Driving from Lisbon to Porto is equivalent to driving from Montreal to Quebec City. So let’s get going: it’s as beautiful as the culinary delights that await us when we arrive. And if Paris is not France, then Lisbon is not Portugal either! With an area half the size of that of the capital, Porto, the belle of the north, presents a different face of the country. A village look, with streets paved with black and white stone mosaics and hyper-local culinary delights. Here are a few suggestions on what to eat in Porto and how to discover the local gastronomy from a different point of view.
Tripas a moda do Porto
At the Cais da Ribeira, the Douro River is a sight to be seen. Rabelos, wooden boats that once carried port barrels, sail the raging river. On the other side of the river, in Vila Nova de Gaia, you will find the cellars where this wine is stored. It is a magnificent scene! So much so that to enjoy the view, while tasting the famous tripas a moda do Porto, we’ll sit down on the terrace of the Franganito Ribeira restaurant, formerly the D. Tonho.
This dish has an interesting story. It dates back to the 15th century, when the ships of the explorers left the port with so much food that the people of Porto had almost no food. It was at that time that the women of Porto created this dish based on white beans, which over time has been enriched with all sorts of sausages. In short, tripas have become so emblematic of the city that its inhabitants have earned the nickname of “tripeiros”!
Born in the 1960s, the Francesinha or “Little French Girl” is another amazing creation that you can’t miss in Porto… It’s a sandwich made with sliced ham, beef, sausage and mortadella. It is covered with cheese and topped with an egg, surrounded by French fries and covered with a brown sauce. Think French croque-monsieur meets poutine? There are several small restaurants that have francesinha on their menus, but the best one, according to the locals, is at the Café Santiago.
Fine dining in Porto
At the other end of the gastronomic spectrum, renowned chef Rui Paula offers creative cuisine with roots in the terroir of Trás-os-Montes, a region in the extreme northeast of the country.
The name of his restaurant, DOP, an acronym for Dare to Taste Porto, is a reference to the denomination of origin, but it is also an invitation to indulge in the surprises he has in store for us. The dishes vary between new interpretations of classics from both the surf and the turf, presented in such a way as to make us smile and salivate.
Other restaurants in Porto
In the old part of the city, there are several historical eateries to whet your appetite… Two of our favorite places to eat in Porto: the Majestic and Guarany cafés.
The latter, housed in a former jewelry shop, dates back to a time when the city’s best painters and sculptors were hired to decorate a shop… We can marvel at frescoes and cherubs while devouring one, two or three bolas de berlim, a very indulgent pastry-cream doughnut!