Monday, July 29, 2019

Chicago's Street Taco Scene

- On the road with the 'Chicago Taco Tour'

It's not quite to the likes of "taco trucks on every corner" but Chicago has a legit street taco scene. Before we get into them let's get one thing clear. Street tacos come from the street. It irritates the heck out of me when restaurants describe their tacos as "street tacos" when they're being served from the comfort of a nice open air kitchen at $5 a piece. Street tacos don't have to be cheap but they aren't meant to be fancy. They serve a need and that need is something quick and delicious. If I have to walk into a restaurant sit down greet the water guy and then answer the waitresses question about whether or not I've eaten here before after which she'll give me some time to browse the menu then you don't serve street tacos. The only time one should be waiting on street tacos is when the stand is so busy there's a line to eat. Then you wait and get high off the smells coming from the truck.

Tacos de Canasta from a vendor in Piotrowski Park

Before we get to the goods I cant guarantee that these spots will always be around. They could go away real quickly out of nowhere. Sometimes to reappear in an actual storefront and other times never to be seen again. That's been the case with the family from Cuernavaca that used to set up shop near Sacramento and Milwaukee right where a new development is going in. Your best bet for finding most of these is the weekend. This is by no means a complete list as there's always more to be had. Heck just yesterday I came across a popular new to me tacos de canasta vendor but they ran out as I waited in line. Next time. Do you got a favorite spot? Email so I can try them. Also for those interested in a personal taco tour of these spots or others I'm giving private tours (for now) to groups of 2-4. Email for info. Otherwise feel free to embark out on your own.

Tacos de Discada from Memo's Tacos (6322 w. Grand - Storefront with Street stand on weekends)

La Chaparrita Ricos Tacos de Canasta

The La Chaparrita name is one most who love tacos in Chicago know. But did you know they have a second location? It's not quite the same as the original but the brother in-law also does tacos de canasta on the streets. Found South on Kedzie (near 31st) in an old docking lot on most mornings. These are some of the better tacos de canasta in Chicago as they're made fresh each morning and then left to steam while waiting to be sold. Yes that's the traditional way to make them but not all places do them this way. I think the fact they're served from a literal stand makes this so. You have to make them before you go. Choose from about 4/5 fillings and enjoy them with chopped cabbage and pickled jalapenos and carrots on top. You can also find tamales and aguas frescas from these guys.

Tacos de Canasta on Kedzie

 Tacos De Canasta Rossy 

This Hermosa pop-up is one of my favorites. Every weekend (morning into early afternoon) a large extended family sets up shop in a storefront at 4138 W. Armitage. I'm not sure how long they've been there but I first noticed them a couple months ago and since then the place has been packed. You walk in and you'll see three or four different coolers with ladies picking stuff out of them. Those are the tacos de canasta or if you want to be exact in your description they're tacos al vapor as technically they're not served out of a basket. It doesn't matter bc these are super good. They make four different fillings with beans, potato, chicken in mole, and a spicy chicharrón. For those who've been watching the "Taco Chronicles" on Netflix and really liked the tacos de canasta episode - this is your spot. 

Tacos de Canasta on Armitage

Tacos El Torito

If this little stand looks familiar you're probably not mistaken. The Tacos El Torito people have built a small empire and now have multiple stands across the city. I believe they originally got their start in an empty lot across from the Regal City Movie Theater on Western. These days one of their stands can most always be found on Kimball near Joong Boo Market and also along Clark in Rogers Park. They offer up one type of taco and it's cabeza (steamed head). They've inspired others to do the same in that I've seen imitators so to say.

Taco de Cabeza from Tacos el Torito

Lucido's Tacos

We may have reached a new peak for tacos al pastor in Chicago. These are from Lucido’s Tacos. Again not technically street tacos but instead "house tacos". Lucido's is a wkd only taqueria ran out of a house at 2359 S. Hamlin in Little Village. I found it one day while what else? Driving by. It reminded me alot of a few of the restaurants I've visited in Mexico in that it's ran out of a house. It's a full fledged family operation with the trompo basically being one of the children. It's taken such good care of I knew when I walked in that I had come upon some real deal tacos al pastor. It was perfect.

a peek inside

Notice the thinly layered meat cut directly from a trompo in the picture below? It never touched a flattop. I’m in love. I also tried a ‘Taco el Toro’ made with chopped al pastor crisped up on a flattop with chorizo in a bath of spicy red salsa. It was awesome. Don’t be intimidated to enter the house. The family that runs this place is from Jalisco and is as friendly as can be. I need an excuse to throw a party so I can have them come through with a taquiza. Hopefully they achieve all of their dreams.

Tacos al Pastor from Lucido's Tacos

Neza Kitchen

This yellow taco truck sets up daily in a lot just off the train tracks at 3300 S. Pulaski. There's always regulars pulling up in their car (the lot is vacated) and popping out for tacos. They sell what they call Mexico City style street food in tacos and quesadillas. The fillings are all your standard offerings which you can see in the menu on the truck in the pic above. You may notice the Suadero listed as that's what caught my eye. Their description of "just try it" is a good one as I always do whenever I see it on menu. This is one of a few tacos Mexico City can actually claim on it's own. Suadero comes from the part of the cow between the belly and the leg. It's cooked like carnitas in that it's fried until tender. Neza has a nice selection of salsas and gratis items like grilled onion and cucumber.

