A few weekends ago I finally made it to Porto, Portugal, a city that’s been resting on the top of my bucket-list since I came to Europe last year! At such a close proximity and with many transportation methods available, Portugal makes the perfect weekend trip from Spain. It is also a great valued destination with amazing cuisine, glorious sandy beaches and lively nightlife. Seriously Portugal, you are amazing.
I could express my love for Portugal over and over, but today I’m here to specifically write about my experience eating my way through Porto with help from Taste Porto Food Tours. Combine two of my loves, (Portugal & food) and bam- the perfect tour.
This three and a half hour walking tour gives you a break from the usual touristy activities and instead gives you a real look into local life in Porto. Our amazing guide André, also one of the co-founders of the company, was born and raised right across the Dom Luís bridge in Gaia, the capital of Port Wine. He led us to 6 authentic tasting locations where we tried 10 tasty little delicacies and sampled 6 different beverages!
Let’s just say I left extremely full…. And a little tipsy ….
At one point in the tour I asked André how he chose the restaurants for his tour. He turned to me and excitedly said:
“On this tour I won’t be taking you to the best restaurants in the city, the most popular or even the most visited. What I will be doing is taking you to the restaurants I visit on a daily basis, the ones I’ve grown to love and admire. The smaller scale local places where you can meet the families and learn the history behind the products. You’ll meet architects turned pastry chefs and engineers turned wine connoisseurs. The people are real and they are passionate.”
I was sold.
I’m not going to reveal all of their tour’s little secrets, because well, if you’re in town, you should really go see for yourself. What I will do though is share some of my experience and the mouth watering yummmmmmmies I had the pleasure of stuffing right in my face 😀
Sardines are an all around favorite in pretty much all of Portugal. Big. Small. Grilled. Salted. Canned. They can be found on almost any Portuguese menu and are considered an incredibly healthy, local, tasty dish.
I don’t know about you, but trying sardines was never high up on my list of things to do. I associated sardines with stinky little canned anchovies, the bane of all pizza toppings. Still, when I visited Lisbon last year I was tempted to try ‘sardinhas assadas,’ or grilled sardines, a typical Portuguese recipe. Thankfully for my taste buds, I was pleasantly surprised by the experience and sardines successfully made their way off of my shit-list.
Next challenge: canned sardines. On our second stop on the tour, bright and early in the morning, I was confronted with a little divided dish containing canned sardines in olive oil and tomato sauce. “Way too early for this,” I thought. But hey, they were in front of me, so obviously I tried them. Wow. Pleasant. Even enjoyable. I ate them along with the bread and well, I actually ate them all … Washed down with some fresh juicy strawberries from the market and these little suckers weren’t half bad!
A shocking tour of Market Bolhão
After confronting my irrational fear of sardines, we continued with a tour around the Bolhão Market. Let me first comment on how amazingly beautiful this market is! This two-tier covered building is colorful, lively and vibrant. It helped that André seemed to know every single person, but the vendors all seemed so friendly and the food all seemed extremely fresh. Shockingly fresh, if you know what I mean. Weirdly I loved the raw, natural grotesqueness of the market fish and butcher stands. It reminded me how removed we are in the US from the food we are eating. We buy all of our food in little clean-cut packages, never having to deal with where it comes from. Never having to think about what we’re actually eating. Here there are no surprises. It’s literally ALL out in front of you. Fresh off the boat. Freshly picked from the field. No processing. No preservatives. Just, well, the food.
Warning! If your squeamish… scroll down fast.
The Sandes Terylene Sandwich
This was by far my favorite meal of the day, probably even my favorite meal of the trip. I was extremely surprised considering (what looked to be) a very simple sandwich was placed in front of me. Only, this sandwich was anything but simple. In fact, the Sandes Terylene takes a full 24 hours to prepare! Yes, you read this right. It is a 24-hour sandwich. This juicy, layered deliciousness is completely crafted from bottom to top right there in the restaurant. Layered with fresh roasted pork, thin slices of smoked Iberian ham, and warm gooey bread, this sandwich was to die for. Accompanied by a glass of Vinho Tinto Bruto da Quinta de São Domingos, a light red sparkling wine, my taste buds were jumping for joy. At only our third stop, I attempted to pace myself, but honestly just couldn’t help it and downed the whole thing. What? I couldn’t bear wasting one single bite.
Last stop-A tasting extravaganza
After a nice long walk through Porto’s narrow winding streets, our last stop consisted of a little taste from a lot of Portugal. When André knocked on what looked like a residential door, I was pretty confused as to where we were going. Next thing I know, we’re inside a secret little restaurant that was open just for us. When others tried to follow and enter, they were politely turned away and informed that this was a private tasting.
