Monday, August 5, 2019

Eating BIG in Porto

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties
- Exploring Portugal's Second City aka Invicta

After a few days in Lisbon (report HERE) it was off to Porto by train. Getting there was relatively easy and pretty quick at just a few hours of travel. If you have the time to get to Porto I highly suggest you do. I don't want to make it to seem like I didnt like Lisbon bc I very much did. However I enjoyed our time in Porto a bit more. Exactly why is tough to say but I will say that I thought the Portuguese food in Porto was better and more abundant than it was in Lisbon. This wasn't a big surprise to me bc I'd say the same things about the Italian food in Florence when compared to Rome or the Spanish food in Seville when compared to Barcelona. That said the international eating options are always better in the big cities. I suspect my love for it may have been bc Porto felt more like a European vacation destination than anything else. It's a city but it has the feel of a vacation destination if that makes any sense. It's one of the prettiest cities I've ever visited.

Pics from Porto

Once again I must thank the people over at Culinary Backstreets for all of their wonderful research and stories that come with it. Many of the food stops we made in Porto were found through them. Speaking of the food I'm ready to declare Porto one of the worlds great sandwich cities. It's almost certainly Europe's best destination for meats between bread. This may seem "so what?" to some but for those that love a sacred sandwich you need to add Porto to your bucket-list. It's closest comparison is probably a place like Philadelphia on that front. Much like Lisbon you'll find yourself going up and downhill as the bottom of the city lies near the river and it's all up from there.

Pics from Porto

I'm not a big Port Wine guy and neither is she. So we didnt dive too deep into the production and consumption of that. Aside from the food and wine Porto is known for it's bridges, some of which offer up spectacular views and also it's medieval feel. It's close distance to the ocean means lots of beaches and seafood nearby. Porto is still a bit more under the radar than Lisbon but bc it's a smaller city it may feel even more touristy at times. That said it's a very unpretentious place. Highly rec'd.

Pics from Porto 

Gazela Snack Bar

Our first featured specialty sandwich from Porto is one of the worlds greatest drinking snacks. The Cachorrinho is a Portuguese hot dog made into a sandwich by slicing it lengthwise and putting it into local bread with Flemish cheese and then cooking it on a press. I don’t know if it’s fair to call the high quality sausage used at Gazela Snack Bar (Desde 1963) a hot dog but that’s what they call them. It’s spread with butter before being pressed and doused with hot sauce afterwards. They then slice it into little bite size pieces making it the perfect compliment to an ice cold beer. So good! Make sure to visit the original as the second location doesn’t have the old time feel of a classic Portuguese tavern.

Cachorrinho Sandwich at Gazela Snack Bar 

República dos Cachorros

I'd read that the best fries in town can be found here. As the name suggests República dos Cachorros specializes in Cachorros - short for Cachorrinho. It was going to be hard to top the product from the first stop but this was still a really good one and something I'd easily go back for when paired with their excellent fries. I got the option with ham added on and it too was a great drinking snack.

Cachorro Deluxe and Fries at República dos Cachorros

Casa Guedes

As you can see we hit the ground running as far as sandwiches in Porto go. These first few stops were all near each other so keep that in mind bc this one is also must stop material. Casa Guedes is a 1970's style tile lined dining establishment. Their specialty is the Sande de Pernil which is a simple sandwich at heart. It's roasted pork leg that's cut and assembled to order by the owner who has the perfect touch as far as making sure each sandwich is perfect in all of it's elements. He makes so many I wouldn't be surprised if he's getting the exact same amount of meat in each sandwich. Once stuffed it's dipped in the gravy which sits in the pan with the pernil. The gravy's ingredients are top secret but the folks at Culinary Backstreets have heard it has Brazilian components. The most popular way to eat this sandwich is with Queijo Serra da Estrela. It's a semi stinky / creamy sheep’s milk cheese that's made in the mountains of Portugal. It's slightly melted from the hot pork and the roll itself is as good as they get. Especially for this type of sandwich which has a lot of baggage so to say. One of a handful of sandwiches that could easily be best in Europe. About as good as it gets. 