Taco de Suadero at Neza Kitchen

Tacos Y Salsa Truck

I've come upon this truck a few times. Most recently near Richmond and 47th. The reason I like this truck so much is it has the best salsa bar by far of any of the trucks. Taco fillings are mostly typical and I'm sure they got other things but I cant remember exactly what. Both the carne asada and suadero are solid. Said salsa bar which sits in front has it all. You can dress the tacos up nicely.

Fully Dressed Tacos at Tacos Y Salsa

Boritacos Food Truck

You'll find the Boritacos food truck parked in Humboldt Park on most nice days. They're a Puerto Rican owned taco truck that also offers up jiabritos. They slang a delicious taco alambre which is Spanish for wires which is what the cheese is supposed to mimic when you eat your alambre platter with a fork. In taco form it just comes in a tortilla. Boritacos makes their alambre with steak, bacon, chorizo, peppers, and cheese. It's one of the better bites from the food vendors found around the park.

Taco Alambre from Boritacos

 Kilbourn Park Cafe 

You gotta love Chicago's City Parks system. We have some really good ones. Kilbourn Park is located off of both Addison and Roscoe on Kilbourn street. Closer to Addison you'll find a little permanently parked food truck. They have an extended menu of Mexican offerings including full breakfast plates and tacos. I sat in the sun and enjoyed a taco campechano which is slang for mixed.

Taco Campechano (Steak/Chorizo) at Kilbourn Park

 Taco Stand at Montrose and Hamlin 

I haven't seen this family yet this summer. So I wasn't sure to include them or not but just in case they're still there I wanted to share. This spot reminds me a lot of the previously mentioned stand over near Sacramento and Milwaukee. They have a really nice setup with aguas frescas available too. The cecina and barbacoa tacos are both really good. Made even more so by a top notch salsa bar.

Barbacoa (L) and Cecina (R) Street Tacos

Pescaditos Estilo D.F (2732 W. Cermak)

Next stop is an absolute gem. There's nothing else like Pescaditos estilo D.F in Chicago. It's a literal mom and pop stand where the pop fry's sliced filets of fish while mom collects the cash. They set up Fri.-Sun. from about 3p to 8p. I was hesitant to share this spot bc it already has a loyal following and the lines can get long. That said they deserve to sell out early each day even if that means a few people don't get to enjoy their slivers of fish fried fresh. Come back tomorrow. If you go to my instagram stories and check the 'ChiStreetFood' video you can watch the guy as he swirls around a bunch of fish that's frying away in his comal shaped fryer. Technically these arent tacos bc they're sold as is with lime and a little cup of El Tapatio which goes perfectly on the fish. That said most people buy them in bulk and return to their homes where they put them in tortillas with cabbage etc.

Fried Fish Strips from Pescaditos estilo D.F

 Taco Loco of Pilsen 

Pilsen probably has the highest concentration of street taco stands in the city. Walk around on a weekend night and you're sure to stumble upon a few of them. One of the most popular is Taco Loco which is no secret. They have a listing on google, yelp etc. It's a streetside stand set up at 2022 S. Leavitt in front of what I believe to be the owners house. The fillings here are pretty typical but I'm partial to the steak which gets cooked with a bunch of sliced onions. The chorizo is pretty good too as he crisps it up real nicely. The option to add pinto beans is one you dont see everywhere although when I do it usually tends to be at street tacos spots like this. The big hit here is the house salsa bar.

Street Tacos in Pilsen

Chavelo's Tacos Estilo Guadalajara

One of the city's best kept dining secrets right here. Just in that this place takes the gold for most authentic "atmosphere" by which I mean it's a setup like you'd find in Mexico. Every Fri., Sat. and Sun. night the team from Chavelo's (2702 W. 47th st) sets up shop in the parking lot of Mariscos Tio Luis (4225 W. 47th st). They have a special taco that you wont find at many spots in Chicago. It's the Taco Dorado estilo Guadalajara. Birria de Res is cooked in a reddish liquid that's used to dip the tortillas into and then stuff with shredded beef. They then cook the taco on a flattop turning it semi crispy. These are ate all over Guadalajara and I love them. Chavelo's makes a really good one. Also great is the lengua which when good tastes like the richest of rich beef. The salsas are nice if a bit limited in that they only have two. But both of them work great on the tacos dorados de Jalisco.

Tacos at Chavelo's

El Asador

One night on the way home from Chavelo's I noticed another outdoor setup just down the block. The guys at El Asador (4117 W. 47th st.) also have a weekend gig where they make tacos outside. They have a fresh spit of al pastor as seen in the picture up above. They slice them into thin almost individual pieces but don't sleep on these. Some of the better ones outside of the top spots most commonly mentioned. I'm pretty sure this is also BYOB as most of the tables had sixers of Modelo.

Tacos al Pastor from El Asador

See ya next time @chibbqking #ChiTacoTour

Friday, July 26, 2019

Superkhana International

-Grubbing in Chicago
New to the 'Scene'

Watch out for Diversey. The strip from California going west is getting even hotter. That's bc what might be the city's most anticipated restaurant opening of the year just opened over there.  Superkhana International is the project from two local chefs. Both Yoshi Yamada and Zeeshan Shah have handfuls of well known Chicago spots on their resumes. After meeting in Chicago they started hosting a pop-up dinner series which could be considered the start of Superkhana International. They've enlisted the help of Jason Hammel of Lula Cafe fame who I saw working the line both visits.

