senses in Cascais

    by alexchip Updated Feb 15, 2013

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    On a sunny winter day in Cascais we had our best Portuguese lunch at 5 Sentidos-Casa do Largo. Reservations were easy to make on the website, the interior was enchanting, the portions were huge and a great value, and the food delicious. They have a little porch running alongside the ivy covered cottage restaurant and in warm weather a table al fresco would be divine. The restaurant is really a little house, with a few tables in each room to create a sense of intimacy but open French doors instead of walls to create an open and airy ambience. Sunlight filled the brightly decorated bar and lower floor, a working fireplace flickering in the background. Locals sip wine and fill the space with enough rolling Portuguese to make you feel an “insider” while at the same time maintaining a cozy and quiet atmosphere. There is also an upstairs dining room but I recommend a downstairs table to enjoy the streaming rays from the oversized windows.

    Although impressed with the space, we were seduced by the food. The waiter asked us if we would like to try the array of dips (these are not complimentary), which we turned down because we didn’t want to fill up on bread. This was the right call because the portions are massive. We ordered an appetizer of shrimp “guillo’s style” (11.50 Euro) that came, heads on and sizzling, in a ceramic pot slathered with olive oil, garlic, parsley and sea salt. This was finger-licking, eye-rolling good, and we gave in and raided the bread basket to mop up the oil and shrimp juice still hot in the pot. Definitely suck the heads like a local—the insides are sweet, salty and savory. We had a pitcher of sangria, which I found a little sweet but my girlfriend liked a lot, judging by the speed with which it was consumed. We followed up the shrimp with two entrees, but should have only ordered one to share. My girlfriend’s grouper (13.50 Euro) in coconut curry with saffron, mussels, clams and shrimp was a seafood cornucopia painted in Van Gogh yellow. The grouper was hearty but flaked off with a touch of the fork, the curry wasn’t too sweet, and the chopped herbs brought a freshness to the plate that matched the interior décor. My octopus (12.50 Euro) baked in the oven was the best I’ve ever had. I usually like my octopus char-grilled or pan fried “pulpo gallego” style, but this baked version opened my eyes to a new way of eating the tentacled beast. And a beast it was, an entire 1-2 pound octopus spanning the massive dinner plate. It was covered with sweet caramelized onions and buttery potatoes, and the octopus had none of the rubbery texture people fear. The tentacles and even the center disk cut smoothly and practically melted in my mouth. My girlfriend and I agreed that it was the most tender we’d ever tried. We had no room for dessert but the menu looked decadent.

    We walked away from 5 Sentidos with all 5 senses deeply satisfied, and only wish we could have finished more of our food. One appetizer and one entrée for one couple are more than sufficient. Reserve a table on their excellent website (English and Portuguese) and enjoy as we did!

    Favorite Dish: Hard to decide between the garlicky head-on shrimp and the octopus, but I was just so impressed by the preparation of the octopus--tender, moist, and perfectly paired with those sweet brown caramelized onions.

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    Tertulia do Monte: Refined Local Flavor in Estoril

    by alexchip Written Feb 14, 2013

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    Tertulia do Monte is located on a cute tree-lined street in Estoril, a short taxi ride or long walk along the beach from Cascais. The exterior is nondescript, but the interior is warm, cozy, fresh, and inviting. Reservations were difficult to make over email--we called using Skype or you could email your hotel concierge to do so. There is also a wine store across the street that does tastings, which could be a fun pre-dinner activity. We recommend requesting a "high" table on the left, which is more intimate. Our waiter was very friendly, spoke English well, and accommodated our request to split two entrees. The food came out in perfect portion size and elegant presentation. The recommended wine pairings fit the dishes perfectly.

    We started with the lemon risotto and fish of the day. The lemon flavor was fresh, bright, but a little overpowering. The fish, however, was perfectly cooked and well seasoned. We followed with the pork cheek risotto, which we both thought tender but my girlfriend found a little salty (all meat in Portugal seemed to be on the saltier side). Our waiter explained the differences between LBV and Tawny port, and then brought us generously poured glasses of both. He went above and beyond and wrote down his favorites so we can purchase “proper” port back home. (photo attached for reader edification). The bill was 70 Euro, which we felt a nice value for our two entrees with wine pairings and port.

    It was nice to see the restaurant packed with locals—we were the only foreigners and the food seemed to pack Portuguese authenticity with a modern twist. We would certainly go back again, perhaps for the lovely charcuterie we envied on our neighbor’s table. There is also Fado music on some Monday nights, and judging from the clientele it doesn’t seem like a tourist trap and might be worth investigating.

