Casual restaurants Portugal

My husband and I will be in Portugal in September. We are looking for small causal restaurants with fish and seafood. We don’t want to go to the tourist restaurants listed in the guidebooks.
We will be in Porto , Lisbon , Coimbra and Sintra.
Appreciate your suggestions.

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I think you should just wing it!

I went into a hole in the wall chicken restaurant (rotisserie chicken, a churrasqueira) within 10 blocks of the Hotel Britannia in Lisbon. It was fabulous.

I didn’t bother taking down the name. I didn’t want others to ruin the vibe by making the little restaurant more popular through an online search.

I definitely did not want Lonely Planet using my find in their next book.

There are plenty of excellent places already mentioned here several times which are casual and affordable, and are mentioned in guide books. So I guess you’re not interested in those.

My advice to you is to wing it in Portugal, if you want to avoid the places that get written up in guide books. The food is cheaper in Portugal than most other countries in Western Europe. Maybe you’ll feel comfortable trying a second restaurant the same night if the first one doesn’t meet your expectations.

Also, a tip. The cheese, olives, bread, butter, that will be put out on the table in Portugal are not freebies or complimentary. You will be charged for the items you take. They’re not too expensive, but they’re not free. Whatever you take will be on your bill. Which is fair, just a different approach to running a restaurant.

Other countries, such as Greece, sometimes offer complimentary olives and bread.

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Start here:

If you need more info, just put “portugal” in the search bar.

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Hi! The fact a restaurant in Portugal is in a guide book does not mean it is full of American tourists (like you would have in Paris in some restaurants mentioned in HO). So don’t discards guidebooks by principle. Look for “Cervejarias” or “Marisqueiras”. Places like Ramiro or Solar dos Presuntos are mostly filled with locals… For Lisbon, look at this article (in Portuguese) https://expresso.pt/boa-cama-boa-mesa/2022-05-12-Camarao-sapateira-ou-lagosta--Sete-restaurantes-ideais-para-mariscar-em-Lisboa-bc7d9d50
In Porto, aim for Matosinhos, lost of choice there. Also look at https://www.evasoes.pt/comer/grande-porto-8-marisqueiras-com-boa-qualidade-preco/452718/
Sintra is not really the place for fish or shellfish, but Estoril and Cascais are (but that area is expensive turf!)
Coimbra is also inland, so not sure about fish there. But being a big university town, you should be able to find plenty of “tascas” (small cheap cafés serving food). Follow the students!

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I stumbled upon this place while walking back to my Airbnb, so good I went twice.

Middle photo- Pulpo
Bottom photo- mixed meat platter. Each plate was enough for 2 ppl, or one hungry dood like me.

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These days ,unless you have a lot of time in each place, just winging it could result in disappointment. Lisbon is a very busy touristic city, some research is def necessary.

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I’ve been winging it more lately, after being fairly highly strung about planning before travelling to Europe from 2003 -2023, and I’m enjoying the surprises.

If someone wants to truly avoid the guidebook places, winging it , and maybe sorting out the places with a Google rating lower than 4, might be the way to go.

Out of countries to wing casual restaurants without planning, Portugal, Greece and Germany have treated me the best with the surprise hits. I didn’t have any bad meals in Portugal. All my meals in Porto were winged.

It was 15 years ago, so things have changed.

I do avoid places that I sense give off a tourist trap vibe- and the places @Monchique mentioned, while in guidebooks because they’re solid, do not give off that tourist trap vibe to me.

In terms of research, I had the names of a dozen restaurants in Lisbon that @Monchique and others had recommended in 2009. I had a list of regional dishes I wanted to try. Sometimes I search the dish I want in Google Maps, check which places are nearby, open and have decent reviews on Google, and go with that.

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I was there in 2019 and it was really busy then, I can’t imagine how busy it is now. Nothing wrong with a little recon. The best rotisserie chicken I had in Lisbon was in a very touristy location, much better than the out of the way popular joint. Ramiro was jammed every night of the week, full of locals and tourists like myself, luckily they take reservations now which they didn’t when I was there. Totally worth the line ups I had to endure tho.