Newly Opened in Logan Square

Indian food is having a bit of a much deserved moment. Not just in Chicago but across the US. It's nothing new to people of Indian descent but for whatever reason (some racial for sure) it's never been looked at as "fancy" in America. A string of recent openings have totally pounded on that perception. At a time when Culinary heritage is being celebrated there is perhaps no other cuisine that deserves to have the spotlight shining on it. Indian food can be pretty much everything. It can be spicy, it can be cooling, sometimes it's rich, sometimes it's light. Most importantly it's full of flavor. Though it's not defined by one flavor or trait. Instead it's a wide variety of aromatic dishes that can vary by region.

Chana Chaat at Superkhana International

One important thing to point out before we get to the food. Throw away your authentic cards bc this is best described as fun food with an Indian influence. Nothing here is meant to mimic "authenticity" it's more like a shout-out to the flavors and creativity of a cuisine that both of the chefs adore. The menu is split up into two easy parts. Veg and Non Veg. An order of Channa Chaat is a good way to start a meal this summer. We've been in twice and on one of the days it was scorching hot outside which is a pretty common weather pattern in many parts of India. Chana Chaat is a savory way to cool down. Superkhana makes one with the traditional chickpeas mixed with tamarind, yogurt, sev, and fresh herbs. The perfect example of what makes Indian food so exciting. Lots of flavors and textures.

Manchurian Potatoes

One of my favorite dishes thus far are the Manchurian Potatoes. Beautifully fried fries are topped with a Manchurian sauce which is common in Indo-Chinese cooking. Usually it's used to coat stuff like chicken and cauliflower but here they use it as a coating for fries with sesame, scallions, and aioli. I also loved the Chapli Kebab Salad. Chapli Kebab isn't a stick of skewered meat. It's a Pakistani grilling staple made here with minced lamb and veal that's heavily seasoned and formed into a patty. The grilled patties are topped with creamy baby potatoes, Asian greens, yogurt dressing. I liked how they didn't hold back on the seasoning. Lots of cumin and coriander. Good smoke flavor too.

Chapli Kebab at Superkhana International

I'm not sure what the story with the Bombay Sandwich is but it seems as though it's always a grilled cheese and what else goes in it can vary. It's described on the menu as a "Mumbai Psychedelic Grilled Cheese with many, many things." What we got wasn't what I was expecting based off of other peoples pictures. We were served one with cheese, beets, and some jalapeno peppers among other things. Then it also came with a big cup of ketchup. As I learned after looking it up online ketchup is common with sandwiches in India. I looked it up bc I was fascinated with the fact a sandwich dipped in ketchup could be so good. One thing to point out though is Indian ketchup is much different than the American stuff most of us are used to. It's got a much more savory flavor.

Bombay Sandwich at Superkhana International

There aren't many large dishes as even the Pork Belly Vindaloo could easily be eaten by one. It's also a good plate to share in that it comes with two pieces of pork belly that's been cooked/sliced like porchetta. The red sauce is a bit vinegary and definitely intriguing as far as what else is in there.

Pork Belly Vindaloo

The Butter Chicken Calzone is the dish that can best describe what they're trying to do here. It's exactly what it sounds like in that it's a calzone made from naan and stuffed with butter chicken and cheeses. It's the "it" dish of the moment so to say. It's also a massive plate of food that can easily feed up to four people with other things. Bc there were just two of us we only tried a couple other things on our first visit which is what propelled the quick return. One small complaint the chicken was lukewarm but the bread and cheese were hot. I'll chalk that to opening week kinks to work out.

Butter Chicken Calzone at Superkhana International

Sometimes I can pass on dessert. Usually when I'm too full from the meal. Other times when I'm just not interested (Note: I don't love lots of chocolate). But it seems like the folks at Superkhana know me in that if you put a little $3 ice cream sandwich on your menu I will order it. Made with rose water and saffron ice cream and cardamon candied pistachios in between a little Parle G biscuit cookie. I loved this and wish they'd sell them (and maybe some other finger foods) out of a side window. I'd stop for one every time I was driving by. The design of the place is also great. There's an open air kitchen and a really nice patio plus the bar and seating area. The menu already had a couple switches in between our visits. Expect different options based on the seasons bounty. Fun stop.

Ice Cream Sandwich

Superkhana International
3059 W Diversey Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 661-9028

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Charly's Burgers

-Got Beef?
The Burgers of Chi

There's lots of ways to find new restaurant openings but the best for me is by taking a ride. I've been up and down the city streets so much I can tell right away when a new place has opened. While riding down Cicero I noticed a new spot which was confirmed right away with a banner announcing the grand opening of Charly's Burgers. I couldn't eat then and there but I did do a quick search and the results were all positive. After visiting I learned they had only been open for about two weeks.

