How to recognize cheap and really Portuguese restaurants in Lisbon, football & paying for ‘free’ starters
The Portuguese appreciate eating and drinking well. The influence of Portugal’s former colonial possessions is clear, especially in the wide variety of spices used, like piri piri (small, fiery chilli peppers), as well as cinnamon, vanilla and saffron. There’s also Arab and Moorish influences, especially in the south. The Portuguese cuisine is rich, filling and full-flavoured.
Historical area in Mouraria, Lisbon. Small restaurant Rua do Terreirinh0: Jose Marie & his wife Laurinda, good & cheap traditional Portuguese food
Breakfast: traditionally just coffee and bread, often enjoyed in a cafe (pastelaria). Recommended: toast (tosta mista) with ham & cheese (queijo e presunto), or delicious sweet pastries like pastéis de natas, real calorie bombs! Coffee: strong (bica) with milk (galão – garoto), tea (chá) with or without sugar (açúcar). The pastalerias are often a part of the social life in the neighbourhood.
In this restaurant you can have a 5 course meal (cheese, soup, main course, dessert, coffee and wine) for only about 10 euros. This restaurant is only open until around 18:00, not on Sundays.
If you don’t feel like experimenting, try a ‘bitoque’. It’s steak and fries, with a fried egg, garlic and rice.
How to recognize cheap and really Portuguese restaurants?
A little bit disorderly, but very clean; a big TV screen, people like watching TV while eating (a lot of football, futebol), TL-tubes on the ceiling and paper table-covers. Prices (in Lisbon) between 8 and 15 euro (three courses and wine).
There’s a lot of seafood restaurants, many with very beautiful displays of lobsters, shrimp, oysters, and crabs, but a big TV-screen, football (futebol!) is also really important….!!
Besides: be prepared in the more expensive and touristical restaurants you have to pay for starters like bread, cheese and often olives or shrimps (camarao).
You won’t pay for them if you don’t eat them, and the waiter will take them away (não, obrigado), ‘no thank you’. The waiter will probably bring you some unrequested starter dishes: as those are not free, feel free not to touch them and they will not be charged on your bill (but check it!).
Like in all mediterranean countries lunch (almoçar), is a big affair for Portuguese, served between noon and 3 o’clock, often in a restaurant.
Usually three courses, including soup (sopa) like f.i. caldo verde (a soup of cabbage and potatoes.
Caldo Verde, a popular soup of Portuguese and Brazilian cuisine.
Fish, like codfish (bacalhau) or charcoal-grilled sardines (sardinhas assadas) or meat (rabbit and pork are very popular), Coelho a caçador (rabbitstew, in red wine), accompanied with a small bottle of red or white wine (uma garaffa de vinho branco ou tinto) or Vinho Verde (a young sparkling ‘green’ wine, low-alcohol).
Chicken (frango) piri-piri (the African devil..), is also a very popular disk
Desserts (sobremesas): crême brulée (pudim flan), chocolate mousse and a big variety of almond cakes (amêndoa). Toucinho do céu (bacon from heaven) or barriga de freiras, (nun’s bellies), recipes originally created by nuns in the 17th and 18th Century. Often cheese (queijo), from sheep or goat’s milk. Very popular is ‘queijo da Serra” from the region of Serra da Estrela.
In the smaller restaurants the bill is usually written on the paper table cloth…you can pay cash only. Our bill for 2 persons? 14 euro, incl. a glass of home made Aguardente bagaceira……(litt. firewater)