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There has always been a bit of a rivalry between the two main cities of Portugal, Lisbon and Porto, which is well illustrated by an old running joke among some tripeiros (the name given to the people of Porto): whenever someone asks what is the best thing about Lisbon they will reply, “The highway sign that says ‘Porto.’”

But it’s a healthy rivalry for the most part – football aside. Lisboetas, Lisbon locals, in general even tend to recognize that the food might actually be better in Porto and its surroundings, especially traditional dishes. While Porto does not benefit from the same multicultural influences that helped shape Lisbon’s restaurant scene, it is home to some very talented cooks with a knack for doing so much with so little.

So when in Porto, you should take advantage of all the things that can only be eaten there, not in Lisbon, not anywhere else. There are actually quite a few, and a wide range of choices, too. Here is a list of five items we think are worth trying.

porto best food

Francesinha

It’s possible to find francesinhas anywhere in Portugal. But it’s mission impossible trying to find francesinhas as genuine and savory as the ones served in its hometown. Making one of these calorie bombs – a croque monsieur on steroids – demands dedication and, above all, good ingredients. Those serious about it prefer to use to fresh sausages and linguiças, a type of smoked sausage, from Salsicharia Leandro, a popular shop in the famous Bolhão market. The sauce is as important as the sandwich itself: it should be hot, spicy and meaty. It takes time to prepare, as well as quite a bit of love.

Where to try? Café Santiago or Francesinha Café

Papas de Sarrabulho

The recipe for this dish actually originates in Minho, the Portuguese region right above Porto, but it’s quite common to find it in some tascas around town, especially during winter. The description might scare many away because it is, literally, a bloody porridge: a mix of shredded pork offal with a blood-thickened gravy enriched with lots of cumin. But it is definitely worth trying, whether on its own or as a side dish with rojões (seasoned fried pork), another typical northern recipe.

Where to try? Taxca or O Buraquinho

porto best food

Croissants

Croissants are perhaps the most universal pastry – they can be found virtually anywhere in the world. But croissants in Porto are in a league of their own. Very different from Parisian croissants made with flaky puff pastry, croissants in Porto are typically sturdier and sweeter, made with soft brioche dough that’s slightly undercooked on the inside. They might be sweet but they’re not a dessert: it is not unusual to find people eating them stuffed with cheese and ham, after being pressed in the sandwich toaster – just enough to melt the cheese.

Where to try? Mixpão or Padaria Ribeiro

Tripas à moda do Porto

Porto inhabitants are called tripeiros. The nickname comes from a 600-year-old episode: during Portugal’s Age of Discoveries, which began in the 15th century, the people of Porto offered all their meat to the explorers that went to Ceuta and kept only the offal. Tripe included. The Porto-style tripe quickly became a local dish, loved by many despite its anatomical origin (we’re talking about the stomach of the animal). A genuine version of it must include lots of different meats: pig’s ears, cow’s trotters, chicken and different sausages. It is basically a stew, so it should be hot and spicy, served with beans and white rice.

Where to try? Lider or Rei dos Galos de Amarante

porto best food

Sandwiches

The best sandwiches in the whole country might very well be served in Porto. For starters, the pork knuckle sandwich – with or without Serra cheese – at Casa Guedes is amazing and absolutely must be paired with the local sparkling wine. Then there’s the cachorrinhos, or baby hot dogs, at Cervejaria Gazela. This is a very special breed of hot dog: crispy bread, two kinds of sausages, melted cheese and a sauce that is just spicy enough to order another beer. At A Badalhoca, you’ll find the PO (presunto e ovo, ham and egg) sandwich, the perfect marriage of lightly cured ham from Castelo Branco and a fried egg, blessed by a soft, always fresh, loaf of bread. Finally, bifanas (pork steak sandwiches) are also special in Porto: the strip steaks are cut way thinner than in Lisbon and cooked in a spicy sauce that you won’t find anywhere in the capital. Try them at Icaraí or Conga.

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Porto Does It Better

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Café Santiago: 41.146566, -8.604928
Francesinha Café: 41.160178, -8.600648
Taxca: 41.148962, -8.612878
O Buraquinho: 41.146441, -8.603710
Mixpão: 41.173893, -8.688004
Padaria Ribeiro: 41.147500, -8.614992
Lider: 41.162793, -8.594820
Rei dos Galos de Amarante: 41.144095, -8.616965
Casa Guedes: 41.146016, -8.603486
Cervejaria Gazela: 41.144871, -8.607565
A Badalhoca: 41.166430, -8.655547
Icaraí: 41.147144, -8.608959
Conga: 41.148884, -8.609375
 
Café Santiago
Address: Rua de Passos Manuel 226
Telephone: +351 22 205 5797
Hours: Mon.-Sat. noon-11pm; closed Sunday
 
Francesinha Café
Address: Rua da Alegria, 946
Telephone: +351 912 653 883
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 12:30-3pm & 7-11pm; closed Sunday
 
Taxca
Address: Rua da Picaria, 26
Telephone: +351 22 201 1807
Hours: Mon.-Weds. noon-10:30pm; Thurs.-St. noon-2am; closed Sunday
 
O Buraquinho
Address: Praça dos Poveiros, 33
Telephone: +351 22 201 1045
Hours: Tues.-Sun. noon-10pm; closed Monday
 
Mixpão
Address: Praça da Cidade do Salvador, 47
Telephone: +351 938 862 218
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 8:30am-7:30pm; Sat.-Sun. 9am-7pm
 
Padaria Ribeiro
Address: Praça de Guilherme Gomes Fernandes, 21
Telephone: +351 22 200 5067
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 7am-8pm; closed Sunday
 
Lider
Address: Alameda Eça de Queirós, 126
Telephone: +351 22 502 0089
Hours: 11am-midnight
 
Rei dos Galos de Amarante
Address: Rua das Taipas, 121
Telephone: +351 912 151 346
Hours: Mon. 12:30-3pm; Fri.-Sat. 8:30pm-midnight; closed Tues.-Thurs. & Sunday
 
Casa Guedes
Address: Praça dos Poveiros, 130
Telephone: +351 22 200 2874
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10am-10pm; closed Sunday
 
Cervejaria Gazela
Address: Travessa Cimo de Vila, 44
elephone: +351 22 205 4869
Hours: Mon.-Fri. noon-10:30pm; Sat. noon-5pm; closed Sunday
 
A Badalhoca
Address: Rua do Doutor Alberto de Macedo, 437
Telephone: +351 22 618 5325
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 9am-2pm & 3:30-8pm; Sat. 9am-2pm; closed Sunday
 
Icaraí
Address: Rua de Sá da Bandeira, 121
Telephone: +351 22 208 4644
Hours: 11am-10pm
 
Conga
Address: Rua do Bonjardim, 314
Telephone: +351 22 200 0113
Hours: Sun.-Thurs. 11am-10:30pm; Fri. 11am-midnight; Sat. 11am-1am

Francesca Savoldi and Rodrigo Cabrita and António Morais and Courtesy of Mixpão

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