Gastronomy is a huge part of my travels, I love to eat my way around the new cities I visit. The good news about Porto is that you don’t have to go broke to satisfy your stomach. With my big sweet tooth, Portugal’s abundance of very high quality affordable bakeries is a blessing. There’s also fresh seafood that comes at great values. Food vendors by no means try to rip tourists off, either. That said, Porto is a terrible destination for anybody who is trying to lose some weight. Here are the food-related highlights of my three-day trip.
The city declares Francesinha its official dish and tripas come pretty close second. Now, bad news for Muslims and vegetarians because these pack on some heavy pork. Francesinha is described as “a ‘sandwich’ served on a plate, consisting of ham, sausages and a steak between two slices of bread then covered in molten cheese and a generous amount of a thick (not really) spicy sauce. Since they’re such popular dishes, many other budget restaurants serve them. I had both at Paju, a humble-looking mid-range priced restaurant that is loved by many locals. Francesinha comes at 12 euros and tripas dishes start at 8 euros, both were well worth it. This restaurant’s ovos recheados (fried deviled eggs) at roughly 1euros per unit that are worth checking out. I was also digging its caldo verde (green soup).
**An important lessons I’ve learned in Portugal is that the restaurant may place food you don’t order on your table but it doesn’t mean that they are complimentary! They charge everything you touch, so ask before you consume!
The 1 euro breakfast:
An espresso and a pastel de nata (Portuguese creamy egg tart) for 1 euro at Porto dos Sabores Pastelaria, Padaria located few steps away from the Chapels of Souls – Capela das Almas on Santa Catalina street is a hard-to-beat deal. The good news is that this is not the only cafe that offers very affordable quality pastries, coffees and freshly squeezed juice. You sure will be well-pampered in Porto!
The 5 euro buffet:
Arco Iris is the name of the place. Although drinks are not included you have got to admit a 5 euro buffet is a steal and it was not a cheap quality buffet, either. You have bacalhau in creamy sauce, roasted pork “lomo”, duck rice, etc. to name a few dishes and a wide range of desserts including the pear in port wine sauce. And the best part about this buffet is that it opens to a very nice garden with live music (or at least on a Saturday afternoon).
The seafood galore:
The best place to eat seafood is Matosinhos – a popular surf town 12km north from the city center. It’s not the cheapest thing to eat but still very reasonable and worth every penny, including the fun of getting there. The double deck bus 500 starts in Liberty Square – Praça da Liberdade and rides along the coastline about 45 minutes to arrives to the Matosinho and is an excellent alternative of the (never-get-on) Hop-off touristy bus. The seafood market here only runs in the morning Monday – Saturday and closes at 1pm. Not far from the market there are plenty of masriqueiras / seafood restaurants that grilled seafood right in the front producing such irresistible smell for anyone who’s passing by. I originally wanted to go to the Marisqueira Dos Pobres, which is claimed to be low cost for its quality, but it closes on Monday. Luckily there are many other alternatives and I ended up at Restaurante O Lusitano, a bit more modest in size compare to the neighbor restaurants but I have zero complaint for this place. The grilled squid and Bacalhau à brás with plenty of complimentary legumes and the whole experience were top notched! The two seafood plates themselves which perfectly fill up two people cost 20 euros combined, additional 10 euros for two drinks and a big bell pepper salad.
Port wine tasting:
At 10 euros, you can sample 3 kinds of port wine – white, tawny and ruby – with complimentary tapas (snacks) that are enough to share between two people as a post-dinner experience. There are plenty of places that offer similar deals but I stumbled across Vinofino on the preowned Rua das Flores (the street of Flowers). All the furniture of this place is made of wine barrels adding a touch of playfulness.
Other munchies that I adored:
- Pastel de Vouzela: one word, wow! It looks like a typical crispy flaky pastry on the outside but the satisfaction comes from within thanks to the runny egg yolk. A true Portuguese delight! I got it at O Fumeiro cafe for 1,30 euro and devoured it within a blink of the eye.
- Jesuita. I just love the flaky crunchy combination with just the right level of sweetness. BOMB.
- Pingo Doce, a supermarket that comes in different sizes and carries a large selection of products at awesome price. What impressed me the most was its freshly cooked food corner at larger stores that has anything from pastries to hot savory delicious food. One of my dinners consisting of grilled pork churrasco, a roasted chicken drumstick, garlic broccoli and the chewy pao de queijo (cheese bread) all for two people was purchased here and it was a very pleasant surprise and is still mouth-watering for me to think about it. I paid 8 euros! It’s quite impossible to beat the price and the quality.
- This is not exactly an edible item but the Porto Use-It map gives excellent guides to make the most (or to eat the best) of the city. It’s paper-based but I think it comes in phone app version too! It’s just sooo easy and fun to read with full of comprehensive tips from the locals. It includes all the necessities like sightseeings, fooding and more.
- If you take a day trip out to Guimaräes, make sure to check out Supremo Gosto cafeteria where there’s constantly a line of customers. It’s understandable though because in addition to its wide selection of pastries and cakes, it’s located by the scenic street Largo Republica do Brasil looking at the beautiful Igreja de Nossa Senhora da consolação e Santos Passos.
I still have to come back for more yummies like pastries in the Confeitaria do Bolhão, hiddem gems in Escondidinho do Barredo, or excellent live music at À Parte restaurante and more! In short, Porto is definitely any foodie’s top destinations.