Bairro Alto basics...
I am coming to Lisbon for a week in September. I have rented a flat in Bairro Alto. My rough plan is to go with the flow most nights, see where my feet and stomach bring me (any interesting neighborhoods that a travel guide will leave out?), but I am also looking for 2 special dinner recommendations as well as advice on how to shop for groceries, as I will have a kitchen and eating 3 meals a day in restaurants becomes tedious and expensive. Also any tips on coffee culture? Thank you.
I'll let others comment on Barrio Alto specifics. But for Portuguese coffee culture you should read this:
I found it to be quite on target. A typical espresso shot is often quite good just about everywhere, and priced fairly too (one doesn't usually get ripped off just because you are at a museum, concert, etc.). No sign of the US style third wave, Seattle/Portland stuff on my visit, but a refreshing lack of Starbucks too.
The "go with the flow" idea can be tricky in Lisbon, I'd have specific backups in mind. There are hundreds of restaurants in the central neighborhoods and since they all have similar menus it's hard to discern between good and bad - even after a few visits.
Not a specialist of the Bairro Alto but there are several threads on this board about Lisbon with good suggestions, and you won't starve. One can eat out quite cheaply in Portugal.
About shopping for groceries I suppose it is the same as anywhere else: You go to the nearest corner shop or supermarket, or to one of the several "Centros Comerciais" (Amoreiras, Colombo, etc.). I like best the Corte Ingles which has a hypermarket and also a great Gourmet shop in the basement.
About coffee, I think this link will amuse you: It lists the name of most of the coffees you can ask for. You will need to translate! http://pt.lisboando.com/comer-em-lisb...
On one of the main thoroughfare in the Bairro Alto: Largo Calhariz/Rua Loretto (a three block stretch that change names) has an excellent butcher, a supermarket, a fruit/vegetable store and many good bakeries-cafes. At the end of rua Loretto on Placa Luis de Camoes is branch of A Pandaria Portuguesa that has good breads. There are also stores on up on Rua Dom Pedro v. For seafood, I had to go down to the Mercado de Ribeira.
Interesting neighborhoods: from a recent visit, we like the area just north of the Praca de Principe Real, also San Bento and Lapa. Bairro Alto is a big partying area with tons of restaurants, bars and clubs, therefore, extremely noisy at night. On weekends it gets loud until 3 am, then the garbage trucks a couple hours later.
Coffee can be had everywhere: bica is a shot of espresso, then it goes from there with a little milk to a lot of hot milk. Most cafes in the centro will understand if you tell them what you want in English. I didn't find much foaming. They don't bother with all the third wave stuff. If you want Starbuck, there is one in the shopping mall on rua do Carmo in Chiado and another in the Estacao do Rossio. I find the coffee in Lisbon good but definitely not like in Italy or Spain.
Cool. I'm staying on Germano Lusitania (spelling may be way off), I'll check my map. I figure I'll be eating at least my morning meal at home both as a way to spend less and also so I can save my calories for the evening. The 3rd wave coffee stuff is less of what I'm looking for. I just like a bit of foam on my espresso. I enjoyed the coffee in Madrid more so then Barcelona, but in Madrid I had a local showing me around. Either way I assume Lisbon will be a great food vacation. Thanks for the tips.