Friday, January 11, 2013

Eating out in Lisbon

At first, we ate at home.  Indeed, this is how a vacation like this one is affordable.  Renting an apartment is much less expensive than a hotel, and having a kitchen means we can eat in, which costs roughly the same (or less) than you would pay for groceries in the US.  (Less, because there's no snack food to waste money on.)  But that doesn't mean we never eat out.

Lunch in Sintra, where we took a day trip, cost a fortune (61 euros for six people= $79.30) and the food was mediocre.  We would never have eaten there, but it was 3:00pm and we were starving after hiking about a million miles and we'd had nothing to eat since early morning.

The next day, four of us ate lunch at a restaurant near our house that was  packed with locals.  It was scary to walk into that crowd, where there was no defined place to order, and the menu was undecipherable.  There was something called a "torado" which I considered because it seemed easy to say, but what if a torado turned out to be a giant cream puff or half an octopus?  Then I noticed the "sanduich" of which there were three kinds.  I ordered the sanduich mista--because I could pronounce it--which turned out to be ham and cheese.  Four of these plus two water bottles cost nine euros, or about $12 for lunch for four. Much cheaper than the lunch in Sintra and better quality. The sandwiches were large enough that we could have ordered two and split them among us. We wormed our way into the bar and ate standing.  

That night, Jon, Ian and Seamus and I set out for dinner.  The girls opted to stay in and cook for themselves.   We headed for a tapas place in the neighborhood and were dismayed to see that it was closed and not due to reopen until February 1st. We wandered, looking for another place and were accosted by a guy who wanted us to try his restaurant.  We usually say, "No thank you " to these guys, but this one started talking to us, he'd worked in the US for three years, etc, etc, and he all but bundled us into the place, where there were at least other people eating and possibly not all of them were tourists.  This was a fado place, meaning live performances of Portuguese folk music.  After each permormance, the singer would try to get you to buy his CD.  It was acutely uncomfortable.  The menu was a list of different types of fish, each grilled and served with "potato and salad."  That is exactly what you got: a slab of fish, one potato, boiled and dusted with parsley, and a pile of lettuce, onions, shredded carrots and red cabbage.  This plus a bottle of house wine cost 71 euros, or $92 for dinner for four.  Oh God!  I was ready to give up and eat in forever.

The next day (Wednesday) Seamus, Grace, Brigid and I wandered into Pedaria Portuguesa, which is a small chain.  For lunch you get a huge bowl of soup (squash was the soup of the day) a sandwich and a glass of juice.  It was delicious and reasonably priced.

Dinner that night was at a little place called Taverna Portuguese.  It seemed friendly and authentic and we were delighted when the server told us that this was a tapas place.  We ate bread and little slices of sheep's milk cheese with fig jam.  We shared a dish of very garlicky mushrooms, codfish and spinach, two kinds of sausage, and melted cheese over white asparagus on toast.  Everything was excellent, and the desserts--we shared two among the six of us--were delicious.  One was an apple cake topped with a spectacular lemon sorbet, and the other was something our waiter described as "smashed cake in milk" which turned out to be a creamy vanilla pudding topped with something that could have been cake crumbs.  It was very good.  Dinner for six, with a half liter of house wine, a beer for Jon, bottled water and an orangina was 56 Euros, or $72.  And our server looked exactly like Gael Garcia Bernal.

There are lots of places I want to try, including some of the "pastelerias" which are on every block and serve coffee and pastries. An espresso is 0.60 euros, or $0.85. 

Last night we ate at home, but bought a fantastic cake at a pasteleria.  Technically a pineapple cake, it wasn't overloaded with pineapple and was flavored with nutmeg and hints of orange.  Today we packed a picnic lunch for a trip to Cabo da Roca--the westernmost tip of Europe. Tonight we're going to try another tapas place that I noticed on or walk home from the train station.

Have a nice weekend!


  1. I am seriously loving your posts from Lisbon. Even though I'm not there, I feel almost as though I am.

    (This happened to me with your Rome posts and I have to remind myself that I've never been to Rome.)

  2. Tavernas seem like they'd be the best bet, if only for their name.
    Since we're a family of 5, this is totally the way we'll always have to travel--rent a house, eat in a lot, but still see the world!

  3. I am slobbering from the tapas description, while eating a crappy yogurt and eyeballing the peanut butter jar. And the waiterly eye candy isn't too bad either.

  4. Now I have vicariously eaten Portuguese food!

  5. Sounds like a lovely vacation. We ate unlabeled leftovers from the freezer last night. It was some sort of vegetable soup.