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Porto on a Plate: A Guide to Portugal’s Foodie Capital

Dining in Porto has never been more enjoyable, with a blend of young and innovative chefs complementing the impressive roster of traditional eateries dotting the ancient cobbled streets. Whatever your palate or appetite, there’s plenty to enjoy and savour in Porto – from the traditional tabernas to Michelin-starred restaurants.

Here, we take you on a gourmet tour through Portugal’s second city.

Local Delicacies

Do you want to eat like a local? Here are a few of the most popular dishes gracing the plates of the Porto population.

Bacalhau – Available in a huge array of different styles; bacalhau is salted codfish, and a staple of the Porto diet. Every chef in Porto has developed their own method for cooking Bacalhau, from using it as the base of a creamy risotto to rolling it up into a crispy, yet fluffy deep-fried ball.

One of the most common variations is bacalhau à brás; made up of shreds of salted codfish, thinly chopped fried potatoes and onions in a bed of scrambled eggs. Some chefs like to drop a few chilli flakes into the recipe to add a little spice, and the whole dish is usually completed with a handful of freshly-picked olives.

Francesinha – What the Francesinha may lack in delicacy, it makes up for in decadent taste. An absolute favourite with the locals, the Francesinha is a sandwich, first conceived and popularised in Porto, containing wet-cured ham, smoked sausage, fresh sausage and roasted steak. The whole thing is then covered with melted cheese and a hot tomato and beer sauce. If that’s not enough, the locals traditionally serve this tremendous sandwich with a side of chips.

The Francesinha is said to date back to the 1960s when Porto local, Daniel da Silva, visited France and tried to create a version of the croque monsieur that would appeal to Portuguese taste buds. He certainly achieved this goal, with the sandwich proving as popular as ever with locals and tourists alike.

Pastel de Nata – Although derived from Lisbon, Porto locals will tell you that the nation’s favourite pastry, pastel de nata, has been perfected in Portugal’s second city. The delightfully fluffy custard tarts are a mainstay of Portuguese cuisine, enjoyed throughout the day – for breakfast, snack or dessert.

The sweet treat is the perfect snack with a cup of coffee, after exploring the wonderful old streets of Porto.

Where to Eat

porto restaurants

With a little help from our Porto-based friends, we have selected a few wonderful restaurants to visit during a stopover in the city.

Ana Moço is a food lover from Porto who blogs about gourmet trips around her home city on Annie's Kitchen. She’s picked out two of the restaurants she believes everyone visiting Porto should experience.

Pé d'Arroz – Don’t let the name put you off (Pé d'Arroz roughly translates to foot of rice), this small vegetarian restaurant offers an incredible array of veggie dishes, boasting fresh and delicious flavours. Ana’s favourite dish at Pé d'Arroz is the sweet potato, coconut cream and mint soup – a hearty and unique offering.

Capa na Baixa – Did the Francesinha sandwich mentioned above pique your interest? Capa na Baixa is home to one of the best variations of this Porto favourite in the city. The incredible array of beers and relaxed atmosphere of Capa na Baixa make it the spot favoured by Porto’s locals when they’re craving the city’s favourite indulgent treat. 

Topped with a sauce made from a heavily-guarded recipe – Capa na Baixa’s Francesinha is a unique, yet quintessential slice of Porto life.

Paula Calheiros blogs about life in Porto on Viver o Porto, exploring the sights, sounds and tastes of the city she loves. Here are two of the dining venues she’d recommend to anyone visiting Porto.

Adega S. Nicolau – The first thing you’ll notice in Adega S. Nicolau is the high number of locals dining, always a reassuring sight. Located in the old Ribeira district of the city, the traditional wine lodge has been delighting the Porto natives for generations. The bolinhos de bacalhão (small codfish pastries) is Paula’s recommendation for starters, and a great way to sample this most traditional of Portuguese dishes.

The traditional menu is fitting for the restaurant’s location in the very heart of Porto – providing an authentic experience of life in the city.

Miss Opo – Fancy something a little different? Miss Opo is a guesthouse and restaurant operated by two friends – offering an ever-changing menu dictated by what is available on the market that day. Guaranteeing freshly sourced and prepared dishes, the market-finds are whipped up in a small kitchen which is visible from the dining area.

With a relaxed atmosphere and cooked-to-order menu of small dishes – Miss Opo is more like dining with friends than in a restaurant.

A Little Tipple?

Of course a trip to beautiful Porto wouldn’t be complete without sampling one of Portugal’s great exports – port wine. Located at the westernmost-point of the port wine-producing Douro region; Porto is the ideal spot to enjoy a snifter or two of this local favourite.

If you’re left confused when entering a Porto watering hole, and don’t know which port wines to sample – here’s a short guide to the main styles found in the local bars.

Ruby Port – The best-selling style of port, ruby is young, non-vintage and, typically, inexpensive. Aged in wood for roughly three years, achieving a deep red colour; many of the Douro region’s top producers offer up a range of delightful ruby ports.

Tawny Port – Slightly more brownish in colour than the ruby, tawny port is aged in wood for longer than three years. These character-driven port wines can be enjoyed as an aperitif or digestif.

Vintage Port – The pinnacle of port production, the vintage port will be a blend of a vineyard’s best barrels from a single year. This creates some truly distinct and unforgettable flavours – with many bottled more than 20 years after the vintage.

White Port – Not all ports are dark; white port is becoming increasingly popular – especially served over ice during the summer months. Made from white grapes, white port possesses a lighter and crisper taste than red alternatives.

Has this guide to the culinary output of Porto whetted your appetite for a cruise along the beautiful Douro – visiting Portugal’s captivating second city en route? For a full selection of Emerald Cruises' enriching tours through the Douro region, visit our Douro River Cruises page or call our dedicated sales team on 855 444 0161.