When I was initially drafting my itinerary for Portugal, I wasn’t planning on including Porto. My flight was already booked to be to and from Lisbon and after the dreary Toronto winter, I was more drawn to the warm weather and sunny skies of Lagos. Squeezing Porto into the trip was going to be a headache but I couldn’t ignore all of the rave reviews of the coastal city.
What ultimately convinced me? The prospect of experiencing the older and grittier (but no less charming) counterpart of modern Lisbon? Witnessing the impressive azulejo tiles at Sao Bento Station or the Harry Potter-esque library, Livraria Lello? Of course not. I mean, those things are cool too but you know there’s only one thing that motivates me: food.
Googling “Porto” I drooled over obscene photos of decadently cheesy sandwiches and sweet, golden-hued port and immediately shifted dates around to make room for this northern city in my Portugal holiday.
If you haven’t already, find out what to eat in Porto by reading the following 8 Gluttonous Reasons To Squeeze Porto Into Your Travel Itinerary:
An adaptation of the croque-monsieur, the Francesinha (translating to “Little Frenchie”) is a sandwich that originates from this northern city. This baby was at the TOP of my lengthy list of what to eat in Porto and for good reason.
I almost died from paroxysms of delight (intense happy dancing in my seat) when this gorgeous monstrosity of a sandwich arrived at the table. Not for the
weak faint of heart, it’s stuffed with several layers of meat then topped with a fried egg before being enrobed in gooey cheese and drenched in a spicy tomato beer sauce. OH MY GAH!
O Afonso is THE PLACE to try this traditional sandwich as it got the Anthony Bourdain stamp of approval. It’s absolutely necessary to order a side of fries to soak up all the heavenly gravy.
Riddle me this: If you visit Porto but depart without tasting a cachorrinho, did you really even experience Porto? Not in my books you didn’t!
Bite into this classic Northern Portugal sandwich and savour the buttery richness of the thin, crispy bread stuffed with sausage and melty cheese. It’s best enjoyed with a cold Sagres beer and a side of fries.
Even arriving at 10pm, Snack-Bar Gazela (when Anthony Bourdain tells me what to eat in Porto, I listen) was buzzing with energy of locals with the late night munchies. Arriving to the table fresh and cut into bite-sized pieces, the top of the cachorrinho glistened with a generous sheen of butter that upon smelling added several inches to my thighs. Worth it.
Pernil com Queijo
You think I’d be sick of sandwiches by now but NEVER! After trying a Francesinha and a cachorrinho, I had my heart set on devouring a cheesy, complexion-destroying pernil com queijo.
So you can only imagine how disappointed I was that upon rolling up to Casa Guedes – rumoured to serve the best pernil com queijo – that it was closed due to some stupid music festival.
From what I gather, juicy slices of roast pork are piled into a crusty bun that’s been smeared with its own gravy(!!!) and smothered with gooey, creamy sheep’s milk cheese. I’m sweating just thinking about it.
The cheese they use, Queijo Serra da Estrela, is so heavenly that it’s on the international list of endangered foods.
It’s so delicious people are eating it out of existence!!! Hilarious.
What’s better than sangria on vacation? One that’s made with bubbly!
Recommended by a local, we grabbed jewel-toned embroidered pillows propped against plush, velvet seats at Champ’s da Baixa for a fancy AF happy hour.
Treat yourself to a midday champagne sangria like the lush that you are. It may set you back a pretty penny but after a single hefty glass, your liver will be as booze-soaked as the fruits in this glorious concoction. Plus, you’re worth it 🍾
Hello new obsession – PORT! And where better to drink ALL the Port than in Porto?
Make your way to the other side of the Luís I Bridge and learn about the culture and history of the traditional Portuguese fortified wine at the Porto Cruz Space or take a tour of one of the many wineries.
Having been on many a wine tour already in my time, I opted to buy a bottle of the White Reserve from the Rozès vineyard (my favourite!) and settled down in a sunny spot at Jardim do Mourro to sip it at leisure.
Another port-related discovery was the refreshing porto tonico – one part white port, two parts tonic water. Best enjoyed with a twist of lime over ice in the city of origin at a local hub like Aduela.
How many things have you eaten where your first reaction was “Holy. F#%$.”? For me, it’s indicative that I’ve tasted something beyond delicious and is immediately followed by me shoving forkfuls of the dish into my maw at an alarming pace.
If you want this experience head to Cantina 32. Pretty much everything beyond the teal double doors – from the décor to the handsome servers to the truffle beef carpaccio – warranted profanity.
The stand out dish, however, was the sautéed squid. Tender chunks of squid are drowned in a pool of butter, garlic, coriander and grain mustard. Literal heaven. I imagine it’s their take on the traditional Portuguese dish Lulas a algarvia.
In order to to eat the most authentic and delicious things in any country I’ve been advised to embark on a temporary affair with a local to weasel my way into a home-cooked meal by his grandmother.
Luckily I didn’t have to rent myself out. Instead while making what was supposed to be a pitstop at CAL, a craft beer bar on the Ribeira side of the Luís I Bridge, we caught the most DELICIOUS scent coming from the kitchen tended by the cutest little vovô.
We’re still not sure if the savoury rabbit stew (coelho estufado), brimming with flavourful spices and hearty potatoes and carrots, was actually on the menu or if we inserted ourselves into family mealtime 🤔 This hearty dish wasn’t originally on my list of what to eat in Porto but it was a welcome addition!
The best thing about petiscos (the Portuguese version of tapas pronounced “peh-TISH-co”) is that leaves prime real estate in your belly to eat more than you otherwise would if you had ordered full sized dishes.
Seeking refuge from the rain, we ordered several traditional petiscos at Tascö, starting with a comforting bowl of caldo verde (kale soup flavored with Portuguese chouriço). We followed that up with alheira crocante, a stuffing of white sausage swathed in crunchy pastry, and pica-pau.
Translating to “woodpecker,” pica-pau is comprised of chunks of beef and sausage swimming in a light gravy made of beer. Ideal for the chillier weather of this northern city.
Now that I’ve listed what to eat in Porto, are you salivating? Have I convinced you that this northern city is a must add to you Portugal trip?
Check out my curated itinerary to see how you can squeeze this delicious city in!
Keep your stalking game strong and follow me @teriaki if you aren’t already!