I am a firm believer of the idea that you can get to know a place through it’s food. In fact, after visiting Lisbon eight years ago, the memory of the food stuck with me. Portuguese cuisine is comforting, warm, salty and delicious; I couldn’t wait to share it with Peter in Porto!
Portugal’s traditions run deep in Porto, but the city also has it’s own unique flavors. From a smothered sandwich to tasty pastries, here are five dishes to help you get to know Porto!
What do you get when you take three types of meat, put it between two pieces of bread and smother it with melted cheese and beer sauce? Porto’s favorite sandwich- the Francesinha. Reviews on this delicacy vary, but Peter and I loved it! We split one (just in case the haters were right), but next time we’re definitely getting our own! We had our Francesinha at the famous Majestic Café. Don’t judge me too much, but it was the perfect breakfast after quite a bit of port wine the night before.
Side note: Peter and I were VERY lucky and had practically no wait for a table at the Majestic Cafe. If you’d like to eat at this Belle Epoch gem, go early!
Pastel de Nata
This famous pastry TOTALLY lived up to the hype. Alternately known as pastéis de nata or pastéis de Belém, these egg custard tarts originated in a monastery outside of Lisbon. After the monastery closed down in 1834, the recipe was sold to a sugar refinery.
In Porto today, the treat is ubiquitous. From bakeries specializing in the pastel production to corner stores, you really can’t go wrong! The only tip I can give you is to try to avoid the tarts that have been sitting out all day. Get one fresh from the oven, and enjoy three to five bites of heaven.
Saying cod is a staple of Portuguese cuisine seems like a massive understatement when you consider the prevalence of the fish and the seemingly limitless ways to cook Bacalhau. Estimates of number of preparations range from 365 (one for every day of the year) to well over a thousand. With that in mind, you’ll need to try a few to find your favorite iteration of Bacalhau.
Peter and I found our favorite version not in Porto, but on an excursion to the Douro wine valley. If you have time, I would absolutely recommend taking a day trip!
Tripas a Modo do Porto
Thursday is tripe day in Porto! Supposedly, this tradition symbolizes the generosity of the city. In 1412, Henry the Navigator was preparing to conquer Ceuta and asked the Porto residents to donate supplies. The story goes that they were SO generous, all they had left was tripe. Today, this dish includes several meats, navy beans and, of course, the tripe.
Being completely honest, I didn’t exactly mean to order this and didn’t exactly love it. HOWEVER, I did love everything else about the situation. Peter and I escaped the hoards of people in Porto with a 15 minute Uber out to Foz do Douro. The village is right on the coast, super cute and wayyy less crowded. In the unnamed restaurant at the back of the Mercado, we were the only two tourists. Also worth mentioning is that the cost for two giant plates of food and two giant carafes of wine was only €13.
Even if tripe isn’t for you, you can’t go wrong with petiscos – the Portuguese version of tapas. With options ranging from chorizo grilled in front of you on an open flame to tuna tartar with wasabi roe, there is truly something for everyone. Order a little of this, a little of that and wash it all down with a Vinho Verde.
Peter and I enjoyed petiscos a number of times during our trip, but two standouts were the muscles at Petiscaria Santo António and the croquetas at Tapisco.
I hope this list has helped whet your appetite for Portuguese food. Luckily for any other avid eaters, there is so much more to try! In addition to these traditional items, you’ll be overwhelmed with fresh seafood, savory sausages and garlicky sides. The restaurants in Porto vary from teeny tiny holes in the wall to sleek fine dining establishments. One quick tip before I go: if you want to eat at a specific place I STRONGLY recommend making a reservation. The city was packed, and so were all the restaurants at dinner time.