 Newly Opened in Hermosa

I know what you're thinking. Oh yeah another burger spot. As if we don't have a lot. I was thinking the same thing. But Charly's managed to catch my attention right away with a mention of their 90/10 patty in the window. Burgers are ground in-house using a 90% beef and 10% bacon blend. I believe the owner is Mexican-American and options like the Pina Burger below have been popular. It's made from a fresh 6 oz patty with grilled pineapple, melted Chihuahua cheese, sautéed onion / jalapeños on a toasted S. Rosens bun. Both the burger and fresh cut fries were very well made. I’ll be going back.

 Pina Burger at Charly's

Charly's Burgers
2320 N Cicero Ave
Chicago, IL 60639
(773) 887-5481

Monday, July 22, 2019


-Grubbing in Chicago
New to the 'Scene'

Chicago is having a bit of a boom in fresh pasta purveyors. I've noticed a few new spots these past few months. One of them is called Tortello and it opened not too long ago on Division in Wicker Park. Tortello has gotten the attention of many of it's neighbors by putting pasta makers in the window. You'll notice them when walking by and probably stop to look at what's going on. Most people do.

Newly Opened in Wicker Park 

As soon as you step inside you'll notice all the fresh pasta behind the people making it. It's available to eat there or to buy by the lb for home. Tortello makes some interesting shapes including Chiusoni which is a rare find in these parts or really anywhere outside of Sardinia. That's where the owner and his family come from. I believe he told me it was him and his wife who run the operation. The executive chef comes from Lula Cafe and they even brought in a lady from Puglia who leads the pasta making team. It's a pretty casual operation in that you place your order at the counter and take a number and then a seat either inside or outside on the patio which is surrounded by fresh herbs grown for the kitchen. In two trips there we've been able to try a majority of the menu. That chiusoni is my current favorite of all the pastas on offer. It's made with sausage, saffron, and cream which sticks to the pasta like white on rice. The Chiusoni has the perfect bite to it. If you like it bitter Orecchiette is covered in rapini and bread crumbs with chile pepper. Again the pastas texture was near perfect.

 Chiusoni and Orecchiette at Tortello

On our second trip back which came just a couple days later we tried two different options. From the 'filled pasta' section of the menu the Cappelli Del Prete were wonderful. Filled with prosciutto and topped with radicchio and ricotta is a mushroom sauce. It was rich but was the type of dish you'd be happy to eat anytime of the year. The lobster bucatini was good in that the bucatini is fantastic. It's one of my favorite pasta shapes. But at $30 (with a tip) I thought the other options were much better deals as far as filling you up. While I'll always enjoy most any dish with lobster which was the case here I still felt it could've come with a bit more pasta considering the pricetag. You can always use more lobster but I'll never complain about not getting enough (it cost real money to run kitchens). In the future I'll probably just stay away from the lobster bucatini as I preferred the others. I have a feeling you'll be hearing more on Tortello soon. It's deserving of any attention it gets. True specialists.

Cappelli Del Prete and Lobster Bucatini at Tortello 

Tortello Pastificio
1746 W Division St
Chicago, IL 60622

Monday, July 15, 2019

Eating BIG in Lisbon

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties
- Exploring the City of Seven Hills aka Lisboa

One of the hottest travel destinations right now is Portugal. We almost went some five years ago on a trip to Spain but decided to stay in Spain for that one. Since then the tourism in Portugal has skyrocketed into one of Europe's hottest destinations. I guess those who've done Spain, Italy, and France are moving on to Portugal. You can count me among them. We spent eight days there this past May and like most everyone else who's traveled that way we fell in love with the former empire.

Sights from Lisbon (click pics to enhance)

These days Portugal is a pretty relaxed place. Even in the big city of Lisboa it wasn't ever that hectic. Though getting up and down and around was at times a pain in the ass. The city is built on a number of hills so you'll be going up and down often. If it's hot I wouldn't want to walk around too much. That said Ubers are surprisingly cheap. Though sometimes traffic is bad so your best bet in all of this is to stay somewhere where they have everything you need. We decided upon the Príncipe Real neighborhood which was semi centrally located to the point where nothing was all that far. Anything that was 20+ minutes away was quickly reached via uber. Príncipe Real is also one of Lisbon's trendiest 'hoods which means there's lots of little boutique hotels that aren't all up in the tourist strips.

Sights from Lisbon (click pics to enhance)

As far as pricing goes I thought Portugal to be one of Europe's best bargains. At least when compared to the other Big 3. The only thing that was high in price and similar to some of Europe's more expensive cities was hotel pricing. You can probably get cheaper on AirBNB but I've decided I don't love AIRBNB in Europe. They tend to get you the bare minimum as far as comfort. Everything else was extremely reasonably priced especially the wine. Food wise we ate some fantastic food that most of the time was less than $20/pp as far as the pricing goes. The Portuguese were known as some of the best sailors in the world and with that they are also great fisherman thus they have a wonderful seafood culture. But they also do chicken, pork, and even beef really well. Lisbon is a very international city. Aside from all the Portuguese some of which is regional they also have food from many of the countries they colonized. You'll see most of them when we get to the food. I didn't have a chance to do the illegal Chinese restaurants or any Nepalese but those too are also abundant.

