Whirlwind Culinary Tour of Lisbon
I'll be in Lisbon for six days in mid-October and would like to get as much out of it as possible. I am staying at the Real Palacio, but that's not really important - I'll go anywhere, especially if it is for the best of a local specialty. LOVE local/regional cuisine, so suggestions there are well appreciated. I'm not fussy, either...I'll eat anything. Bring on the offel! Of course, I'll probably also want to experience one or two classier dining experiences, although I am on a budget so I guess no Michelin-starred restos for me.
Also a couple of more general questions: I'm traveling alone, so are restaurants in Lisbon generally friendly to single diners? I'll be coming in from Paris, where single diners are sneered at unmercifully. Also, what is the house wine scene like? Is it like France, where you can tell the quality of the wine list by the quality of the house wine? Or is it more like the US, where the house wine is more like the staff poured all the wine left on the tables by customers into one giant bucket, added water and called it good? And are there any good local wines I should be looking out for? Finally, I speak about zero Portugese...can I get by on my mix of mediocre Spanish and French?
Thanks in advance for all your good advice! I am SO excited for this trip!
Stella - I have posted significantly on the Lisbon dining scene over the past year and will be happy to add to help you plan your trip.
In my opinion, Lisbon (and Portugal) offers a fantastic opportunity to dine and explore various regional cuisines at affordable prices - even with the strength of the Euro vs. Dollar. Even more upscale restaurants are bargains compared to cities like London, NYC, LA, Paris, and Chicago.
You will be fine as a single diner, as I often eat alone when I'm there (which is rather often due to work and other obligations). Furthermore, if you do not speak Portuguese, then your best bet would be either English or French (in that order). Still, it would help to familiarize yourself with some menu items by carrying either a dictionary.
Wine pricing and the markup on wine in restaurants throughout Lisbon and Portugal is minimal compared to many places globally. Lastly, house wine often tends to be a drinkable (and often reputable) wine from a DOC region in Portugal (Alentejo, Douro, Dão, Palmela, Beiras, etc.) and can often be quite good and affordable (often as low as 4-5 Euro). Also, they tend to always have a good selection of half bottles in the event that you want to try different types for different courses. Even if you don't want the house wine for any reason, other selections will certainly be affordable and never astronomical.
Again, I would be happy to elaborate, yet here are some places worth checking out (which are certainly affordable). Some are more obscure while others are Lisboa institutions:
ViniPortugal (free wine tasting and education center - A MUST)
Cervejaria Ramiro (best Shellfish in Lisbon)
João do Grão (Old School - specializes in bacalhau)
Bonjardim (famous for roasted chicken)
Forninho do Saloio (good grilled foods)
Antiga Confeitaria de Belém (famous for the Pasteis de Nata ou Belém)
Sinal Vermelho (Portuguese Bistrôt-style - Excellent)
Restaurante Esquina da Fé (neighborhood place - good variety and service)
Solar dos Presuntos (pricier; yet great seafood)
Nektar Wine Bar (good wine bar and food)
A Tasca da Esquina (new place from legendary chef Vítor Sobral)
A Granja Velha (classic lunch place in the Baixa)
Confeitaria Nacional (a legendary Lisbon Café)
Pastelaria Suiça (Another traditional café)
Café Nicola (Yet another classic café)
Faz Figura (More upscale place)
Café São Bento (good steak and Bistôt food)
Conventual (chic, yet affordable; somewhat 80s retro)
Flor de Sal (near Conventual; relaxing and good food)
Galeto (classic place; almost like a Portuguese-style Diner - open late which is a plus)
Vinhotinto: thanks for your suggestions. My situation is similar to Stella's in that I will be a solo traveler in Lisbon (and later on Coimbra, Porto, Douro, etc.) during the first part of October. One further question? I live near Newark, NJ, which has a large number of Portuguese restaurants, many of which I have tried. Most of them have a bar area and then a more formal dining room. When I am a solo diner, I often prefer to eat at the bar. Will I find this sort of arrangement in the typical Lisbon restaurant?
JMoryl - some places do have a bar like in Newark, Mineola, Montréal, etc. such as Pastelarias, Cafés, and Cervejarias, yet it is more common for individual diners to sit in a dining room to eat. The bar area, is often reserved for just a drink (wine/beer or an espresso (bica). Even some really nice tascas (Portuguese bistrôts) are low key and might have a tv in the dining room. One that comes to mind in the list above is the Restaurante Esquina da Fé.
If you are going to Coimbra, I highly recommend eating at A Taberna. Here is their website (you get a free glass of port if you reserve on line). The food and wine is amazing!
JMoryl - Os Goliardos is a cool wine store/café with a very good selection of Portuguese Wines and light fare (cheese, salads, etc.) with emphasis on particularly smaller producers from the major DOC regions (Dão, Douro, Alentejo, Beiras, etc.). It is on the same street (Rua Mãe d'Água) and close to the Chafariz do Vinho (Enoteca) which is a fantastic building, yet has hit or miss service lately. Os Goliardos is laid back and has a nice patio if the weather is nice.
If you are dining alone, then I think Nectar would be better since they serve full meals and they do indeed have a bar to sit at if you prefer (rather than a table). Nectar is in the Baixa, so just be careful after dark since it is on a pedestrian only street and it can get pretty dark - even though Lisbon is generally very safe.
All three have websites:
Stella: You will have a fantastic time. We just returned from a 2 week vacation at Lisbon and Porto.
I should thank the invaluable contributions by Vinhotino and Nyleve in particular. There was an additional gentleman that posted a long thread to inform on his experiences which I was trying to find to thank him as well.
Just to echo some feedback already provided. Cervejaria Ramiro definitely has the best seafood. It is however located in a district that is perhaps on perception not very safe. I would suggest taking a taxi back to your accommodation rather than taking the Metro especially if dinner concludes late. FYI - taxis in Portugal are very accessible and not expensive compared to the rest of Europe.
Café São Bento - served some of the best steaks I have ever had the privilege to eat. Beautifully cooked, well seasoned and interesting as I had never had steaks with so much sauce before. Definitely a place you should not miss. However, 2 Learning for us - depending on what time your reservation is, don't walk there but take a taxi! The cafe is more of a private club and we almost left assuming it was closed until we were informed by a passer-by to press the buzzer. The door is always shut and you have to be buzzed in. Third, do bear in mind that the steaks are not inexpensive - expect to pay anywhere between Euro14 to Euro20 per person excluding drinks.
We felt Bonjardim was so-so, and we would have tried somewhere else especially for dinner on a Sunday which unfortunately limited our choices. For cheap eats on a Sunday as Vinhohito has already mentioned, do consider Casa de Alentejo - their daily menus are affordable and very tasty.
Restaurant Kaetano's is very good value for money - the Degustation Menu is approximately Euro21 for 5-course menu. However, please do not expect sophisticated fine-dining food - again, I stress great value.
One place that should certainly be on your radar is 100 Maneiras. It was without a doubt, our favorite restaurant in Lisbon. The 7+3 course menu (where the +3 refers to the various amuse bouche etc) cost Euro40 a person. The cooking was excellent, presentation was divine and food well seasoned. Do ensure that you make a reservation as they were turning tables twice on a weekday.
This is my first post on any kind of discussion website (Sad, I know) but here goes.
I will be in transit for 4 hours on a Saturday afternoon and would like recommendations for a restaurant for lunch. There will be 4 in our party - 2 adults and 2 children, so something fairly informal would be great. I understand there is now a metro into town, but am a little worried about the amount of time we have available to us. Your advice would be greatly appreciated.