Monday, May 21, 2018

How to plan the perfect trip to Portugal, a food-lover's paradise

I read every article I could get my hands on about dining in Portugal, and in the end, I think we ended up with a top notch mix of restaurants. Read on for the scoop on where to eat in Portugal!

Ceviche at A Cevicheria in Lisbon

Where to Eat in Porto

Pedro Limao - perhaps my favorite spot of the whole trip. 37 Euros got us a delicious multi-course
tasting menu in a cozy dining room.

Cafeina  - stylish and upscale dining in high-end Foz neighborhood.

Restaurante Lider - our only miss of the trip. I was not feeling this place at all. Felt very authentic in that it was way outside of the normal tourist area, but the dining room had no atmosphere and while the food was ok, I thought it was quite pricey for my least favorite meal of the trip. Service was friendly but spoke no English so it was hard to navigate the menu.

Francesinha Sandwich at Porto's Brasao Aliados, photo credit: adventurous tastes
Francesinha at Brasao Aliados in Porto

Brasao Aliados - Known for their francesinha sandwich, a Porto classic. This sandwich is a Porto take on a croque monsieur but way heavier, with wet-cured ham, linguiça, fresh sausage, steak or roast meat and covered with melted cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce and served with french fries. Get the fried artichoke with black aioli and a porto tonico and don't move for the rest of the day.

Where to Eat Douro Valley
DOC in the Douro Valley
DOC in the Douro Valley

DOC - included in our Douro valley tour. Beautiful setting on the water, high-end and delicious food from a Portuguese celebrity chef. The nicest restaurant in the valley with another outpost in Porto.

Where to Eat in Coimbra
Fangas - we had an awesome meat and cheese platter at this tiny, friendly restaurant. Note the lunch location is a few doors down from the dinner dining room. There's only a sausage plate or a cheese plate on the menu but the friendly waiter combined them into one for us. It was huge and perfect with some local wine.

Where to Eat in Alentejo
Basillii - I was pleasantly surprised by the on-site restaurant at Torre de Palma. The veal was one of the best dinners of my trip. Breakfast was included in our rate and was plentiful with lots of delicious pastries.

Adega Mayor Winery in the Alentejo
Adega Mayor Winery in the Alentejo

Adega Mayor The only winery we were able to make an appointment at. We skipped the tour and headed straight for the tasting. They did hefty pours, so we were able to try all their higher end wines and even splitting some glasses, had more than enough to drink. We brought home a bottle of the wonderful Grande Reserva red.

Where to Eat in Lisbon

A Cevicheria in Lisbon
A Cevicheria's famous octopus
A Cevicheria - a Peruvian ceviche spot might sound like a weird choice for Portugal but you'll recognize the octopus hanging from the ceiling from every article about Lisbon. The Portuguese know their way around fish, and I loved the bright, flavorful ceviches and my pisco sour. We squeezed this in as "first dinner" at 5-ish when no self-respecting local would ever eat, and it was still jam-packed (no reservations) and it was all light enough that we still had room for "second dinner" at 8.

Tasca da Esquina - Located in a less touristy area, this tapas spot was one of the few places we ate that was actually full of locals with nary an American in sight. Get the cod carpaccio with potatoes and egg.

Cervejaria Ramiro - a shellfish focused, no frills seafood restaurant made extra famous by Anthony Bourdain. Pro Tip - You can make a reservation by emailing in advance. Even locals we met didn't seem to know that, and the wait to get in if you didn't have a reservation was epic. They don't trouble themselves with things like side dishes, so come ready to stuff yourself with super fresh garlic shrimp, oysters and lobster and crusty, buttery bread. I wouldn't have been willing to wait in the line, but with a reservation it's well worth trying what many say is Lisbon's best seafood restaurant. Don't miss the "prego" steak sandwich for dessert. Yes, I said dessert, just go with me on this.

The seafood is fresh at Lisbon's Cervejaria Ramiro
Lobster at Cervejaria Ramiro

Cantiho do Avillez
 - Local celebrity chef Jose Avillez has multiple renowned restaurants. Everything was good, although nothing was super memorable. Try the deep fried green beans and the professor style eggs.

Landeau Chocolate - Go for the chocolate cake. It's unbelievable - simultaneously rich and light. It's the cake all other cakes aspire to be. Bring cash because they don't take foreign credit cards.

Chocolate Cake at Landeau Chocolate in Lisbon
Divine chocolate cake at Landeau Chocolate

Fábrica do Pastel Feijão - Pastel de Nata (custard tarts) are rightfully famous and found everywhere. Don't miss them of course, but for something a little different try these incredible white bean pastries. The chef revived an old recipe and spiffed it up, and now he dishes out these award winning little delights at a tiny Alfama storefront. We visited on our food tour, but it's worth a stop regardless. I loved the crunch of the creme brulee like top contrasting with the creamy white bean and almond filling.

Pastel Feijão (white bean pastries) at Fábrica do Pastel Feijão in Lisbon
White Bean Pastries at Fábrica do Pastel Feijão

Treasures of Lisboa Food Tour - I highly recommend this food tour. It's a great excuse to see the winding roads of the Alfama neighborhood with a knowledgeable guide and of course, you get to taste plenty of delicious food from family-owned businesses in the hood. Ruthie, the owner/guide is bubbly and has an obvious love for the city, and it was an awesome way to spend a morning.  You can book her via Airbnb but pro tip - she makes a lot more money if you book it directly through her site like we did.

I've included affiliate links to recommended tours. I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
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