Do you seek out good food when you travel? Appreciate local traditions? The tiled rooftops of Porto conceal extraordinary food experiences in the many tascas and tabernas scattered along the steeply-pitched alleyways below. Tom and I are always on a quest for local flavors and good eats–and we found both in family-style meals with locals in Porto.
In our travels across Portugal, we have tasted incomparable seafood and hearty country fare, and enjoyed very good, undervalued wines. As many before us have found, Porto, gateway to the northern regions of Minho and Trás-Os-Montes, is a fine food destination in its own right.
This city is a food traveler’s delight, offering local flavors and wonderful wines from the region and beyond. There is fine dining, to be sure, and exquisite port wine, as well. But behind the sometimes scruffy exteriors of neighborhood tascas and tabernas, extraordinary food experiences await.
This first post in a series about food travel in northern Portugal introduces some of our favorite, mostly down-home, restaurant venues in Porto and its suburbs of Foz do Douro and Matosinhos. Every one of these places is popular with locals.
Listen up, food travelers!
Savor family-style cooking at a taberna
There is nothing like a family-owned and operated taberna to reward a traveler’s quest for local color, along with hearty, crowd-pleasing fare. This is the place to sample traditional preparations of a range of dishes. A plus is an opportunity to enjoy the neighborhood itself.
Taberna St. Antonio occupies a quiet corner above the rooftops of Porto’s Ribeira district, and around the corner from a sliver of park on Vertudes. The park is worth a visit, just for its a fabulous overlook of the Douro River.
In the family-run St. Antonio, mom is in the kitchen (but comes out to greet guests), while dad and two sons wait tables. Food here is simple and made with fresh local ingredients. Hearty local wines are available by the glass or carafe. The chocolate mousse is light, milk-chocolate-y and sweet.
Taberna St. Antonio
Rua das Virtudes, 32, Porto, Portugal
00351 22 205 5306
Alianca is not in Porto, but in Matosinhos, a suburb on the Atlantic, its beaches easily reachable by public transport. The restaurant in right on the tram line, a 20-minute ride from the center of Porto.
Here, the focus is on fish, including grilled sardines in season. Good sides at Alianca include arroz com feijão (a terracotta pot of rice and beans in a savory tomato broth) and a brightly hued mixed salad plate. House wines come in pretty white carafes here, or alternatively, try a green beer, rather like a German Radler.
Rua do Godinho, 408, Matosinhos, Portugal
00351 22 937 5 013
Francesinha! Bifana! Terylene!
Get your “meat eats” at a tasca
Portuguese tascas offer a marvelous way to join locals for a drink or a meal. These no-frills eateries can be tiny and dark, or may have formica tables lit by fluorescent lights. Either way, they generally offer inexpensive drinks and meals and provide an authentic experience. O Golfinho, with just a handful of tables, is located near the top of Rua Sá Noronha, around the corner from scenic Jardim de Carlos Alberto.
Locals will insist that you’ve not really visited Porto until you’ve tried a massively proportioned Francesinha, an over-the-top construction of bread, several meats, cheese and red sauce. Don’t be put off by either the caloric content (lots), sodium levels (ditto) or block-like shape (this may be a local art form, but it is not food art as we know it…). This Porto original is offered just about everywhere, but production in some restaurants is on an almost industrial scale. One restaurant that serves up Francesinha made to order and with the owner’s “secret sauce” is O Golfinho.
Restaurante O Golfinho
Rua Sá Noronha, 137, Porto, Portugal
00351 22 208 1636
Conga, near Porto’s town hall, has been feeding local workers since 1978, and is popular with tourists as well. Sometimes called the “Casa das Bifanas” (Bifana house), its specialty is the classic Portuguese sandwich: thin-sliced pork cooked in a vat of sauce spiced with piri-piri. Like most tascas, bustling Conga offers daily lunch specials, coffee and other drinks.
Rua do Bonjardim 318, Porto, Portugal
00351 22 200 0113
Atmospheric Flor dos Congregados is located along a tiny street in downtown Porto, just east of the Town Hall.
The restaurant has been around for a very long time, and produces a sandwich worth traveling across town for (this is also a good spot to try white beans with tripe, a favorite of Tripeiros, as the folks who live in Port are called). At Flor dos Congregados, an ancient building with stone walls and plank floors and ceilings provide the perfect backdrop for the double-decker Terylene, a sloppy handful of a sandwich filled with wood-oven roasted pork loin and smoked ham.
Flor dos Congregados
Tv. dos Congregados 11, 4000-179 Porto, Portugal
00351 22 200 2822
If you go
Porto’s food scene is evolving quickly, and there are many wonderful tabernas and tascas in Porto. Check out what others have to recommend…and discover your own favorites!
- A food tour, such as the walk we took with Taste Porto Food Tours, is a great way to orient yourself to local specialties and neighborhoods in the heart of the city.
- Away from touristy Ribeira, follow locals into a tasco or taberna no one has mentioned, and you may be delightfully surprised.
- Use Porto’s efficient transport system to take your taste buds to the suburbs for a meal. Posters inviting you to Matosinhos for WBF (world’s best fish) are spot on! Foz, where the Douro meets the sea, is also home to some very good eats.
* * *
To see all our travel stories from Portugal, click here.