The foodie guide to Porto
A guide to eating like a local in Porto. All traditional, all delicious.
Porto is a real foodie city and what I loved about the places I’ve recommended below is that tourists and locals collide. Whilst queuing outside and trying to make sense of the menu, the locals will happily recommend what to order, why they love it, and give advice about how the seating system works!
The food in Porto is extra interesting because of the city’s past. As a key trading point at the mouth of the Duoro River it’s unsurprising that a lot of the cuisine is fish based. But it’s also said that the people of Porto gave all the prime meat cuts to the boats setting sail from Porto, leaving the tripe for themselves. Tripe is still loved in Porto and can be tried in traditional Portuguese dishes at every restaurant. A trip to the Bolhão Market is well worth it for any foodie, with tripe and every sort of meat on display. It’s probably not one for the veggies but it’s fair to say Porto makes the most of every part of the animal.
The tradition combined with the friendly locals make foodie explorations around Porto so special. I have to give a massive shout out to my Portuguese friend Carolina for her recommendations during our trip. We happily sampled them all (and some) during our stay!
Without further ado, here’s my list of great local places to check out…
Adega São Nicolau
For charming local appeal and fish-based dishes
This cute little place in Ribeira is tucked away up an alley just yards from the main tourist area of the Duoro river. It’s always in popular demand by locals and those in the know. We turned up early, added our names to the list and sat on the steps just outside the restaurant (you can’t put your name down and leave…) But everyone in the queue was in good spirits and the anticipation turned out to be fun!
An hour later we were seated outside looking out on the steps of people still queuing, as it got busier and busier. We tucked into a bottle of Portuguese white, given we were in for the long haul after that wait! For starters we had white asparagus with butter – super simple, super tasty. This is mainly a fish restaurant so our options as non-fish eaters was slightly limited, but it’s the kind of place that makes me sad I don’t eat fish as it looked so fresh and delicious. Instead we opted for a more unusual cut of steak and a pork-cheek stew, and wow - we weren’t disappointed. The food was really delicious, and service surprisingly quick and attentive once we were actually seated.
A bit of a hidden gem, this place should be on your list if you are after something that feels a little bit special and away from the tourist-filled restaurants on the river.
For the best francesinha in town
This was at the top of my list of places to eat before going to Porto, so I was pretty set about trying the famed francesinha here rather than anywhere else - regardless of how long we might have to queue for. And we must have lucked out, because we didn’t have to queue for that long! We got a seat at the bar, a great location because you can see the fastest sandwich maker ever stacking up these huge sandwiches with such speed!
The francesinha is a Porto right of passage, and that’s why it made it to my top 5 of Porto here. But fear not, if the queue at Café Santiago is just too long to bear, there’s some places just next door which look just as good. Plus, you will see it on menus across the city so if your appetite is big enough why not try a few?! Enjoy a Super Bock to wash it down.
Local tip: Don’t be afraid to ask for more sauce, it’s a regular thing and you don’t get charged for it.
For a modern take on traditional Portuguese food
Tascö is described online as a “cool tavern” and I think that’s a pretty good description. It’s a modern take on traditional Portuguese cuisine, in a cozy yet contemporary setting. Think quirky artwork on the walls, light wood décor and an outdoor feel with the indoor grass and long wooden benches. It serves a large selection of small plates and sharing boards – which is just the way I like to eat, so I can try a bit of everything!
We feasted on bean rice, caldo verde (portuguese soup), chourico and cured meats, grelhos (portuguese sprouts) and a spicy sausage stew. The staff gave good recommendations of what to try if you fancy a bit of everything, or if you are after trying something in particular. And they also guided us as to how much was enough! Each dish was distinctly different but packed with contrasting flavours.
This is definitely one to book in advance as I tried turning up without a reservation but was turned away, having to book for the next day (so my disappointment didn’t last too long!) It’s cool ambience and modern Porto dishes are incredibly popular for good reason.
A Casa Guedes
For the tastiest pork sandwich in a humble setting
This is yet another Porto gem that has locals and tourists queueing around the block. The line of people outside is probably all that would alert you to the fact you have arrived, as it’s a very humble setting. The interior is a 1970’s tile-adorned room with a bar, behind which the sandes de pernil (roast pork knuckle sandwiches) are prepared.
This isn’t the only thing on the menu, but it’s what Casa Guedes is known for. Pork legs are roasted behind the counter, carved up by the owner, and soaked in gravy before assembling them inside rustic bread where the juices soak in. You can also choose to add Serra da Estrela (a sheep’s milk cheese from the nearby Serra da Estrela region) which comes in a very generous serving. The sheep’s cheese was too much for me and I found it too strong for my palette so I picked it out! But the rest was gooey, meaty deliciousness.
Again I was lucky enough to get a seat at the bar, which makes for the best viewing of the assembly line! The people here have clearly been working at Casa Guedes all their life – such is the second nature of the carving, slicing, dipping and serving.
If you are after something a bit more adventurous, you can try the Sarrabulho (mash with blood) or the equally traditional but not as adventurous caldo verde (Portuguese cabbage soup).
For one-dish, expertly mastered
This no-frills little café is another to put on the ‘must-eat’ list. It’s located just off the main square at Batalha where you might think you have come to the wrong place. That is until you spot a few customers propped outside with a SuperBock waiting for their snacks. Gazela featured in Anthony Bourdain’s guide to Porto so it’s no wonder it has people flocking to it.
This one-dish-wonder serves up Cachorro (portuguese style hot dogs) and fries. The hotdogs are made up of sausage with spiced oil drizzled over a thin, long baguette, then grilled until crispy and cut into bite sized pieces. This is another place where you gaze in wonder at how the staff have their hotdog making down to a fine art in the tiny space they work in behind the bar.
For such a bustling place, the owner has his eye on everything – including exactly who is next in line for a seat. We awkwardly stood squeezed against the doorway not quite knowing what was going on, but as soon as there was a seat spare, we were ushered over and soon tucking into the hotdog goodness.
These spicy bites are only a few euros each, and we saw many locals feasting on a few rounds of them. It seemed to be order one, see how you feel and order more if your still peckish! We certainly weren’t by the time we left…
Taberna Santo Antonio
For the tastiest bean stew you'll ever eat
Just as I thought I’d finished writing this blog, I looked through my pictures and remembered another local gem that I just had to add to this list. Again, another unassuming little café (there’s a theme here) which was packed to the rafters with lunch time diners when we arrived.
I was feeling adventurous and the staff convinced me to try a codfish cake. I’m not a fish-eater but it looked so tasty that I had to try and I wasn’t disappointed! Just the right amount of fish to potato, I wished I’d got up the courage to try these sooner whilst on this trip. I then had a pork schnitzel – so simple and tasty, alongside the best bean stew I’ve ever eaten… It consisted of rice, red kidney beans and cabbage in THE most delicious broth.
For all your sweet-tooth cravings
And for my final recommendation, I’ll finish with dessert. It’s one to check out for the pastel de nata fans out there, as well as being on my top 5 of Porto. This is a great place because you can see the pastry chefs working away making hundreds of traditional Portugese custard tarts right in front of you. Served fresh from the oven and still warm, with a sprinkling of cinnamon if you fancy. You can stand in the store and enjoy them with a cheeky port, or order takeaway where they are served up in the cutest little box. The box of 4 makes for a nice holiday gift, if you manage to resist the temptation before your back home!
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