We were walked through each and every single thing placed on the table in front of us. André held up a map while the restaurant owner pointed to the location where she hand picked each and every tasty morsel. We sampled different cured meats and cheeses, Lupin beans, a variety of olives, and three different wines. We even got to watch them smoke a Chouriço sausage over an open flame, right in front of us, before cutting it into small pieces to serve!
You’d think all that eating would successfully soak up the wine …. Whatever. Portuguese wine is strong.
Thanks for the perfect twist on a rainy day André!!!!!
Taste more of Porto:
Still ready to keep on eating after your tour? I know my belly is always open 😀
Must try Restaurants- Taxca & Tascö
For two very similarly named restaurants, these two establishments could not be more opposite.
Rua da Picaria, 26, $
Right off the beaten path, but not far from the touristy center, Taxca hones in on Portuguese-style fast food and is the perfect place to stop for a quick bite when touring Porto. It may look like a little hole in the wall, but this place is a pure slice of local heaven. We went for lunch and were the only foreigners there; regular patrons were lined up during their lunch break to taste the daily menu. Extremely delicious and completely affordable.
What to order: Bifana Sandwich, Caldo Verde, Espadal wine.
Rua do Almada, 151, $$
Tascö is a modern trendy restaurant that serves Portuguese style tapas. It’s the place to go if you’d like to try a variety of different local dishes. This restaurant doesn’t look like much from the outside, but once you enter you’re sure to be greeted by the extremely friendly staff and a young hip atmosphere. All of the waiters and waitresses were so talkative, passionate and eager to please us. We even got a visit from the owner at our table to check on our meal! The food was amazing, contemporary yet traditional, and the price was very reasonable. Tascö is pretty popular, so try to make a reservation beforehand! If you can’t, still stop by, because they’re really good at fitting people in!
What to order: Octopus Pancake, Tomato Rice, Goat cheese with sweet pumpkin and nuts
Must try beverage- Port Wine
You simply can’t go to Porto without trying it’s crown jewel- Port Wine. This fortified wine is extremely sweet and usually served as a dessert. Port Wine can be red and white, but red is considered the typical Port. Honestly, this wine was WAY too sweet for me and some even tasted close to sugary syrup, but I highly suggest you go see for yourself. All you have to do is cross over the Dom Luís bridge to Gaia and you’ll be face to face with Porto’s many wine lodges.
Where to get it: Find a guide to Port wine here.
Must Try Sandwich- Franceshina
The Francesinha, literally meaning little French one in Portuguese, has often been referred to as one of the best sandwiches in the world. One of the best sandwiches in the whole wide world?!? How could you pass up trying one with that reputation? Maybe because it contains over 1,000 calories. But hey, we’re counting the memories, not the calories, right? It may be a near heart attack on a plate, but these things are damn good. This layered sandwich is a meat lovers dream, typically containing cured ham, fresh sausage, steak or other roasted meat, coated with a thick top layer of melted cheese and doused in a creamy beer sauce. Be sure to wash it down with a nice, cold Portuguese beer. It’s a mouth full. Oh, and it’s worth the calories.
Where to get it: Café Santiago F
Must try Bakery- Padaroa Ribeiro
Praça de Guilherme Gomes Fernandes 21, $
This pastry shop was suggested to us by a local as a quick stop for breakfast. We sat down at a little terrace table for a cup of joe and a few pastries to start the day. In the 30 minutes it took us to scarf down our pastries, we watched the shop fill up over and over with Porto locals coming in to grab their fresh morning pastries. The coffee was strong, creamy and delicious. The pastries were, UGH yum. The rest of the world should take notes from the Portuguese when it comes to baked goods. We shared a few and they even gave us a few sample sizes to try!
What to order: Sweet. Savory. Anything. Ask your server for their favorites. They’re all amazing. I got a pastel del nata and a bola de berlim
Must try Soup- Caldo Verde
The Portuguese love vegetable soups and stews of all kinds, but the specific must-try soup of Porto is caldo verde. This green leafy soup is a common meal starter and consists of a potato purée base and a mix of cabbage or kale, onions and chorizo or pork sausage. It is very tasty, healthy and usually the cheapest thing on the menu!
Where to get it: Anywhere Portuguese! Try Tascö or Taxca above!
Yum. Yum. Yum. I think I like food a little too much.
I take that back. I like it just enough.
Have you ever been on a food tour before? Where? What did you think?
Taste Porto Food Tours graciously invited me on their tour, but as always all opinions expressed are mine own.