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Inside Tours - DMC Portugal
Porto is the capital of the northern region of Portugal. So, you can expect to find a good display of the best that is done in this area. History and tradition mingle with the Atlantic coast and the mountains that shape the northern landscape, giving rise to rich flavors that can be enjoyed all over the city. Follow our suggestions for the foods you really shouldn’t miss.
Let’s start with soup: Caldo Verde, a typical recipe from northern Portugal, where fertile fields abound, is a potato soup with cabbage, which takes a slice of chorizo to give it a smoky taste. Easy to find in any restaurant.
Going forward to the main course, you’ve probably heard of the Portuguese obsession with cod, which is salted and dried, then desalted before cooking. There are dozens of cod dishes all over the country and Porto could not be an exception. Try the Bacalhau à Gomes Sá, which is made with potatoes, onions, liters of olive oil and finished in the oven, with boiled egg and is a typical recipe of the city.
If meat is more your thing, one of the city’s best-known dishes is Tripas (trips or Gut), a dish that, according to the legend, began in the 15th century, when the city’s population gave all the good meat they had to the boats that made the first expedition to the North of Africa, which started the age of the Portuguese discoveries. As they were left with only the viscera, they had to be creative in order to make them tasty. It is a regional symbol of self-sacrifice and we are very proud of it. Nevertheless, we know that dish is not for everybody. There are other traditional meat options such as Cabrito Assado (roasted goatling) or the king of sandwiches in Portugal, Francesinha, which has a steak, ham, and different kinds of sausages, all covered in melted cheese and soaked in a special sauce. It’s so iconic, we devoted an entire section to where to eat it in this city guide.
Finally, for dessert, try Papos de Anjo (egg cakes in syrup), perfect with Port Wine.
Be aware that the entrees (olives, cheese, bread) that you find on the table are not free. It is not a scam, it’s just how Portuguese restaurants set the table. If you don’t want anything besides what you pick from the menu, just send it back.
For a true traditional experience both in food and atmosphere start at Maria Rita , a family owned restaurant where Bacalhau is a must. Also, Museu d’Avó literally translates to Grandmother´s Museum and mixes vintage decor with traditional dishes. Excellent for petiscos (portuguese tapas). O Rápido, very close to the São Bento Station, is a Porto classic due to the menu that changes every day, but true to the Porto cuisine.
In the mood for fish? As a city by the sea, there is no lack of fish options throughout Porto and surroundings. Right at the historical center, try Taberna dos Mercadores, a more relaxed environment, where we recommend the octopus and the Cozinha Cabral, known for the monkfish fillets, right in the Ribeira area. If you’ re visiting Vila Nova de Gaia, O Bacalhoeiro offers traditional fish recipes with a modern twist. In Matosinhos, A Chalandra has a huge variety of shellfish straight from the ocean to your plate.
On the more sophisticated side, O Escondidinho has been around for almost 100 years and is well known amongst the local elite. From actors, to politicians, still today is one of those places in Porto no one wants to miss due to the quality of the traditional dishes recognized with 2 Michelin Stars. O Comercial, located inside one of the most iconic monuments of the city – Palácio da Bolsa – aims to fuse “the elegance of the past with new trends”. An ambitious plan and, in our opinion, well succeed!
Another Michelin star restaurant that you shouldn’t miss, and this one with an incredible view, is Antiqvvm. The menu is elaborated based on seasonal local ingredients, the view is of the river Douro…perfect for a romantic dinner.
For a quick meal or just Petiscos (portuguese tapas) we suggest the Guarany, an historical café right at Avenida dos Aliados, with tasty cheese boards and charcuterie; The Café Piolho – Âncora d’Ouro and is one of the best known and frequented cafés in Porto. Opened in 1909, it was mostly a gathering point of students and teachers, due to its location right in the middle of many universities. You can either have a Francesinha here, or just grab a beer at the beginning of the night. Also, Trasca, which likes to consider itself a modern tavern. With walls of granite and tiles, it has a warm and welcoming environment. Here you can have all kinds of Portuguese tapas, from chorizo to alheira (a different kind of portuguese smoked sausage). If variety is what you want, consider the Bom Sucesso Market, which, following a recent trend, has been refurbished and converted into an open gallery filled with 44 food and drink stalls.
Francesinha (roughly translated to little french woman) is to Porto what the custard tart is to Lisbon. Ask 10 different people where to eat the best one and you get 10 different answers. But let’s go back in time, to understand how the whole thing started: a portuguese emigrant in France encountered the french snack, the croque monsieur, and decided to take it to the portuguese level. When he returned home in the 50´s , he opened a restaurant in Porto (that no longer exists) and started serving the reinvented sandwich. It was an instant hit and gained life on its own. Soon after snack-bars and restaurants, all over the city, started making it their own way, but faithful to the original principle: bread sandwich with different meats, covered with melted cheese and a special tomato and beer sauce. May or may not be served with a fried egg on top and french fries that you can dip in the sauce.
So, where to go? Well, this is our selection but keep in mind that it is an ongoing debate.
For no particular reason, let’s start with Bufete Fase was established in 1984 and only serves Francesinha, which is considered one of the best in the city. The place is very small, but cozy, and the dishes are cooked in front of the clients. Capa Negra II is an emblematic restaurant of Porto and has been serving francesinhas for 30 years. But you can find many other typical dishes. Santiago is a restaurant and café from the 1960’s, which is best known for the Francesinha. The space is not very big and, due to its reputation, is usually crowded. The service is quick but, if you don’t want to wait, you can also try Santiago F, a café run by the same owners, a few meters down in the same street. Lado B is another excellent option, especially if you´re vegetarian, being one of the few that have this option. And finally, O Afonso. Once one of the best kept secrets of Porto, after Anthony Bourdain went there for the TV Show Parts Unknown, it became part of every list of restaurants to try in the city. But the quality never changed and still is one the best places to taste this amazing dish!