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Lisbon - great food without romance ?

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Dear all

Off to Lisbon next weekend , but with a friend as opposed to other half, hence no need for romance - just great food !

Am open to any cuisine suggestions, though price bracket more towards moderate than high end. Prefer a locals vibe rather than touristy though lamentably I speak no Portuguese so nowhere too unfriendly or intimidating, please !

What I would really like to know is if there is anywhere which is the equivalent of La Paradeta in Barcelona - great value no frills seafood that you choose what you want and how you want it cooking in almost a market kind of setting ( poor description but if you have been hopefully you will know what I mean - if you haven't been you should go ! )

If there is no similar nirvana in Lisbon, where to go for great squid and can you get totani in Lisbon ( previously only had in southern Italy ) ?

Also any thoughts on the following places which I have happened upon on these pages

Bonjardim - if so touristy can it be any good ?
Gambrinus - is this v. formal - need to book ?
Sinal Vermelho - are we in danger of falling into the romance trap here ?
Tasca da Esquina - thoughts ?

Finally any decent bars with live music suitable for two blokes in early 40's i.e not full of students - I know there is a big music festival next weekend so this may be a big 'ask' but all thoughts welcome.

Thanks in advance

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  1. In reply to some of your questions, here are some suggestions:

    Bonjardim - It is not touristy in any regard. If you go on a Saturday afternoon and sit upstairs, you will be among locals and will have great chicken and sides for a great price. The house red or white is always good too. Need not worry.

    Sinal Vermelho - it is not romantic, and I would argue that the past few times I have gone there over the past few months it has been hit or miss. When it is on, it is very good. When it is off, it is mediocre. Service is usually good too.

    Tasca da Esquina - I really haven't been thirlled with the few times that I have been there. I was there at the end of April and thought it was pedestrian.

    Here are a few suggestions for informal, yet good seafood:

    O Farol - This is located across the river in Caçilhas which is a ten minute boat ride from Cais do Sodré. The ride is 80 cents each way and gives you a great view of Lisbon. The restaurant is located right near the bus terminal and the main goal here is to eat.

    O Ponto Final - This is about a 15 minute walk from the boat terminal in Caçilhas and it has excellent seafood with incredible views. Service is very friendly as well. One can see Belém, Lisboa, and the 25 de Abril Bridge on a clear day. If you have a sunny or nice day, I highly recommend going here.

    Solar dos Presuntos (Baixa) - This is one of the best seafood houses in all of Lisbon. It is a bit expensive but dishes are huge with always fresh options. Service is very professional.

    Churrrasco da Graça - In a non-tourist area in the Largo da Graça, this would be a nice alternative to Bonjardim for grilled fish, chicken, rabbit (my favorite), or meat. Cash only.

    Cervejaria e Marisqueira Barcabela - Excellent seafood and fish in a non-touristy area near the Martim de Moniz metro stop.

    http://barcabela.com/

    Of course, if you are in Belém, Alfama, or any other area of the city, there are bound to be smaller cafés and bars grilling fish and sardines.

    Let me know if you have any questions.

    Boa Viagem!

    17 Replies
    1. re: vinhotinto75

      Hey, thanks for those excellent tips.

      Just a few questions -

      Will we need reservations for any of these places ?

      Are they all open during the evening and, in particular which would be good for a few beers afterward and which are likely to be open on a Sunday evening ? I am thinking the Cacillas places would be best for lunch - or does the boat run til late ?

      Is there likely to be a dress code ( or expected standard of smartness e.g in Solar dos Presuntos ) - I don't want to turn up in my jeans, looking scruffy if the locals are much smarter and thus generally annoying everybody !

      Is the house white or red likely to be a decent option in all of these places - if not what Portuguese wines would you recommend ( particularly with fish ) which I am likely to be able to get by the glass as my travelling companion is very much a beers man ?

      Thanks again

      1. re: willowan

        Casual attire is fine in all of the places, so nice jeans or khakis/chinos are fine as well. A reservation is a good thing at a place like Solar dos Presuntos. Yet, Lisboetas tend to be very laid back and lack pretentiousness in most regards. Some places are closed on Sunday's so it is good to have a backup plan.

