For some tasty and authentic Portuguese food, you needn’t look far. In central Lisbon, tucked away in small side streets, you’ll find a few restaurants with authenticity at their core.
We suggest seven eateries that haven’t changed much in the last 50 or 60 years.
Cantinho Lusitano is not easy to find, tucked away on a side street in Príncipe Real (not far from Praça das Flores). This is Lisbon’s epiphany of traditional Portuguese food served as petiscos, that is in tapas style. You can have a random selection of different dishes, including grilled chouriço with Moscatel sauce, the “pica pau” dish (strips of beef with special sauce and fried sweet potatoes), the baked goat cheese with honey and rosemary, and the pataniscas (fried cod cakes) with rice and beans. This “little corner” seats at most twenty, so you may want to book in advance, especially on Friday and Saturday nights.
Rua dos Prazeres, 52 (Príncipe Real). Tuesday to Saturday 7pm-11pm. Price: petisco dish from €5. www.cantinholusitano.com
Tasca Zé dos Cornos
On an alley close to Martim Moniz Square, Tasca Zé dos Cornos is a loud, busy, cheap, and totally informal eatery, with customers drinking at the bar (not for everybody, though). Just order what locals eat – the special or grills (pork ribs and cod fish are recommended). Choose the house wine, red or white, and you can’t go wrong. It does not have many tables, so expect to be seated side by side with strangers.
Beco dos Surradores, 5 (Baixa). Monday to Saturday 8am-11pm. Price: main course from €6.5
Merendinha do Arco
Close to Rossio Square, through the small arch, Merendinha is famous for its grilled swordfish. Grilled sardines with potatoes and salad are also very popular. But if you pick the special of the day, or whatever from the menu (especially seafood), the chances are it will not disappoint for the money. Vinho Verde or the local wine are perfect with fish. Note that this is a small restaurant with bench tables.
Rua dos Sapateiros, 230 (Baixa). Monday to Friday 8am-8pm, and Saturday 10am-3pm. Price: main course from €9
Tasco do Vigário
If you’re in Alfama, this is the place you want to go. Just a little down the tram #28 route from Portas do Sol, stop here for a lunch or early dinner after visiting the castle. This is a local eatery offering very simple but tasty dishes (including fresh fish). The house wine or a jug of sangria are perfect to go with your meal.
Rua do Vigário, 18 (Alfama). Monday to Saturday 9am-10pm. Price: lunch menu €9.50, including a drink, bread, a main course and a dessert.
Varina da Madragoa
This restaurant is famous for its cod fish dishes: pataniscas de bacalhau, bacalhau à Brás or simply grilled cod fish. The restaurant serves the authentic Portuguese food at reasonable prices. The Portuguese Nobel writer José Saramago was a regular at Varina’s.
Rua das Madres, 34-36 (Madragoa). Monday to Sunday 12.30pm to 3pm & 8pm to 11.30pm. Price: main course from €8.5
Zé da Mouraria
To find Zé da Mouraria, just look for a queue outside. The entrance is not inviting, but try it anyway. Portions are enormous (one dish for two) and the food is tasty. The menu changes every day and is not written in English, but the waiter will advise you on the special of the day. Duck in a rice stew or squids are not uncommon. Time your visit carefully and get there early, around noon.
Rua João do Outeiro, 24-26 (Mouraria). Monday to Saturday 12pm to 4pm. Price: main course (for two) from €14.5
Tasquinha do Lagarto
It’s a bit outside the main tourist spots, but you should try it out if you’re in the area. The menu has traditional Portuguese food, and the place is always busy with locals. Pork cheek, veal, octopus and cozido à portuguesa (boiled potatoes, cabbage and meats) are among the most popular dishes. There’s no English menu but the waiter will take time to explain it to you.
Rua de Campolide, 273. Monday to Saturday 12pm to 3.30pm & 7.30pm to 10.30pm. Price: main course from €7