Pernil with Cheese at Casa Guedes

Cervejaria Brasão Aliados

This popular tavern type place is the second restaurant from a well respected spot in another part of the country. They have two dining levels and both were full while we were there. We stopped in for an appetizer and some wine before moving onto our dinner reservation a few blocks up. We were here to get our outback on with a blooming fried onion. But this was the top shelf version which comes with a delicious black garlic mayo dipping sauce. I would've liked to try some of the other stuff on the menu. Much of it looked good on other tables. But we had a big dinner in store so I held off ordering more.

Fried Onion at Cervejaria Brasão Aliados

Restaurant Antunes

Antunes was the only spot I got us a reservation for. Partly bc it was as easy as booking one though google. But don't let that fool you into thinking it's a tourist trap just bc most other spots don't use it. It's location is up away from the main downtown area and it's not the prettiest or most recently updated restaurant out there. But it's a Porto classic and you best get a reservation bc people come out for the food here. Our waiter was the stereotypical older type and thus a little bit surly but he was quick and though he didn't show it I know he appreciated the fact we knew what we were there for. I read everything here is good but pork fans should look to the knuckle for a memorable meal. It serves two and is carved table side by surly waiter. Underneath it are some baby potatoes and other cooked vegetables soaked in the pork drippings. There was also some sort of green colored herbal butter. It was the most tender bits of ham I've had. The knuckle had an intense ham flavor in a very good way. To give you an idea of Portugal's affordability this was just $15 euros. The wine was even cheaper.

Pernil at Antunes

Taberna Santo Antonio

This local tasca is named after a patron Saint who's life is celebrated by eating and drinking. So you know the food is good at Taberna Santo Antonio. They offer four daily specials and you can bet all of them are awesome. We stopped in for lunch right around opening time and were able to nab some seats at the bar. It's a small spot and popular with locals as it's a cheap place to eat and drink. I saw the Portuguese specialty Alheira sausage on the menu and decided now was a good time to try it. This is a chicken and bread sausage with Jewish roots. It's said to have saved the Jews in Portugal from persecution around the Medieval time period when it was created. Bc Jews didn't eat pork they could be spotted by not having any sausages hanging and curing in their windows for the winter. So they came up with this which is now popular in places like Porto. It tasted like a really good barbecue chicken and went great with the fries. The perfect working mans lunch. Though the only thing I was working on was getting Portuguese food specialties like this crossed off my list. Next stop up!

Alheira Sausage at Taberna Santo Antonio


This next stop was on my list for their signature Cachorrinho. But it's only one of the things on the menu of this slightly upscale (nothing too fancy) tapas menu. It's a really nice bright spot with an extra friendly staff. The ingredients for the Cachorrinho are sourced from the best of the best and it was bomb as expected. Not quite as good as the first stop but I enjoyed all of the versions I tried. An order of fried sardines was also in-store. Pretty much the national dish of Portugal. Delicious.

Sardines and Cachorrinho at Caldeireiros

Restaurante Conga

I didnt know exactly what I was in store for from Conga but they were high on my hit list. I'd heard the Bifana sandwiches in Porto were much better than those in Lisbon. Conga was said to be there premier place in Porto to try one. They've been open since 1976. They have a large space where you can sit down and get taken care of by a server. Or you can just walk in and stand at the bar and order your sandwiches and beers at will. In Porto the meat (pork) tends to be thinner and more debris like while the spicing in the gravy at Conga is much more potent than other spots around the country due to the use of Piri Piri sauce which gives it that red hue (see my videos on Insta @chibbqking). At Conga the sandwich is slightly smaller than most which means you’ll be eating a few. Props to anyone that can eat just one of these as they are as good as meat and bread can get. I had ten (over three visits) during my time in Porto. I usually don’t do repeats on trips so that should give you an idea of what I thought of these. Plus I loved standing at the bar and talking basketball and more with the workers. These will go down as some of the more memorable sandwiches I've had. I loved them.