    After dinner, we strolled ten minutes downhill to the Casino Estoril, the inspiration for the James Bond Casino Royale novel. It is the largest casino in Europe, with a fountain light show in front and upscale restaurants within. The casino was a fun outing, though unfortunately tacky and rundown. Smoke pervaded the table games, and drinks were hard to come by and not complimentary as they are in American casinos. The table minimum for blackjack was 5 Euro, so it was nice to play for fun and not worry about losing the travel bankroll. Amidst the clamoring locals, the haze of cigarette smoke, and the siren call of the penny slots, we enjoyed our night out on the town.

    Favorite Dish: Ask the waiter for recommendations as it seemed their menu is very seasonal and changes often. We did think the fish was excellent and I loved the pork cheek risotto (I am a fan of salty food).

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    Pedro dos Frangos: Incredible spit-roasted chicken ... and more!

    by haikutaxi Updated Feb 14, 2013

    There are actually two Pedro dos Frangos, directly opposite each other on the street and virtually identical ... long and narrow spaces with a bar area and a few tables on the ground level and an upstairs dining room. We were staying only a few blocks away and ended up eating here several times (at both places). We chose to eat at the bar and rub elbows with the locals ... the service was fast and the prices somewhat cheaper than upstairs at a table. Sitting at the bar was casual and comfortable and we got a ringside seat to watch the cook turning the chickens on their skewers over the charcoal fire.

    Favorite Dish: The Frango no espeto (spit-roasted chicken) is their specialty and there was a steady stream of locals coming in to pick up take-away. The portions are enormous but you can order half-portions (more than enough for me with the accompanying crispy fried potatoes, rice and a salad). On another occasion we tried the fish and pork, also very good. Checking my receipts I see that a full meal for 2 people including wine, dessert and coffee came to just over €13 ... and it was all incredibly delicious.

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    McDonald's Imperial - Porto: An Art Deco masterpiece

    by haikutaxi Updated Feb 13, 2013

    In the 1940's - 80's this was the Café Imperial and according to locals it got a bit run down and McDonald's was allowed to take over the premises. The former coffee house is classified as somewhat of a national monument and is located on the Praca da Liberdade in the heart of Porto. McDonald's retained many of the building’s original features, such as the logo and stained-glass windows, huge mirrors and crystal chandeliers while, of course, adding some of its own corporate touches. It's quite fantastic.

    Favorite Dish: If you wish you can order the usual menu of burgers and fries at the large counter. The separate McCafe counter offered very good cappuccinos and lattes with a nice selection of pastries ... much more appealing to me.

    Best of all is the free WiFi combined with comfortable seating and no pressure at all to buy anything. It's a great spot to catch up on your e-mail, have a coffee and use the facilities.

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    100 Maneiras: They Keep It Coming.

    by TouristKris Written Feb 11, 2013

    The 10 course tasting menu with or without the wine pairing is so worth it. I'm not a big wine drinker so I just took a sip of my partners and the staff didn't seem to mind.

    Favorite Dish: Everthing I tasted was delicious.

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    Antigo Primeiro de Maio: Local and Authentic.

    by TouristKris Written Feb 11, 2013

    This small and busy restaurant was recommended by Paulo tne manager of our apartment. He has been coming here for 30 years. This was where I had my birthday dinner and it was a hoot. Crazy crowded and all the menu was in Portuguese. The waiter had fun with us and explained everything in English. In fact, he explained it in a few languages to other tables around us. Our waiter even had a naughty joke for us at the end of the meal giving us a huge laugh.

    Favorite Dish: Seafood.

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    That one: Eating in Portugal

    by solopes Updated Feb 8, 2013

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    Eating is the Portuguese's favorite sport.

    So, there are "stadiums" all over the country. Don't waste your time asking for the best cuisine - everybody will tell you that the best is their local cuisine. And they are being honest, each one prefers his own recipes. Wherever you go, you may find some special menus, sometimes exclusively in that restaurant or region, and many of them drag thousands of visitors to... eat.

    So, being Portuguese, don't get surprised if I tell you that, after tasting dozens of different cuisines, I agree that the best one is... yes, Portuguese.

    I could tell you about lots of dishes, for instance bacalhau, cooked in 100 different ways (and one more, the one I tasted today at lunch). And Cozido a Portuguesa, and Leitao a Bairrada, and Cabrito, and cataplana of... and...

    Excuse-me, I have to stop, it's dinner time. But do come, and see for yourself. Believe me, if the stomach is supposed to be the entrance to each man's heart, it surely is the entrance to Portuguese's soul.

    Table means... friendship.

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    Antiga Confeitaria de Belém: Pastéis de Belém

    by jamesinnyc Written Feb 7, 2013

    A "Confeitaria" pastry shop with sweets although all we had was the Pastéis de Belém, an egg custard dessert created by Catholic Monks in Medieval Portugal. Delicious and uniquely portuguese .

    Favorite Dish: Pastéis de Belém, the original get a sleeve.

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