        You are right that the places in Caçilhas are better for lunch. O Farol has excellent beer so your friend will probably enjoy lunch or dinner there. It is a place to go for the food.

        Yes, house red and white is the best bargain, but even if you wanted to try something from the wine list, prices tend to be excellent for either full or half bottles. Portuguese wines mostly rely entirely on indigenous grapes, and that is a requirement to be a DOC wine. I would recommend getting a half bottle over a glass. Some regions to look for:

        Alentejo: Full bodied reds and whites. Excellent with game, grilled meats, and hearty fish stews.

        Douro: Famous for Port Wine, but also excellent full-bodied and smooth reds and whites. Good with meats and grilled seafood.

        Dão: Medium-bodied reds and whites, where the red Touriga Nacional shines. Similar to fuller-bodied Pinot Noir. Good with cheeses, poultry, and fish.

        The major Portuguese beers are Super Bock and Sagres with a variety of styles. A simple draft beer is called an Imperial. It is simple, medium-bodied and refreshing; unsophisticated but good. There are plenty of places to grab a beer or glass of wine or porto throughout the city. If you want to try some obscure port wines, go to the Solar do Vinho do Porto.

        I'm not a big fan of the Expo area in Lisbon (aka Parque das Nações), but there are some decent marisqueiras (fish houses) where you can try some different Portuguese beers with good seafood. Again, might be a lunch possibility as it is a bit dull in the evening (in my opinion).

        Another place that I like for lunch is in the Largo do Rato, Cervejaria Real Fábrica

        http://www.realfabrica.pt/

        Lisbon is full of excellent cafés which serve a variety of foods at all times of the day, so that is an option to pop in and grab a drink or snack. Of course, Portuguese espresso (bica) is fantastic and cheap!

        Again, feel free to let me know if you have any other questions.

        Boa Sorte!

        1. re: vinhotinto75

          Hi - one further question

          What is Lisboa Noite like - just a friend today said he had been and recommended it. Its on Rua Das Gavas in the Bairro Alto.

          Good, bad , indifferent ?

          Thanks again !

          1. re: willowan

            Lisboa à Noite is run and owned by the same people/family of O Sinal Vermelho which is located on the Rua das Gáveas in the Bairro Alto.

            I like both restaurants and Lisboa à Noite is the more formal of the two, yet it is still VERY affordable with good food and EXCELLENT service. The menu and wine list at Lisboa à Noite is a bit more sophisticated and extensive too. Still, O Sinal Vermelho when it is on is fantastic too.

            I do indeed recommend Lisboa à Noite, yet the restaurant is still normally frequented by couples and parties of 6-8. Nonetheless, the food is excellent and it does do a fantastic balance of the different regional Portuguese cuisines and the respective fish, shellfish, poultry, game, and meat dishes.

            Hopefully this helps! Yet as always, feel free to let me know if you have any questions.

            Boa Viagem!

            1. re: vinhotinto75

              Just back from Lisbon this evening and wanted to say thanks for your help

              We ate at Bonjardim ( very good chicken - great value ) and at Solar des Presuntos ( loved it - had grilled octopus which was lovely ), sampled white port, bica and also the cherry brandy /liquer which was great fun.

              We also ate at a place called Sacramento last night, which was recommended by our hotel. I would be interested on your perspective as I though that whilst it was a nice room/ trendy place it was mediocre food wise.
              My friend thought I was being over critical ( based on a starter of blood sausage which was virtually burnt as if from a bad barbecue and apple puree which was more like toffee ) - I got the distinct impression it might have been reheated . I was not impressed but had no scope ( or will ) to agrue while on holiday. I wonder if we have been sent to a 'friend' of our hotel, rather than a decent place for food ?

              Would welcome your thoughts - just to see if my cynicism re hotel recommendations is right or if I just got unlucky with my starter choice.

              Thanks again

              1. re: willowan

                If you are referring to Sacramento do Chiado which is located just off Rua Garrett in Chiado (on the Calçada do Sacramento), I would have to agree that the food is nothing special and mediocre. Interestingly someone here wrote about the place a while back and I made it a point to go there to try it out. I wasn't impressed, but it wasn't terrible. Many places in Chiado tend to either be trendy or new business ventures that emphasize ambience over food. I ate at the Taberna do Chiado with a colleague a few weeks ago and found the food mediocre too.

