In the tiny, seaside town of Porto, Portugal, tapas reign supreme and Port wine is king. With shockingly fresh seafood and traditional dishes like Francesinha the town is a foodie haven, with crisp wines to pair. That said, it can be hard to separate the overpriced, tourist filled restaurants from the authentic mom and pop spots that line the winding cobble stone streets. For a reliable and fresh meal on a traveler’s budget, stop at one of the below – you’ll leave with a full belly and an even fuller wallet.
This tiny tapas restaurant boasts everything from perfectly tender octopus and roasted red pepper coulis to crispy roast veggie filled puffed pastry. One of the many tapas restaurants on this winding alley, Está-se Bem has an excellent wine list, with a knowledgeable staff willing to give a recommendation. The wines are cheap and crisp and refreshing. The menu is stocked with tasty light bites from the sea and creamy, rich Portuguese cheeses.
For a Light Lunch:
For a light lunch at an even lighter cost, stroll through Rua das Floras and stop at Mercearia das Floras. A tiny gourmet foods shop, they boast a fantastic array of tinned fish, crackers and wine. Grab a tin of sardines and salmon paté and make yourself a Portuguese picnic for under $15.
For a Port Tasting Pitstop
While in Porto, stop in at the waterfront Taberninha do Manel. Conveniently situated next to world famous port cellars like Kopke and Sandeman, take a break from tasting and treat yourself to some of their deep fried empanadas. Taberninha do Manel serves up the specialty stuffed pastries with beef, suckling pig, Iberian pig and cheese and seafood. Best of all - each cost less than 3$.
For a Lengthy Lunch:
Enjoy the riverside view and find a table outside at Presuntaria Transmontana. Known amongst locals as one of the most authentic and traditional restaurants in Porto, the tables are dotted with families and travelers alike. They have a lengthy (and affordable!) list of Duoro valley wines and aged ports, which can be shared by the bottle for under $12. For a lazy lunch, start with a plate of local cheeses, cured meats and marinated olives. Next, try the garlic shrimp or grilled cuttlefish with a plate of stewed long beans and ham.
For an Authentic Dinner:
For a filling, flavorful and traditional dinner, Cantina 32 is a sure thing. The restaurant is situated in a dark, cave like room lined with wooden barrels and an open kitchen. The menu is stacked with tapas for under $4, meat dishes to share and a plethora of fresh seafood. To start, try the chili squid and octopus with sweet potatoes. Next, share the beef for two with boiled potatoes and a side of couscous. Polish the meal off with a glass of Kopke 10 year Tawny or crisp, clean Vinho Verde.
For a Day Trip:
Sao Valentim in Matosinhos
If you have time, take a day trip to Matosinhos. About an hour train or bus ride away, this beach town is a fisherman’s playground and has the restaurants to prove it. Find your way to Rua Herois de Franca, a long strip of restaurants running alongside the Portugese docks and waterfront. Take a stroll past some of the freshest seafood spots in the country. Each restaurant has a grill outside on the sidewalk where they fire up whole fish, squid, octopus and shrimp, sprinkle it with sea salt and olive oil and deliver it straight to your table. For a memorable meal that won’t break the bank, stop at Sao Valentim. A classic and unfussy example of Portuguese dining, pick your fish and watch it grilled over a fire outside.
A lover of food, wine and travel, Laura is a freelance writer from NYC eating and drinking her way through the world. A graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education, Laura is a trained chef with a degree in culinary arts and a WSET II award in wine & spirits.