Portugal - Did I Get Lucky?

With the substantial increase in tourism over the years, and most of the well known spots geared toward tourists, I wasnt expecting this level of cooking. One of the best eating trips we’ve ever done. In two weeks we had one bad meal (pizza), a couple of OK meals, and well over a dozen stellar meals and snacks. I’ll post the highlights and the rest by leg starting with Porto…

Porto highlights

O Buraquinho da Se - Tiny mom & pop opened by a retired banker. Need to reserve at least a few weeks in advance. I reserved via Facebook a month out. Best Bacalhau I ever had until that point (first day in Portugal). They say there are 365 ways of making them. We tried about two weeks worth. This one topped with cornbread. Supremely flavorful shrimp Acorda (hearty bread soup). Excellent meat and cheese board, and a fine portobello topped with grilled goat cheese. But people come here for the one and only octopus, and I can see why. Its a hefty plate of the angels singing variety. You know they’ll sing once you touch it with the fork. Crazy good stuff.

Taberna dos Mercadores - This one is getting increasingly popular and so a tough table to reserve. But if you can’t, you can still come and stand on line. Tiny place with maybe 6-8 tables. Ridiculously good food. Plump, firm Shrimp in garlic sauce comes flambéed in a frying pan. Same shrimp as part of an outstanding seafood rice. Excellent oniony Octopus salad. We just had to try the Alheira sausage, the supposedly porkless (at the time) sausage the Jews created ages ago. It’s grainy, savory and incredibly aromatic, although fried here. Salt crusted sea bass comes flambéed as well, so delicate and delicious. Fish soup was probably the only thing the group didn’t care much about.

O Maleiro (Peso da Régua, Douro Valley) - Our Douro Valley guide took us here. Super local, good and cheap. Better Alheira here, with boar, chicken (I believe), and plenty of spices. Grilled, not fried, made a difference. Grilled black pig was good, but solidly out-staged by the juicy pork loin, served with a particularly addictive Feijao Frade - black eyed peas and kale salad. Really enjoyed the local atmosphere here.

Quinta da Pacheca (Peso da Régua, Douro Valley) - Another place our guide took us. Spectacular looking winery. We not only tasted a very respectable red reserva, white and tawny (so good) but also got to meet the resident artist, Oscar Rodrigues, in his studio. One of a few artists in the country who paints with wine.

The rest…

A Grade - The place that made us fall in love with Portuguese octopus 12 years ago. While this was still a perfectly cooked tentacle, it made us appreciate the octopus at O Buraquinho da Sé that much more. Seafood rice, grilled branzino all solid. Quite touristy family business. While not as strong as the first two, recommend.

Cafe Santiago - A return after 12 years for the famous Francesinha. Very good still except for the shockingly stale fries. BTW, thats my avatar, from a horrible picture I took 12 years ago

Gazela - Following Bourdain footstep for the famous hot dog. Smaller then I expected, but tastes pretty much what you’d expect.

Conga - For the Porto Bifana. The Bifana doesn’t look very promising but a flavor explosion once you bite. Probably my favorite snack out of the bunch

Manteigaria - Good pasteis, better than the Manteigaria in Lisbon

Restaurante Virtudes in Guimaraes - Not bad, in the main square. The star here was Julia the waitress

Penis Cookie in Amarante - Worst Penis cookie ever. Got too hard too quickly to fully enjoy!

As for hotels, I recommend the Catalonia. Great location, surrounded by some of the more famous restaurants mentioned above. Seara Doce became our favorite breakfast spot.


The food in Porto and Lisbon was exceptional when I visited in 2009. Much higher batting average than visits to Madrid, Paris or Rome for me.


Sssshhhh…! Let them go to other places.

Everything looks so good (and not because I’m a massive fan of Portugal).

I always go to (simple) local restaurants and usually get lucky, too. Some of these restaurants dispense the wine from a big barrel. I still remember paying E.3,00 for a bottle of barrel-dispensed wine with the meal in Pinhão.
(Clams. A big meal for 2, typical for the Portuguese who are Europe’s biggest seafood eaters). A simple restaurant’s cataplana.)


Even with the prices much higher than 12 years ago, they were roughly half to a third of NYC prices today. For the four us, totals usually ranged around €80-120. Some meals at more local places were in the €40s

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Thanks so much for the report and photos. Your dishes look wonderful, even the colesterol bomb Francesinha at the legendary Café Santiago.

We loved our lunch at Porto´s Taberna dos Mercadores and had the salt incrusted sea bass, flambéed-at-the-table. A really cozy, interesting, semi-round dining space.

Glad you enjoyed your visit to Quinta da Pacheca on your Douro day.
Their restaurant is really beautiful and relaxing and serves lovely traditional fare if you return someday.