Sights from Lisbon (click pics to enhance)

I cant go on any further without giving a major shout-out to those at Culinary Backstreets. If you haven't heard of them it's my favorite culinary travel website on the internet. They tell stories of the food and the people from cities they're dispatched in. Portugal and Lisbon in particular is one of the more posted about cities and they also do food tours. For anyone looking to get a real feel of Lisbon's culinary background in a short time you should consider signing up for one of their tours which they do in Porto too. Or if obsessed like me with finding spots they truly are one of the best resources for local food in the cities they cover. I've gotten great stuff in DF, Beijing, and Portugal. Istanbul is next!

Sights from Lisbon (click pics to enhance)

Even though 95% of my trips are based on food there's still that other 5% to cover. For those that like a more balanced vacation as far as activities and sightseeing you'll have plenty to do in Lisbon. Aside from just walking around from neighborhood to neighborhood and enjoying the beauty of Lisbon there's plenty of historic sights and scenic views to be taken in. Museums and of course markets too. The daytrip to the town of Sintra was pretty awesome. It's not far at all. We got up early and took a train to the scenic town. From there we got an uber to take us to the first of two castles we visited. Being able to beat the crowds waiting for the bus ride up allowed us to be some of the first people in so it wasn't all that busy yet, but as the day goes on they get very busy so your best bet is to be there before they open the gates for the day. We visited two stops. The first was Pena Palace. After that we went to Quinta Da Regalleira. Pena Palace was breathtaking for both it's views from up top and also the design and looks of the castle itself. The castle at Quinta Da Regalleira was more rustic but the grounds were amazing. It was a great place to explore and I thought it was the perfect 1-2 punch. If you're on instagram (or even if you're not) make sure to check my videos as there's much more. Other spots I'd rec are the Tile Museum, Belem Tower, São Jorge Castle, and just walking around the city.

Sights from Lisbon (click pics to enhance)

Ze da Mouraria

I wanted something super Portuguese for our first meal in Portugal. With it being a Friday it made sense to head to Ze da Mouraria. This little tasca is down a less traveled Lisboa road though plenty of locals have walked it on the way here for lunch. Friday is Bacalhau day at this super popular lunchtime only spot in one of Lisbon’s oldest 'hoods. Salt cod is grilled over live fire and paired with chickpeas, potatoes, garlic, onion, and olive oil. There wasn't a table in this tasca without it.

Friday Bacalhau Special at Ze da Mouraria

Cantinho Lusitano

The next stop up was the winner of closest restaurant on my google maps guide to our hotel. Thus I emailed them for dinner reservations on the day of our arrival. I was glad I did as it's a small space and I watched as a few groups of people were denied a spot as they were full for the night. Cantinho Lusitano specializes in tapas sized dishes of Portuguese classics. We tried a quartet of dishes including scrambled eggs with local sausage, wine braised octopus, pork cheek stew, and garlic shrimps. All of which were delicious. That garlic shrimp was some of the best cooked shrimp I can remember. Service was extra friendly and I left with the possibility of returning for more but never did.

Petiscos at Cantinho Lustiano

 Time Out Market - Lisboa

The Time Out Market brand is coming to the United States and Chicago is getting one of the firsts. The very first one to open is in Lisbon. It's a popular stop for tourists looking to eat and drink. It's location down by the water means it's in a very touristy part of town. So they claim they curate their list of stalls here to where not just anyone can rent them out. You have to be asked to join and they extend invitations to some of the city's most well respected chefs and restaurants. It's very well done.

Pastéis de Nata (custard tarts) at Manteigaria

You'll be able to find the popular Manteigaria stall very quickly. Apparently this is a born-again butter factory. It's the second location of one of Lisbon's best egg custard bakers. These are the premier food of the city. One that has spawned popular in other parts of the globe such as Macau and Hong Kong where the Portuguese brought with them their love for these delicious snacks. That said I only tried them from one spot as I'm not the biggest sweets guy with the exception being at night. These are more of an early morning / daytime snack. When dotted with both sugar and cinnamon they were about as good as a custard baked anything that I've had. I preferred these to a popular spot in Hong Kong. Manteigaria doesn't have a secret recipe or anything. They just use the best of the best when it comes to their ingredients. The all natural butter being a major player in the addictive flavors.

Octopus Rice at Monte Mar

There's some beautiful beach towns all along the coasts of Portugal. One of them is a popular spot called Guincho Beach. On the road to said beach you pass a bunch of famous seafood restaurants and one of them is called Monte Mar. The Time-Out Market people convinced them to open a scaled down spot in the market. It's one of a few seafood spots in the market. Prices as you can imagine are slightly higher here than elsewhere. The Portuguese have a love for rice that's petty much unmatched in Europe. They will put just about anything in it and serve it with a tomato based broth of the same meat and such. Octopus rice is a popular version of this dish. We liked the bowl served at Monte Mar but I didnt feel like it was anything special as far as this dish goes. There's better elsewhere. All in all there's good stuff to be had at TO but it's also new and touristy thus not as rustic as other spots.

Cod a la Bras at Henrique Sa Pessoa

 Espaço Açores

I fell into an internet well about the Azores islands one time and have been fascinated with them since then. I searched around for Azores restaurants in Lisbon and came across this spot which is one of the only in town. It's located up a hill so it's pretty off the beaten path but not far from the Belem Tower if you're out that way. But you may want to take an uber up. Food in the Azores features lots of fish cooked in peasant style dishes. Espaço Açores was located right next to a local fish market so it wasn't a surprise to see their menu was mostly fish. For starters an order of Lapas grilled with garlic and butter was what I was there for. Kind of like a mix between mussels and scallops. These are prepared all over the islands. Then a plate of fried chicharros and figs the former of which is kind of like smelts. With the Azores being a four hour flight from Boston I need to make that happen soon.