                I can't really say whether or not your hotel has some sort of relationship with the restaurant in terms of a "kickback." I haven't stayed in a hotel in Lisbon for a long time since I have my own place there now. Still, it is a practice globally that one should be aware when a hotel makes a suggestion.

                Glad to hear you enjoyed Solar dos Presuntos and Bonjardim. Did you make it to Caçilhas?

                1. re: vinhotinto75

                  That was the place - it serves me right for listening to a hotel's advice.

                  They also had a flashy business card which instinctively made me wary, but I went against my better judgement and paid the price.

                  Sadly we didn't get over to Cacilhas in time for lunch so couldn't try that place you recommended.

                  On another note I am staying near Guia ( itself near Faro ) for a few days later this month. Any good recommendations in that area ?

                  Many thanks again

                  1. re: willowan

                    You are in Albufeira tourist land... Guia is home to several "chicken piri-piri" restaurants (spicy bbq chicken) all claiming to be the original and best... Try any of them, they are all very similar. Churasqueira Ramires has a good reputation.
                    Assuming you will have a car, I would rather aim to the "Veneza" just outside Paderne for good local food, reasonable prices and the best wine cellar in the country.
                    At the opposite end of the spectrum, Vila Joya in Galé, 2 Michelin stars for an unforgetable lunch on the terrace. Also on Galé there is a reasonable restaurant on the beach.
                    Go and visit Silves and his moorish castle (and museum) and have lunch at Rui's jusrt behind the market. Best fish and shellfish in the Algarve in a simple Marisqueira. Check the prices, lobster is expensive everywhere, but there are plenty of other choices from oysters to clams to sea snails (buzios) and goose barnacles (perceves).
                    For more choice,look at http://www.essential-portugal.com/ (Algarve > restaurants)

                    1. re: monchique

                      I am sitting here inPort;and Maine thinking bout how great RUI is. Of course being from Maine I never have to worry about lobster prices or cravings when I am in Silves, but I am still dreaming of all the things that I can't get here seafood stews grilled fish, buzios , perceves good cheap wine and on and on!

      2. re: vinhotinto75

        Thanks for the Barcabela recommendation. We ate there last night and it was wonderful. We had some white wine and two types of ham. I had the lobster which they took live out of the tank, it was pricey but good. The gentlemen I was with had fish, sole and not sure what the other was and all was great. We finished off the meal with some vintage Port.

        Any thoughts on the restaurant just across the street? I do not recall the name but it looked very busy as well, thought I might go tonight.

        Best regards, tony

        1. re: aea6574

          I'm glad that you liked Barcabela. I have a friend who works nearby, so we often go there for lunch during the week. I'm not entirely sure of the name of the place that you are referring, but right down the street from Barcabela (on the same side) is the famous Cervejaria Ramiro. They have the reputation of having the best shellfish in Lisbon. There are often lines to get in and eat. It isn't cheap - but not entirely expensive - and the place is rather small. I think if this is the place to which you are referring and you like shellfish, then it would be good to try.

          http://www.cervejariaramiro.pt/

          Boa Sorte!

          1. re: vinhotinto75

            WOW! you were so very correct. This was the place that we saw. I went and had some spectacular what I would call regular shrimp with with salt and some oil. I also had the Jam Negra which was like the Iberico ham in Spain, so very very tasty. Then I had this Gigantic tiger shrimp that was prepared perfectly. Ended with a couple of glasses of 20 year old tawny port that was only 3 Euro a glass. Thank you so very much.

            I will have to look above but if you have ideas for lunch or dinner on Saturday I would love to hear them.

            Wow, thank you again.

