Best Eats in Porto
Rustic Cuisine On a Budget
During my month-long stay in Porto, or anywhere I visit for that matter, I’m always searching for the traditional rustic cuisine of a place. There is so much one can learn from the history of a country when you taste its food.
Porto Eating Experiences
The cuisine of Portugal and Porto, in particular, does take some getting used to. A lot of the food is quite heavy while being simple at the same time. The peculiar arranging of fries in a circle around the plate is a little odd. The enormous stacks of dried whole cod in the supermarkets can be overwhelming. The sausages labeled chorizo have nothing to do with the paprika filled Spanish version. The cheese is often made from the milk of cow, goat, and sheep at the same time. Then there’s alheira, a bready sausage or kind of meat patty made with various meats other than pork; it seems the more types of animals the better. Alheira is the type of rich sausage that finds itself on your burger in a Portuguese restaurant or with fried eggs at a worker’s café. It’s a good thing that Porto is a city with lots of hills, you’ll need to walk off the food! Oh, and then there are those very creamy desserts thick with egg yolks…
There’s no excuse for not eating cheaply in Porto. Most traditional restaurants and cafés will sell Caldo Verde, a cabbage soup that you can often buy for 2,50 euros. The Portuguese wine is some of my favourite in the world and the low prices are just wonderful! More possibilities for buying chic Portuguese dresses…
If you also like to search for authentic cuisine I suggest you use this list during your stay in Porto. I found that delicious budget restaurants aren’t necessarily as easy to find in Portugal as in France or Italy. If you’re looking for fine dining, I’m sure there are lots of options but sadly, none are in this article. After a month of hounding locals, reading, wandering the back streets and tasting, here are my suggestions of places and things to eat in the beautiful city of Porto, Portugal.
Take a Food Tour
If you’re only in the city for a short while, I cannot urge you enough to take a food tour with Taste Porto. During the Vintage Food Tour, I learned so much about the cuisine and history of Porto. André’s enthusiasm and explanations gave meaning to the local dishes and flavours. You’ll find that Portuguese cuisine, in particular, is bound to its history.
Try the pork cheeks here. Delicious. Lovely, cozy environment. Also great for a cheap tasty sandwich.
Travessa dos Congregados, nº11 (1,137.57 km)
4000 Porto, Portugal
Rua das Virtudes, 32
4050 Porto, Portugal
This rustic BBQ restaurant is for the steak lovers. Oh my goodness, the food here is delicious. Even the cabbage is divine. Make sure to order the “half” portions as a “whole portion” could easily feed three people! The restaurant is on one side of the street and the takeout stand is on the other.
Rua do Paraiso 257, Porto 4000-378, Portugal
The people of Porto love a good sandwich! If you see an entire pig roasting in a window, it’s always a good bet.
Some of the braver among you will want to try the official traditional dish of Porto. This sandwich has to be seen to be believed. The story goes that a Portuguese man saw the croque madame in Paris and thought he would create a Portuguese version. Well, this 2,000 calorie meal will certainly keep you going! Or perhaps, should I say, knock you out. It comprises of bread, ham, smoked sausage, grilled sausage, steak or roast meat, melted cheese and lots and lots of hot thick tomato and beer sauce served with french fries. Good luck!
Rua Sá Noronha, 137 (1,137.90 km)
4050-528 Porto, Portugal
This café is a favourite with local university students.
Slow Cooked Pork
There are many places in town that make delicious pork or lamb sandwiches. This is one of my favourites.
Rua das Oliveiras 8, 4050-159 Porto, Portugal
Mmmm. The Portuguese certainly know how to roast a chicken. Follow your nose and make sure to ask for the Piri Piri sauce.
Rua do Bonjardim, 223, 312
4000-124 Porto, Portugal
Food and Fado Music
Listening to hauntingly beautiful Fado music is a must while in Portugal. Go to this restaurant to hear the stunning voices of Patricia and Antonio.
Largo de Sao Joao Novo 16 – 16 A, Porto 4050, Portugal
Portugal is, of course, synonymous with salt cod, or bacalao. This revered dish among locals can be prepared in hundreds of ways. Kind of like the list of what you can do with shrimp in Forest Gump…
The sea-faring nation of Portugal is also known for its large consumption of sardines, octopus, sea bass and more. The fish, other than salt cod, is, from what I saw, always prepared in the same way. Barbecued whole with salt and olive oil. Go to one of these spots and order a jug of vinho verde on tap. It comes to the table almost fizzing over!
