The Best Food and Drink in Portugal: Travel Guide
Portugal has incredible food and drinks that show off a lot of diversity for this small European country. Fine dining, small plates, or enormous portions can be enjoyed throughout and as as you travel from region to region the specialty shifts from vibrant seafood gathered in the Atlantic to delicate wines grown on sloping hillsides leading into the Douro river. Along the coast an incredible variety of seafood can be enjoyed. In the northern Douro region wine, meat and cheese excel. As you head south and inland into bairrada, suckling pig and sparkling wine delight. Further south in the Algarve along the mediterranean seafood resurfaces at restaurants along the idyllic coastline. And as you finish your whirlwind tour of Portugal in Lisbon, everything is brought together, a celebration of all that Portugal offers.
Cafes and Pastries
Espresso or a latte are the morning drinks of choice in Portugal. Instead of coffee you will have to go for an Americano. Accompanied with a pastry, such as a Portuguese croissant which has eggs in the batter and more body than their French cousins, this is the quintessential Portuguese breakfast. In every city there are multiple cafes and most have outdoor seating for an al fresco breakfast.
Meats and Cheese
Many restaurants will offer meat and cheese platters comprising of Portuguese and Spanish items. But for an authentic experience check out a Talho, which is a butcher. While trekking along the Douro we stopped at a small shop in Pinhao and had an incredible experience. The friendly butcher gave of samples to try and offered us a "tea" which he said would improve our eyesight and wisdom. Turned out to be white wine! Buy a few cuts of meat, cheese and some bread and head out to the river for an idyllic picnic.
Portuguese Burger and Pizza
Creative versions of the burger and pizza utilizing Portuguese ingredients can be enjoyed at Bugo Art Burger in Porto and Pizzaria Lisboa in Lisbon. The best burger at Bugo is topped with a port wine sauce and cheese created in the Serra da Estrela mountains in eastern Portugal. The best pizza is from the best chef in Portugal, Jose Avillez and features chorico in place of pepperoni.
Beer aka Cerveja
The craft beer scene is young in Portugal, but quickly growing. We were lucky enough to be in Figueira da Foz during the craft beer festival and got a try a variety of locally brewed cervejas. Sagres and Super Bock are two of the most prevalent, but when you can find a craft cerveja I would suggest you try it. Sovina is an increasingly popular craft beer that we were able to find in a few restaurants throughout Portugal.
Petiscos - Small Plates
Petiscos are Portuguese small plates similar to the idea of Tapas in Spain. A great way to sample a lot of different foods throughout an evening while sipping on vinho. In Figueira da Foz late into the evening we grabbed a table outside at Casa Havanesa and enjoyed a variety of Petiscos that were wonderful.
Throughout Portugal grilled sardines are a common dish, but when they are grilled to perfection they make for an incredible, savory meal and have to be tried at least once.
In Nazare, a beautiful coastal city nestled into the cliffs along the Atlantic, we stopped at a seafood restaurant, O Casalihno, we heard has the best seafood in Portugal, and it did not disappoint! Get the seafood boat. Filled with an incredible of variety of shrimp, crab, mussels, clams, oysters, barnacles and so much more it is delicious. The grouper was also cooked to perfection, smokey and tender.
Sagres or Super Bock
The best lager in Portugal is Sagres, in my opinion, but Super Bock is a more popular beer. Find a cafe in Lisbon, grab a Sagres and sit back while enjoying the sights and sounds of Portugal's largest city.
Port and Wine
Portugal is well known for the Port wine produced within the country and you should make sure that you try a few, such as Taylor, Sandeman, Croft and other large producers. But for a unique experience head to the Douro wine region and explore the small wineries that line the river. Most of these producers create more than Port and their red and white wines are incredibly good and at a lower price point. Douro is the wine producing worlds best kept secret. Pacheca near Peso da Regua had an unbelieveable 30 year Port that we had to buy and take back with us. Additionally, wine is often cheaper than bottled water at restaurants and the vinho verde is very refreshing.
Pasteis de Nata
Pasteis de Belem is an uber touristy pastry shop claiming fame as the oldest creator of the buttery custard cups Pasteis de Nata, but unlike many "original" food stops, this bakery makes the best in Portugal. The crust of the cup is light, crispy and flaky while the filling is sweet and buttery. You will not find a better Pasteis de Nata.
The Best Restaurant in Portugal
Belcanto is considered the finest restaurant in Portugal and chef Jose Avillez does not disappoint. Make this the last meal you have in Portugal to celebrate all of the flavors the country offers. His tasting menu is a celebration of Portugal and his signature dish, the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg, is a spectaucular slow cooked egg topped with gold leaf foil.
Bonus: Olives and Leitao
Wherever you go always get olives. They will be the best olives that you ever have. And when you find yourself in the bairrada region ask around for a place with the best leitao (suckling pig) in town.