            Best regards, tony

            1. re: vinhotinto75

              Just a brief note from a Boston hound in the midst of a Lisbon visit. So far vinhotinto75 is two for two with absolutely outstanding meals at both recommendations. Last night was Cervejaria Ramiro for a tremendous meal beginning with the plates of ham and progressing through barnacles, shrimp broiled with garlic salt and small red chile, clams in garlic broth with parsley and coriander, split and charbroiled gambas and split and charbroiled langoustine. All accompanied by split toasted and buttered rolls and washed down with copious quantities of vinho verde. Today it was lunch across the river at O Ponto Final. This place took a bit of finding (love the new Iphone with GPS) but yielded spectacular sardine salad, hard aged cheese, olives, octopus salad, grilled sardines and grilled bacahalou(sp?) All eaten under an umbrella at the edge of the river gazing over the bridge and Lisbon skyline. Props to vinhotinto75 - i am here with a work colleague who appreciates fine food and thus far we have been blown away by your suggestions after a disappointing first night with the hotel recommendation. Thanks very much for the thought and time you have out in to your posts!

              1. re: rgmills

                A belated update to my Lisbon trip and the remarkable fact that vinhotinto was four for four in recommendations. After the two outstanding meals listed above we had our final two dinners at Kaetano's in Graça and then Bonjardim. Kaetano's was a terrific and seemingly obscure (at least to Boston visitors) find. Absolutely tremendous and delightful non-english speaking service and a magnificent meal. The amuse bouche was an unidentified fried dumpling that was aromatic and savory with absolutely exquisite flavors - one of those dishes I am still thinking about. Appetizer was a spectacular cold octopus salad and roast suckling pig for a main. The pork brought to mind Schwein Hachse in Munich but significantly sweeter and more moist. Crispy crunchy salty and fatty on the outside and sweet moist and delicious on the inside. The house red was terrific and we had a wonderful meal. Thanks so much for the recommendation. Bonjardim was very good and reasonably priced roast chicken and sides. Perfectly acceptable and matter of fact service. Best of all, vinhotinto75 was right about sitting upstairs - it was 100% local - i hate eating anywhere there are other Americans so this worked for me.

                All in all, a great trip to Lisbon and immense debt owed to vinhotinto75.

                1. re: rgmills

                  Rgmills - Thanks for your very kind words and I am glad that your trip and dining was productive and as we say "bem aproveitado."

                  Sorte!

                  1. re: vinhotinto75

                    Hi.
                    I`m planning a trip to Lisbon this October and looking for a casual restaurant (not a buffet, though). Could you please explain what kind of a eatery is churrasqueira? I love fresh, grilled seafood, quails, snails, tripe, crispy pig`s ears, sausages, etc.
                    I would like to eat where locals do. Is Churrasqueria Xiluba for example worth a visit? Any suggestions?

                    1. re: Betty P.

                      Betty P - As you will note from above, I live most of the year in Lisboa and have made tons of recommendations. Feel free to look in the archives and see what I have posted about all types of restaurants in the city: casual, romantic, Luso-African cuisine, Brazilian, trendy, upscale, as well as cheap and cheerful places.

                      Based on what you like to eat, I would maybe suggest the following which have a nice local following. None of these are buffets and tend to be low-key and relaxed.

                      Barcabela (seafood and grilled dishes; one of my faves is the grilled rabbit)
                      Cervejaria Ramiro (best shellfish in Lisboa; menu limited to shellfish)
                      Solar dos Presuntos (excellent seafood and regional meat/game dishes)
                      Churrasco da Graça (simple excellent grilled foods including fish; cash only and non-rodizio)
                      Kaetano's (excellent steaks and fish in a cool environment)
                      Sinal Vermelho - Regional Portuguese Cuisine
                      Café de São Bento - Excellent Portuguese Steak and Fries
                      A Granja Velha - Old-School in the Baixa with good regional cuisine geared towards Alentejan cuisine.

                      Churrasqueiras in Portugal/Lisboa refer to restaurants that serve grilled foods (chicken, beef, sausages, fish, game, etc.). Some of these are in the all-you-can-eat rodizio style and some others simply refer to the fact that the foods are prepared on a grill (A Churrasqueira).

                      A Churrascaria refers to the type of Brazilian Steakhouse where an endless assortment of grilled meats, pork, sausages, poultry, etc. is served at your table for as long as you want (called Rodizio). Some of the best ones also have fantastic salad-bars and serve other side-dishes and delicacies. There are a few in Lisboa, but probably not what you are after while there.

                      Please let me know if I can assist in any way.

                      Sorte!