Seafood at Espaço Açores

Cervejaria Ramiro

There is perhaps no other restaurant in Lisbon as popular as this place. Pretty much everyone who had anything to say on where to eat in Lisbon makes mention of Cervejaria Ramiro. It's a classic Portuguese seafood restaurant. This means fresh seafood prepared minimally as far as other ingredients used. For instance the clams in butter and garlic are as good as that dish can get. These were exceptionally sweet and extra tender. Same can be said for the gambas (shrimp). Perhaps the most popular dish here (along with the crab) is an order (or four) of the split prawns. You'll notice that which you see below is on most tables in the restaurant. They have massive lobsters alive in the tank as well as crabs and other delicious creatures of the sea. As everyone says this is one of the best seafood restaurants in the world. So you can expect a wait but if you go between 3p and 6p as I was told it wont be long. It wasn't. We waited about 10 min for some of the best priced seafood in Europe.

Seafood at Cervejaria Ramiro

The Mercado Oriental

Pictured below is a Red Market Fish Curry featuring the flavors of Portugal and Macau. Together these two cuisines make up for the worlds first fusion food - Macanese. Macau is just one of the many spots on the globe where the Portuguese left their mark. My plan was to try food from all of them while in Lisbon. You’d think there would be more Macanese restaurants in Portugal’s biggest city but this little food stall in a mall is pretty much the only one. Leaving Lisbon with as many Macanese restaurants as my hometown Chicago (S/O Fat Rice). This means it’s one of the worlds rarer cuisines. The curry comes from a food stall called Taberna Macau in the Mercado Oriental. Other stalls in the market offer up hand pulled Lamian noodles, Pho, Bibimbop, Ramen, and more.

Red Market Fish Curry at Taberna Macau

A Taberna do Mar

I wasn't all that interested in the new Eater Hot Spot type stops. There's so many amazing traditional places in Portugal worth going to. The truth of the matter is those old time spots are more likely to have it together than the newly opened ones. Anyways I still did a little reading into what the best new spots in Lisbon were. Many were very trendy / chef forward / tasting menu type spots. A Taberna Do Mar was one of them but they didn't seem as trendy as the rest. Nonetheless I had to email to make a reservation and they only had early times available so make sure you reserve a spot. It's popular for a reason. It's really good. It's a Portuguese seafood inspired spot with quite a few of the dishes on offer having some sort of Japanese influence. The dishes are smaller similar to Petiscos.

Dinner (1/2) at Taberna Do Mar

We ended up trying about 3/4 of the menu items. We probably should've got the tasting menu but were happy doing it ala carte as we ended up ordering more of our favorite bites. The only item that was kind of meh was a mint based paste sitting on a pita. I wasn't a big fan of it but after that it was off to the races. An order of smoked tomato and raw tuna with bread (all of which is baked in-house) was packed with flavor. They used some pickled squash to wrap a scarlet prawn and that too was fantastic. Shame on us it took until our 9th or so meal to try some sardines. But they were well worth the wait. Just a fresh sardine with olive oil and a sliver of garlic on some of that fantastic house made bread was about as good as it gets. They feature a sashimi of smoked fish that varies by day. The star of the show is the grilled sardine nigiri. Need I say more? It was def one of the trips best bites.

Dinner (2/2) at Taberna Do Mar

Frangasqueira Nacional

One of Lisbon's most popular and both quick and cheap ways to eat is Piri Piri chicken. It's a staple of anywhere there's a Portuguese community. It's very popular in previous S'C'&C dining destinations such as Cape Town and Montreal. But from what I could tell Lisbon is where it's at as far as the competition goes. You know what they say about it in that it breeds the best. Frangasqueira Nacional was a short walk from our hotel. We came here for lunch after a trip to Sintra. We were lucky to miss the crowd as this popular Piri Piri chicken spot is a small mostly carry out operation. There's two tables and we were lucky to get to eat at one of them. Piri Piri is native to Mozambique which is one of many former Portuguese colonies. It's a spicy red pepper that makes for a great basting sauce for chicken and other meats such as ribs and shrimps. We got a combo platter of chicken, ribs, and sausage and it made for a great although un-photogenic lunch. One of my regrets is not getting to try more spots where they were featuring Piri Piri chicken in some sort of way. Oh well maybe next time.

Piri Piri Platter at Frangasqueira Nacional

Pascoalini Gelato

Also in Principle Real is this very good gelato spot. I'm all about the fruit flavors when it comes to gelato and will most always get the pear if it's an option as is the case here. Loved it but there might not be anything more memorable in my food travels than the pear gelato at a random lowkey spot in Florence. But when the sun is shining bright like it was in Lisbon any well made pear gelato will do.