And thanks for the tip of the local’s place, O Maleiro, in Régua. Putting it on my list for a future visit.


Its such a beautiful Quinta. We spent a few hours there without even a meal. Not sure I ever visited a winery with a resident artist. You can see much of his work all over the property.

Thanks for all your help on planning this one. Next leg coming up…

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Coimbra - Tomar - Alcobaça


Rui dos Leitões (Near Coimbra) - Suckling pig specialists. It could be a matter of taste, but this to me is an example of something the Portuguese do better than the Spaniards. Since they let the pigs mature to 5 weeks, you get much more of the juicy meat than in Segovia where it’s mostly crispy skin of the much younger pig with a mostly milky flesh. We finished with a very interesting tour of the ovens. Packed house of locals on a Wednesday afternoon.

Origens (Alcobaça) - Reserved for lunch via email. Refreshing free port-tonics, and that became our drink of choice for the rest of the trip pretty much. Terrific Flor do Valle cheese, and creamy veg soup to start. Octopus with rice, enhanced nicely by the fresh herbs. Fresh whole Daurade was possibly best tasting fish so far. That was the rest of the group’s highlight. Mine was a Mirandesa steak. Beautiful, tender, clean, and incredibly flavorful. Cooked to med-rare perfection, and just comes with salt on the side. Mirandesa is a breed from the north. Traditional meringue cake for dessert. Tremendous meal at one of two unrelated Origens on this trip.

The rest…

Taverna Antiqua (Tomar) - Figured I’ll swallow my pride for a day and treat the group with a medieval theme dinner. Turned out to be a great decision. What may seem like a tourist trap, it’s really not IMO as the food is actually quite good. They are experimenting with a $25 feast at the moment instead of a menu and we gave them big thumbs up on that one. The space mimics a medieval tavern, the staff wears costumes, and the food features ingredients available at the time, so no tomato, potatoes, etc. It was truly a GOT type feast. My only complaint was that the prices were not medieval, and that I couldn’t pay with a goat and a blonde. But it seemed like they already heard them all.

Casa dos Frangos (Tomar) - A very local churrascaria specializing in grilled chicken. Really excellent chicken, poor ribs. Other tables were getting sausages that looked good. Its just outside the tourist hub. We were the only tourists in a packed house.


That suckling pig looks faceplant-worthy.

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Its smack your mama filthy good. You finish with the oranges to cleanse.

I have more pictures of the ovens that I rather not show. Some may find disturbing.


I mean … it’s a food board after all.

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I’ve had Rua dos Lleitôes on my “to do” list forever and have to get there someday to make the comparison between the Portuguese version and the Segovian cochinillo/tostón. Yours is an excellent description of the difference.

Keep the photos coming! Enjoying very much your dining report.

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Taberna Típica Quarta-feira (Evora) - As much as we like the local experiences, we also enjoy the touristy for a reason joints. This one felt more touristy than others (ranked #2 on TA), but I still highly recommend. The entire family runs the place with the father at the helm. A proud institution opened by his father that’s still involved. A fixed menu (40, not super cheap), of traditional Alentejo and family recipes. Some mystery meat here and there which I guessed correctly but didn’t win anything. Oxtail stew was the highlight between the 20 or so dishes. Not one bad dish. Go, if you dont mind the thanksgiving at Nonnas house format. I was on the fence on this one, but this site pushed me over.

Origens (Evora) - We had plenty of great meals and a few flawless like this one at another place called Origens (unrelated, and actually lead to much confusion even though they are in different parts of the country). Highlights were the chorizo butter. Creamy “A bras” with sausage instead of Bacalhau. It had this pleasant potato chip finish. Expertly cooked white fish whose name I never heard of and can’t even remember. Highlight of the highlights was ultra tender pork cheeks that take three days to make. Flavor packed to say the least. And you just got to finish with their dessert sampler. Young crew. Husband and wife and 4 or so young girls in the open kitchen. Extensive, very local wine list, and a fantastic port-like finish (wish I remembered the name).

Herdade do Esperao Tapas Bar (near Monsaraz) - Their Michelin star restaurant was closed, which I knew. But the tapas bar was open so we booked lunch there after the tour and tasting (recommend). A refreshing vegetable heavy menu finally. Asparagus, beet root, and the cabbage salad that came with the pork were particularly noteworthy. The lamb dish came with scalloped potatoes with more lamb in the middle. Superb homemade bread. This winery and lunch is a good pairing with the stunning Monsaraz.