Sit right in the middle of the bustling market not only for the tasty fish but for the ambiance. Watch how the chef yells the name of the nearest fishmonger and the name of the fish she needs every time she receives an order. The fishmonger will clean the fish and bring them over one at a time to the box hanging outside the kitchen window. A fun sight to see!
Address: Rua Formosa, 4000-214 Porto
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 07:00-17:00 Sat 07:00-13:00
Even though Porto is very close to the open sea, everyone says that the only place to eat fish is actually right next to the sea. Take the bus or a taxi 20 minutes away to Matosinhos area where you’ll find a street full of restaurants that sell barbecued fish. Go early to check out the impressive fish market and walk on the beach where you’ll be moved by the Tragedy at Sea monument by local artist José João de Brito statue. It commemorates the simultaneous sinking of four fishing boats during a storm on December 1st, 1947, consequentially killing 152 men. The monument depicts the horror of the wives and children as they watched on the beach.
After walking around, get a seat outside a restaurant so that you can see your fish cooking. All the fish is served whole here, simply barbecued with olive oil and salt. Taberna Lusitana is a local favourite.
Rua Franca Junior, Matosinhos 4450-167, Portugal
For a foodie souvenir gift:
Loja das Conservas
Find the best of Porto’s canned fish specialties preserved with the utmost care to ensure quality and deliciousness. The cans are also decorative.
Rua Mouzinho da Silveira, 240
Head to Place de Guilherme where you’ll find a few pastry shops in the center of Porto. This is where all the locals go for the Portuguese sweet version of croissants.
Pastel del Natas
Oh, these icons of Portugal! Sprinkle on a little cinnamon, and munch on one of these with your morning coffee. As a matter of fact, each time I ordered coffee without one of these I was looked at with some concern. Pastel del Natas aren’t all created equal. Don’t buy them from a grocery store. Only the best creamy filling with crispy pastry will do.
This factory-café is right next to the market. Here, you can watch how the “natas” are made.
Rua de Santa Catarina, nº 331/335
If you’re missing a flat white, this is where to go.
Praça Carlos Alberto, n.º 104
This café is perfect if you want to cozy up with a book or work on the computer. The food is good, the coffee is excellent and the staff are friendly.
Rua Actor João Guedes, 5
If you can manage to get out of the city, you really should do some wine tasting in the Douro valley. But if not, no worries. The local wine is a delight. The red seriously stains your lips though- I had to take to wearing red lipstick during my stay in Porto!
Diogo, the owner of this lovely bar close to the port offers wine and food tastings. I learned about the difference between Alentejo and Douro wines. With 300 Portuguese grape varietals, you can taste wines made in 11th century clay pots as Diogo explains the wine map of Portugal. Beautifully presented cheese beckons from a glass box in the corner as you contemplate if you should try just one more…
Rua Ferreira Borges, 86
Touriga Vinhos de Portugal
This little shop specializes in small producers of the region. You can taste late vintage bottles of white, ruby and tawny port as I did with the Taste Porto food tour. This shop offers worldwide shipping and I’m seriously regretting not sending myself a little welcome home present. This is the best place to buy a bottle for yourself or a lucky someone at home.
Rua da Fabrica, 32
Port Tasting at the Factory:
Most locals have different opinions about where to taste Port. Croft seems to be the favourite with locals as the tours are smaller and the tastings more generous.
All the port distilleries are located on the opposite side of the river, called Gaia, from Porto. This was because port authorities, quite some time ago, raised the taxes on warehouses. Instead of paying, the distilleries moved to the other side of the river! Cheeky.
British and Portuguese Trading
You’ll notice that many of the Port companies have English names such as Taylors or Grahams. This is because the English, seemingly always at war with France, came to Portugal for their wine. Brandy was added to the wine in order to better preserve it throughout the voyage to England- et voila! Port was born. Now, Port is a serious business in Portugal where the rules of making it are strongly enforced in order to maintain the high quality. Some people have even gone to jail because they dared to use an unauthorized grape variety in their port. Interestingly, the Portuguese-British alliance is known as the longest lasting alliance in history. When good wine is involved, why would it be any other way?
Porto Food Inspiration
Watch Anthony Bourdain’s episode on Porto where you’ll learn a lot about traditional Portuguese cuisine and even see the Taste Porto team!
CuriousProvence in Porto by fashion photographer Saul Larios.
For a guide on what to see and do in Porto, read A Visiter’s Guide to Porto by Curious.