Pear Gelato at Pascoalini Gelato

Acarajé da Carol

There’s no denying Portugal’s influence in Brazil. Not exactly a feel good story as they colonized the South American nation and built much of it on the backs of slaves from West Africa. Those slaves helped form much of Brazil’s culture as far as food and music. Much of which is found is Lisbon. I’d never heard of an Acarajé until I found this specialty spot browsing Brazilian food in Lisbon. Now I can’t wait to have another. This regional treat from the Brazil state of Bahia is kind of like a bao in it’s appearance. Black-eyed peas, seasoned with ground dried shrimp and onions, are shaped into fritters and deep fried in palm oil, it’s then split open and filled with various fillings, such as shrimp, smashed beans, tomatoes, and onion. The little side of hot sauce that comes with it takes it way up as far as flavor. One day I’m going to eat a few of these on a Brazilian beach and it’s going to be very sweet.

Acarajé at Acarajé da Carol

The Little Wine Bar

This one we found just from roaming around. I only made one reservation pre-trip as most of the spots like this are where you want to be eating/drinking. We did get lucky though as we took two seats at the bar and then watched the owner/bartender/server turn people away telling them they were booked for the night. So your best bet is getting reservations for at least a few dinners even if you don't do so until you arrive. Just get them a day or two ahead in case there's somewhere you really want to go. We were here for the wine which was wonderful. It always is in Europe but you cant beat the pricing in Portugal. We also had some sweet shrimps in some sort of wine based sauce as well as a few bites of flaming chorizo sausage offered up by the friendly lady from Finland sitting at the bar with us.

Prawns in Wine Sauce at That Little Wine Bar


I had this old school spot on my radar as I'd heard they made a great Prego Sandwich. More on that in a minute. It's location on a super touristy road paired with it's pristine fresh seafood means it's not on any lists for the best bargain meals in Lisboa. That said you can eat well here for a very fair price. Let me show you how. First off the house toasted rye bread is bomb and it's only one euro an order. For an extra euro you can get it topped with fresh sliced jamon. It's a perfectly acceptable snack should you just want something to drink away from the hustlers on the strip. But you want more.

Jamon on Toasted Rye at Gambrinus

I’ve been on the prowl for a kick ass Prego sandwich like that seen below since I went Honeymooning in Cape Town circa 2016. This is the simplest of sandwiches which means every ingredient better be good or else the sandwich will not be. I'd heard from a few that Gambrinus makes a really good one and they really do. Super tender locally raised veal (it’s usually steak) on a house baked Portuguese roll with a nice spread of house tartar and a dab of Piri Piri is what you're here for. At just $8.95 it's a steal. When done proper, as is the case here, you won’t find a better representation of a steak sandwich. The funny thing about these is they're typically eaten for dessert at big time seafood spots like this. Gambrinus is touristy due to it's location but they've been at it since 1936 for a reason.

Prego Sandwich at Gambrinus


One morning I decided to walk over to this popular spot and have breakfast of the Cape Verde variety. The African island nation is well represented in Portugal as it was once a Portuguese colony and it’s citizens during that time have direct access to Portugal citizenship. Cachupa is said to be the National Dish so it would be my first introduction into the cuisine. Hominy is mixed with a variety of meats and veggies and cooked down into a stew. Recipes differ from island to island. This was Cachupa Refogada meaning fried Cachupa which is a common way to use up leftovers. There’s shredded pork and onions mixed with the rehydrated corn as well as chunks of fried chouriço on top. It’s all fried in a pan and typically served with fried eggs for breakfast. Comfort food for sure.

Cachupa Refogada at Tambarina

Tasca Ze Dos Cornos

This is exactly the type of spot you want to dine in at least once a day in Portugal. I found Ze Dos Cornos on Eater's list of Lisbon's 38 Essential Restaurants. The picture of the charcoal grilled ribs caught my eye. The menu at this locals type spot is ever changing based on the days. That said the ribs are popular enough to where they're always on the menu. It's just what's served on the side of them that switches up. I guess Wednesday is the day to go if you can as they serve the ribs with a big plate of slow cooked beans which the Portuguese are very good at. Either way the ribs which are grilled over direct heat are fantastic no matter what they're served with including the fries. The spuds in Portugal were pretty great actually. Seating is tight here so if you go during lunch rush you'll most likely be squeezed into a communal table. But at something like $10 those ribs are wonderful. They had good smoke from direct grilling over live fire and a nice chew since they weren't baked or boiled

Ribs at Ze Dos Cornos (check @chibbqking on instagram for video of the grillman in action)

As Bifanas Do Afonso

One of the most popular sandwiches around Portugal is the Bifana. It's essentially pork in a Portuguese roll but how that pork is seasoned and prepared and even cooked varies from region to region. In Lisbon there's a handful of spots said to make the city's best bifana sandwich. One of them is As Bifanas Do Afonso. The little SRO store is popular with tourists and locals who take them to go. You can enjoy them right there in the square if you're willing to get a drink from the bar that runs it. Anthony Bourdain waxed poetic about these which in Lisbon are made from thicker sliced pork cooked in a seasoned hot liquid. In Lisbon seasonings are pretty tame in terms of spice. Stuff like garlic, onions, and wine is easily detected in this delectable sandwich that will only set you back a couple bucks. The bun plays a big part too. The Portuguese make some fantastic rolls. That said the Bifana sandwiches I had in Porto were much better than those I had in Lisbon. So do stay tuned.