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I went in the fall. No lines for me in late Sept, when at Ramiro or any other restaurants where we ate. We had a reservation at Solar dos Presuntos, which was more upscale for us.

Things may have changed since 2009, but I think Sept is probably still a lot less busy than late May - Aug.

Ya, a lot has changed in 15 years. The days of wandering around aimlessly hoping to find a hidden gem in popular tourist destinations are long gone :sob:. I was there mid May, just before the really busy summer season and it was still busy.

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I wandered into a residential neighborhood, when I found the chicken place. I think it can be done.

I wandered off my tourist map printed inside my guidebook in Rome , in 2018, wandering along a busy street, with no battery left in my phone. That’s when I found a cool Sicilian coffee shop.

It felt like central Portugal was where Portuguese people were going for vacation and road trips. The Come From Away visitors seem to stick to Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve. I could be wrong, of course. The bang for the buck is where the Portuguese are spending their days off in Portugal, imo. Which might not be making it into the international online restaurant and travel tips world, to the same degree as the Greatest Hits we recommend and have visited.

Appreciate the information. I have tried winging it before in Spain and ended up w/ some mediocre meals b/c I was so hungry by the time I found somewhere to eat

Still learning how to navigate this website. Will check out these threads

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Will check out these links. TY

This looks like the kind of place I am looking for. Love pulpo!

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I ate it every chance I got, the Portuguese know how to cook Pulpo!

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It’s called “polvo” here… :yum:

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My 2023 rundown, with plenty of Pulpo and Polvo porn

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I live in Lisbon (but have only been here for a little over a year and still do not speak the language well). The most touristed parts of the city are in the parishes (fregusias) of Santa Maria Maior and Misericórdia, areas like Baixa, Alfama, Chiado, Cais do Sodre. We almost never go to these areas (perhaps passing through on transit occasionally) and even when family visited earlier this year, we did not spend much time in these areas (the closest we got was the great lookout point in the southern part of Princípe Real). If you eat in these areas, definitely avoid places with touts inviting you in, or large placards in multiple languages. An English menu is not necessarily a bad sign, but everything is warped by the number of daytrippers coming from cruise ships or bus coaches. September is shoulder season, so it will be a little better, but still.

If you go a few stops away on a subway line, to areas like Saldanha, Arroios, Alvalade, you find many more modest and decent restaurants that cater mostly to locals. Some are quite smart. As an example, Petisco Saloio (the name translates to “country snacks”) does a terrific 11€ weekday lunch, bread, olives, choice of three mains, choice of several desserts, drink (wine or beer included) and coffee. Not a brilliant meal, but very solid and satisfying, and you can practice your Portuguese comprehension eavesdropping on the salaried types. It is near the Campo Pequeno metro stop. I have not been in the evening, but they serve small plates, and reports are good. If you’re willing to brave a bus (much easier now with tap-on cards and GPS on phones), more areas open up, like Penha da França, Beato, and my neighbourhood, Campo de Ourique, which is flat, somewhat upscale, and with a lot of choices of places to eat. A recent find is Talego, also an 11€ lunch place, with many specialties from the Alentejo, and very generous servings. You may have to learn a bit of meal vocabulary (always a good idea) and perhaps decipher a scrawled chalkboard or handwritten menu, but my experience is that servers are generally helpful, even if usually overworked.

One good source of information is Time Out, but not the English-language version. Look at timeout.pt in a browser that facilitates translation (Chrome and Firefox do this for me). There is much more detailed information about areas outside the tourist concentration, lists of specialities, recent reviews.

Sintra has an intensely touristic centre, and suburban outskirts. There is not much you can do about it. This is also true of Cascais, a beach resort town at the terminus of the coastal commuter line from Lisbon. If you walk a little away from the sights, and look at places that don’t appear impressive from the outside, you can do a little better. Coimbra and Porto are larger cities, so like Lisbon, you can walk or ride a bit and get into more normal areas. I don’t have recent experience with either.

You have some time to plan, so I’d be happy to answer questions or offer somewhat uninformed opinions on what your other research turns up.

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