Porto Eats

All we can say is Spain had better be good, because eating in Portugal is a delight.  And further, we can say we sure are glad we are walkers…a lot of calories to use up!

Our three and a half days in Porto were spent about 80% walking and 20% eating. The many, many restaurants are almost entirely Portuguese food, though we saw perhaps 2 Japanese and a few French.

The food prices are so low that it was a bit confusing. For example, at Pedro Dos Frangos the menu had two prices for everything, one in a column marked “1” and the other marked “1/2”.  Our waiter almost frantically dissuaded us from ordering the serving for 1. He was entirely correct. David struggled, sure that a 1/2 serving of sardines was insufficient, but his order had four eight inch grilled sardines, plus vegetables. This followed a 5€ appetizer, a large dish of octopus salad (so tender!). My so-called half order of grilled chicken was a mountain of fries and I left a large piece of chicken unfinished. Similarly, I struggled with how much wine to order–again at the urging of the waiter I settled on the small pitcher (less than 2€) which was three full glasses and very good.

Walking home from our first dinner we saw a captivating window–a man scooping meat from a large kettle of thin, reddish sauce, stuffing it into a small roll, giving it a quick half dip in the sauce, and tossing it on a small plate. The restaurant, Conga, was our destination the next evening and again for our last day’s lunch. The sauce was very slightly spicy, the meat tender, the entire sandwich addictive. The bacalau fritters were a nice fried addition…ensuring the meal wasn’t unacceptably healthy.

Our first day’s lunch and last evening’s dinner were at Tripeira, just a block or so from our apartment and found on Yelp. I was eager to try the tripas Porto style, which is meltingly tender tripe with white beans and chorizo, garnished with shredded cold chicken breast. I know. Strange combo and delicious. Speaking of strange combos, David had to try the francesinha, a Porto specialty available in many restaurants including one or two that serve nothing else. A “sandwich” in that there are two slices of bread, but this is knife and fork food and almost evil in its components and great, if intense and a bit salty, taste. In between the bread is ham, pork, cheese, covered with a fried egg and a red sauce. I am anxious to ID the sauce ingredients, as it had a hint of the dried red chilies in enchilada sauce but that would be a surprising addition. The whole thing is hot, so the cheese is a melted stringy mess. We shared one the last day as no doubt this is available nowhere else in the world. Yum.

We decided to splurge a bit our final evening, returning to Tripeira. It is such a lovely restaurant and the service is attentive, friendly and welcoming. We had walked quite a bit that last day and were famished when we arrived so decided to get a bottle of vinho verde and an appetizer plate to share.

It was generous–and we ate everything. A platter of thin, fatty, intense sausage slices with Azores cheese, a dish of what the menu called stewed peas with chorizo and was the tenderest fava beans I have ever had, and octopus salad. Again, the octopus was beyond tender in a vinagrette with diced celery and sweet diced onion. Thank goodness we had bread to soak up the fava bean liquid and the vinagrette. As a main course David had the tuna, in smallish pieces and cooked rare, perhaps the best I have tasted (we traded bites), and I had the sea bass, which was two thin filets, potatoes, and a bed of roasted vegetables. A fantastic final meal in beautiful Porto.


The variety and quantities are astounding. We ate our fill of pastels de nata, napoleons, croissants (which in Portugal are more like a sweet egg bread than a French style laminated pastry). Even with all our walking we could only fit in so much!


Portugal, like Spain, treasures its canned fish products and the variety of types and brands is overwhelming. We walked by a few “petiscos” places, tiny snack restaurants, which had a menu of conservas offerings but we didn’t try any, wanting to save our appetites for meals. There are tourist-aimed specialty conservas stores, and delis with wine, port, cheese, and preserved meat as well as, typically, a wall of tins with the many brands and types of conservas.


We had stopped into one in our neighborhood the first day to ask a question…the man behind the counter spoke English and answered our question so cheerfully that our last day we returned to buy our souvenir conservas from him. He was so kind to pull down a variety for us, telling us what he especially liked, and we purchased 10 or so. Prices ranges from 2-5€. Now we are condemned to carry our little shopping bag of canned fish all over Spain, but I was fairly certain “latas” in Spain will be no higher quality and more pricey. We shall see…as I write this we are on the plane to Barcelona.

Porto—Let’s Start With The Architecture

Walking through the city is visually entertaining…almost absurdly so.  The city’s building stock is a mix of the falling apart, the beautifully preserved, and obvious gentrification.  Our Airbnb apartment is sparkling new, formerly a printing business of some kind, reached by a broad refinished wood staircase and outfitted in Ikea or Ikea analog modern.  Directly across the narrow street is a renovation in progress—almost every block has such change underway.  Good time to be in the building trades!

One feature of the older buildings is the gigantic-human-figure on a large number of public or quasi-public buildings.  It is a tiny bit creepy…they loom over the population, sometimes posed to be peering down, sometimes crowning the roof.  A few of many:

Along with the gorgeous buildings there is an array of street art.  I snapped just a few…but don’t you love that cat?

The river winds between Porto and Gaia, with the iron bridge that allows pedestrians on both levels, walkers sharing with cars on the lower and the metro on the upper.  We walked to Gaia on the upper level, then wandered our way down to river level and crossed on the lower level back to Porto, climbing the long stairway from sidewalk, past both abandoned and occupied buildings wedged along and under the bridge, finally coming out into the city proper.  So glad it wasn’t hot!


People and vehicles seem to mesh rather well…cars, buses, and trucks always pause for walkers as in Lisbon and Evora, with a fair bit of jaywalking well tolerated.  Many of the streets are so narrow, with extremely narrow sidewalks (one person with a shopping bag wide) that it really couldn’t work any other way.

Of course Porto buildings often show off the gorgeousness tiles for which Portugal is famous, some of which are above.  When we arrived we scooted through the train station anxious to find our apartment, but returned to take it all in and snap a few pictures which do not do it justice.

I look forward to my next post…the food!  Have to go to dinner now.