The rest…

Aqui Ao Lado (Castelo de Vide) - Sort of a newish, modern looking spot that serves traditional and not so much food. Another one packed with locals. Started with a very nice Jamon. Explosive tiny croquettes filled with sausages. A serviceble Omelette with asparagus. I love that in Spain and Portugal all sorts of egg dishes can be featured on lunch/dinner menus. Another fine Bacalhau. We are slowly converting. We thought we didnt like Bacalhau before this trip. Something called Migas entrecosto e enchidos. Migas (stale bread mixture) with spare ribs, chorizo and bacon. This was very interesting especially the Migas which was like the Portuguese version of the Romanian/Moldovan Mamaliga but nothing like it.

Marvao Com Gosto (Marvao) - The highlight for me in Marvao was this cookie lady right at the entrance. Delicious super thin oatmeal cookies we are still enjoying weeks later.

Dona Ines (Evora) - Grudgingly settled on this for lunch after Tua Madre was “close for vacations”, and Pateo was too busy. Not too bad all considering. A tasty pork loin stuffed with plums was the best dish. Its hard to eat badly here even when you try seems like.

Tábua do Naldo (Evora) - I reluctantly cancelled our reservations at Fialho for an early quicky here. An animated, fun, borderline angry owner. A fairly basic, Migas filled, comfort food. No complaints nor raves. Felt bad about missing Fialho but oh well.


So glad you enjoyed your meal at Origens in Evora as we did.
We also had the dessert medley, or as the chef, Gonçalo Queiroz, put it, “the chef’s surprise desserts”. He and his wife make a fine team. He also offers afternoon cooking classes upon request.

We had a different reaction to chef Naldo, as we found him friendly, charming and smiling as did our travel companions and some Fodorite friends. Either we hit him on a very good day or you hit him on a bad day.
In any event, we had the black pork, which was delicious, and our companions had the cod with migas. Yes, very much comfort food.

I’ve decided that I’m now a recent convert to Alentejo style migas, which I find much tastier, more savory than the Spanish version that we have in Navarra, “migas de pastor”.


Looking forward to more photos.

Oh he wasnt too bad. Seemed that he had a staff shortage and he dropped a plate that shattered into pieces next table, so he was a bit flustered when they just opened. But overall he was fun and took good care of us.

Good to know!

Please, please tell me the humor here was intentional :sweat_smile:

It was intentional, and true :laughing:




Tascantiga (Sintra) - Touristy Sintra dining was an enigma to me, but we were very happy with this Tapas bar. Much of the same goodies we’ve been eating so far but really well executed with a bit of a twist. Fantastic shrimp. Octopus was topped with a nice fried onion mix to give it another layer of texture and flavor. Another flavor packed, tender Pork cheek. Spare ribs so succulent you forgive and forget the salt level. Our favorite Porto-tonics of the trip. It’s the type of place that would do very well in NYC.

Mar do Inferno (Cascais) - Elegant old school seafood house with beautiful sea views. Very good fish soup and a killer seafood combo that included huge, plump prawns, an outstanding bream and more. And yet another terrific seafood rice, maybe best until this point. Desserts were meh, especially the terrible flan. Some of these old school places we encountered in Portugal have a huge dessert lineup that makes it tough to choose and easy to make a mistake.

Quinta das Pedras (Belas) - I have to mention our accommodations here. A thousand words and pictures will not even begin to properly describe this hidden paradise in Belas, around 15-20 minutes from Sintra and 20 minutes from Belém. A 10 rating with over 100 reviews on Booking. Still not well known since it’s fairly new. Only two rooms. It’s virtually impossible to rate this place lower even if you find negatives. The kindness and attention to detail of the perfectionist host, the gardens, the pool, and the countless of chachkies and collectibles throughout the property. The grandparents essentially spent some time building a magnificent garden. And at some point they build a house inside of it to house their many collectibles from their many travels, from Zimbabwe to India, to Ukraine.

One night his cook prepared us a Turkey cooked with apricots, wine and tarragon, with broccoli and rice, and a divine homemade choc mousse by the pool. A welcomed change for us after 10 days of eating out. Awesome breakfasts that featured individual fruit salads. We’ll be talking about this stay and the host for years to come.

The rest

Casa das Minas (Sintra) - Found this unique place sort of by accident. It’s an art school, restaurant, and a garden. You don’t really come here for the food, but the food wasn’t bad, and the view and atmosphere helped. Like eating in a gorgous backyard. Enjoyed meeting the owner who moved here from California a year ago and purchased her favorite restaurant. It’s an eclectic menu, essentially her kids favorite dishes. You can freely roam around if you choose not to eat. We then went to their affiliated art school a block down and bought a few things.