Bifana Sandwich at As Bifanas Do Afonso


Over at Culinary Backstreets there's a few reviews from a guy named Tiago Pais. He's an expert in Lisbon's Tasca scene and has written a book about the city's best tascas and their history as well as what to get. Reading about this new school tasca where they’re honoring the old school tradition had me intrigued. They’ve been open less than a year but it really did feel like they’ve been around forever. The menu is equal parts meat and seafood but I can get all the meats back home. So we focused in on some of the offerings from the sea. An amuse bouche of Hake gut salad with garlic butter, olives was extra refreshing. An order of baby squid with smashed potatoes was perfect. The super tender scarlet shrimp was sweeter than anything you’ll find in the States save for maybe South Carolina. That said at $20+ Euro pricetag for the single shrimp (split in half for each of us) is not cheap.

Diner (1/2) at Cacué

Razor Clam Rice was rocking with plenty of garlic and wine. A plate of chocolate mousse was super strong but evened out wonderfully with a little Portuguese brandy poured on top. Delicious food with super friendly service. What more could you ask for? If you’re headed to Lisbon anytime soon I would rec Cacué for one of your nice meals. It's not cheap but it's still reasonable all things considered.

Dinner (2/2) at Cacué

Tentações de Goa

On our final day in Portugal I crossed off some spots. This place off the beaten path features the flavors of Goa. The Western India state stretches along the Arabian Sea which is how the Portuguese arrived via sailboats way back when. It’s history as a Portuguese colony is evident in both it's land and it’s food. An order of ‘Bojés com Chutney’ is a popular Indo-Portuguese snack. Fritters are made up of lentil flour, onion, cumin, saffron, among other things. These were accompanied by a fantastic green chutney sauce. Then it was onto an order of Pork Vindaloo. Despite what you might’ve heard vindaloo wasn’t always a spicy English style curry. “The word vindaloo is a garbled pronunciation of the popular Portuguese dish carne de vinha d'alhos (meat marinated in wine-vinegar and garlic), which made its way to India in the 15th century along with Portuguese explorers.” This version reminded me of a popular Portuguese dish in South Africa called Trinchado. The spicing in this vinegar curry wasn’t blow your gasket out bad but it was probably the spiciest thing I ate all week so definitely a nice change of pace on that front. You could tell by the clientele this is a popular spot for older locals in the know. Though you can reserve a space on google so don’t be afraid to go. It’s in a hotspot as far as good local food goes. So you may want to consider a 1-2 punch like I did with the next stop up.

Goan Food at Tentações de Goa

Cantinho do Aziz

It's time for some Mozambican! Coconut Crab Curry to be exact! The East African country’s cuisine is well represented in Lisbon just like it is in Cape Town where I fell in love with the flavors. With its colonial Portuguese background Portuguese is the official language of Mozambique. It’s cuisine is some of the most underrated in the world. It’s here where the Piri Piri pepper is native and thus no one cooks Piri Piri anything as good as those from Mozambique. But there’s more. I tried this magnificent order of coconut crab curry which can actually be traced back to Goa and its Indo-Portuguese influences. Made with real coconut milk and of course Piri Piri peppers this was everything I hoped it would be when I first found out about from the folks at Saveur. I wish I had more time to explore the Mozambican restaurants around town but I’m as likely as ever to take a trip there.

Coconut Crab Curry at Cantinho do Aziz

Carvoaria Jacto

I very much wanted to make sure I ate some Espetada while in Portugal. It took me until the very last night to get some standing skewered meats but it was worth waiting for. We went to a well known spot called Carvoaria Jacto. It's been around since 1953 but has most definitely undergone some change. It feels more like a swanky hotel restaurant than it does a 65+ year old steak house. They don't take reservations on wkds but get there early and you'll be in and out. Aside from the fact they specialize in meats grilled over live fire they also feature a special type of veal local to Portugal. The beef of the Mirandesa region is highly coveted due to it's taste. There's some great steak spots in Portugal and this certainly felt like one of them. My Mirandesa veal skewer with sausage was exactly what I wanted then and there. The meat was pretty rare but I didn't care as it was really delicious. She had the pork medallions wrapped in bacon and they too were pretty damn great. The only other things we got were white rice and black beans on the side and it was perfect as is. Recommended.

Espetada at Carvoaria Jacto

St. Anthony Festival Activities

Just as I thought the trip was over we went back to our hotel. With an extra early flight the next morning we didn't have much planned for later in the night. But steps outside of our hotel was this little festival going on in the park. Not only was there loud music we could hear from the room but also a handful of food and drink vendors who's food we could smell. It was the start of a month long celebration celebrating both the beloved patron St. Anthony and also the beloved fish the sardine. All month long you'll find parties in parks and along the streets where people are grilling sausage and sardines. They're celebrating the start of summer. Not only did I get a six pack of fantastic grilled sardines I also had a bomb bifana sandwich. This one was made from thinly sliced pork cut directly from a whole pig cooked rotisserie style over coals. The slices would go into a red gravy that was both fragrant and flavorful. I loved sitting here with a beer and taking it all in. See ya next time.

Bifana Sandwich at the Park

Note: To find the locations of all the spots featured in this post, as well as places I didn't make it to, please click HERE for my google maps guide to Lisbon. 


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