Bifana Sandwich at Conga

Yuko Tavern

If you’re familiar with Porto’s sandwich scene you knew this next one was coming. If you’re not then meet the Francesinha. The sandwich that’s become symbolic of Porto in that you can find them all over town. It starts with bread but this isn’t a sandwich you can eat with your hands. Inside that bread goes cured ham, linguiça, fresh sausage such as chipolata, and steak or roast meat. It’s then covered with a thick layer of melted cheese and a hot tomato and beer laced gravy. It’s typically served with fries and most always ordered with a fried egg on top. Many spots claim to make the best and one of them is Yuko Tavern which is in a very non touristy part of town in that it’s about a 15 min ride from the city center. This 30+ year old tavern lived up to its billing as one of the best as I absolutely loved it. Not just the sandwich but also the fries which were great with the extra cup of gravy they give poured on top. Not sure whether to call this regional treat a show stopper or a heart stopper but to hell with anyone that says they aren’t delicious. I don’t think my my heart could've handle a Francesinha tour but I’ll never forget this sandwich. I highly rec you take the 15 minute Uber ride to this real locals type spot. I was pretty much the only English speaker in the house but don’t worry it’s easy to order. They know why you’re there. Every person in there was eating one.

Francesinha Sandwich at Yuko Tavern

Salto O Muro (Matosinhos)

We took an uber over to the beach town of Matosinhos early one morning. It was only about a 20 minute ride and worth it for the seafood. The town is a major port for fishing and over the last decade or so it's started to get involved in tourism. The draws being the beach and the grilled fish found up and down the sidewalks of a main drag. Thanks to yet another assist from the folks at Culinary Backstreets I had us as the first customers of the day at Salta O Muro. This locals spot was packed within 30 minutes. It's one of the few restaurants where they're not grilling out front but it's amazingly fresh nonetheless. A little bit of a communication problem had our waitress bringing out a big platter full of the days fresh fish selections. The turbot looked too good to pass up. We got that with some rice and vegetables and loved every last bite. We had planned to get more but the turbot is a large fish and so we were totally full afterwards. But more important than that was we were happy. After that it was off to the beach to relax for a couple hours before heading back into Porto via uber.

Turbot at Salta O Muro

O Buraco

There were lots of recs out there for this neighborhood spot. So it's not low key by any means but that doesn't stop both locals and tourists from flooding it. Plan on a wait if you arrive during prime hours to O Buraco. Inside it's stuck in time. But the classic Portuguese food coming out it's kitchen is as good as it gets as far as experiencing Porto like a local goes. The fried sardines with tomato rice are one of the most popular items and the one thing you should most definitely get. I had just ate a few of those Bifana's so I stuck with just sardines but I was very happy to have them. The sardines were fried extra crunchy and the tomato rice was one of the best sides I can remember. I wish they sold that stuff bottled up. O Buraco sits at the bottom of an office building. How lucky are it's tenants?

Sardines and Tomato Rice at O Buraco


After having that amazing Prego sandwich in Lisbon I had to make sure to get another before I went home. Well of course the Prego Sandwiches in Porto are phenomenal. The namesake special from this 30+ year old locals favorite was steak with ham, egg, and cheese on a toasted Portuguese roll. The bread in Portugal if you didn’t know is as good as it gets. Best breakfast sandwich I’ve ever had. No it wasn’t breakfast time but in my mind any sandwich with an egg on it is breakfast. This place was packed as it seemed to be in a pretty hopping locals part of town (uphill). I'd go back in a flash.

Prego sandwich at Lareira

Lastly I wish I knew about the English breakfast at the restaurant in our hotel. I only took advantage of the free breakfast on our last day and regretted that after having this. I love a good English breakfast and this was one of them. Specifically the grilled tomato which had lots of real fire flavor. Luckily for us the rooms and all that were just as good. So thumbs up for the folks at Torel 1884.

English Breakfast at Bartolomeu Bistro at Torel 1884

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 Porto. 

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