Casa Piriquita (Sintra) - For the famous Sintra pastries. The group preferred the Travesseiros puff pillows over the Queijadas. But honestly I’ll take the Nata at the Fábrica da Nata right across any day of the week. Another perfectly flaky, fresh Nata. I’ll give you my Nata winner when I’ll cover Lisbon next




Tapisco - As good as the food was, we’ll remember this lunch for other reasons. As soon as we sat down we noticed this presence two tables over. For privacy reason I won’t reveal the name, but it rhymes with Emeril Shmegasse. We weren’t sure at first if it was him, but when I said very very softly “Bam” he turned and said “folks”. He was then joined by other familiar looking people but we couldn’t figure out who they were except his son. The food was superb, mostly. Outstanding Patatas Bravas. Good crisp on the outside and creamy inside. La bomba, a riff on the Barcelona snack was the bomb. Flavor explosion on every bite. Their dishes feature a decent amount of heat for Portugal. Excellent Cod “à Brás”, but a little one-note especially when compared to other Bras we’ve had. Jamon and tomato toast, so simple and delicious. Best Octopus rice of the trip. And Choc mousse was a Mariano Rivera kind of proper closer.

Jesus é Goês - Following the footsteps of Phil Rosenthal. We essentially cancelled one Phil (Ponto Final - Women requested) for another. Phenomenal Goan cooking. The mains especially had a good amount of pleasant heat and nice complexity. This kind of flavor profile fits my taste buds like a glove. The flaky samosas were different and very good. The holy burgers with poached egg on a spoon were little umami bombs. But the stars were the Chicken Cafreal, shrimp curry and especially the goatling Xacuti. Unfortunately the story has taken a tragic turn as it turns out Jesus the owner passed away only a few months ago, only in his 40s. They closed for about a month, and now his partner is running things.
More on this one here

O Velho Eurico - And just when we thought our Portugal meals couldn’t get any better, comes this doozy on our last night. Not an easy table to reserve, and a 20 deep line as soon as they opened. Chef/owner (didnt catch his name) will be a guest chef in Brooklyn later this month. This place does have a north Brooklyn, sort of hipster feel, with elevated cooking for a third of the price. Cold Bacalhau salad was so delicate, and just about best Bacalhau of the trip. Piri piri shrimp were plump and succulent with sauce that reminded me of New Orleans BBQ shrimp. Loved the use of fruits and sauces throughout. Soft strips of melt in your mouth peppery pork belly with orange. Calamari with more orange sauce, maybe a tad overpowering in this case but still enjoyable. Excellent sausage with fried corn bread. And my personal fave, fried rabbit with a very complimentary creamy dill sauce. Solid desserts especially the creme brûlée. One of the better whites of the trip. Just flawless!

The rest…

Ramiro - Still some of the best shrimp with garlic we ever had. Maybe second to the abuela place in Madrid. Sizzling, intense garlic. Can never be too garlicky for us. We also enjoyed tiger prawns in more garlic and just simply grilled. Fantastic Jamon. And I finally lost my Percebes virginity. Very good, but I don’t quite get the luxury appeal other than the difficulties of finding them.

Rampa do Pragal - Perhaps the most memorable unplanned meal of the trip. A local simple fish grill, 5 min walk from the towering Sanctuary of Christ across the river. Almost no English except from a little old lady. We ordered some combo platters and the food just kept coming. They kept passing by dropping stuff. One time it looked like they were dropping someone elses leftovers. Sardines, all sorts of fish, shrimp, razor clams. The fish was tastiest, sardines were ok, the experience first rate. The lady could have sold us a car if she wanted. When we told her we wanted coffee, she told us what we really wanted was coffee and 5 different slices of cake. All very good.

Churrasqueira do Marquês - Another very local grill, not far from Belem. Grilled chicken is the name of the game, some claim best in Lisbon. Juicy, nicely charred, perfectly seasoned, and accompanied by a super hot Piri Piri. Better than what we had in Tomar. We also ordered the pork dish of the day and “sausage German style” that turned out to be a little bit of sliced sausage, some kind of pork and potato stew. Not quite familiar with this German style myself, or maybe a mistake. Really enjoyed this place, and with drinks it was around 10 per person. I highly recommend getting out of the center at least once.

Pasteis de Belem - Although not the best Pasteis of the trip, I don’t know how you skip this legend. They serve 25-30k Pasteis a day. Ours were on the crispy side, not too fresh but still quite tasty. We’ve been eating them all over the country including Manteigaria in two different locations. The most consistently solid fresh Pasteis we’ve had throughout the two weeks came from Fabrica da Nata. Once in Sintra, twice from Praça dos Restauradores. With that said, dare I say, Xin Fa bakery in Brooklyn, NY still ranks with the best of them. Before the pandemic I was running food tours in NYC and Pasteis became a big part of it. So it was fun eating them all over at the source.

Think thats all I got. Thanks for reading. If I didnt bore you enough here, look for more stories on EatingWithZiggy.com Hate the name, but got stuck with it.


Thanks @Ziggy! I am bookmarking and am somehow going to plan a trip finally to Portugal!

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