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.
Here, we suggest seven eateries that haven’t changed much in the last 50 or 60 years.
Not easy to find, unless you’re looking for it, Cantinho Lusitano 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 might need to reserve a table advance, especially on Friday and Saturday nights.
Rua dos Prazeres 52 (Príncipe Real, not far from Praça das Flores). Tuesday to Saturday 7pm-11pm. Price: petisco dish from €5. www.cantinholusitano.com
Varina da Madragoa
Varina 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 €8.50
Eating in Chiado doesn’t need to be expensive. If you’re walking down to Cais do Sodré from Chiado, make a stop in Das Flores for lunch. The space is small and fills up quickly, mostly with locals. Grilled ribs, steak, the Portuguese bitoque (steak with french fries and a fried egg on top), boiled or grilled hake, bream and sole, are some of the dishes available.
Rua das Flores 76-78 (Chiado). Monday to Saturday 11.30am (12pm Saturday) to 3.30pm. Price: main course from €6
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, the chances are it will not disappoint for the money. Vinho Verde or the local wine are perfect to have with fish.
Rua dos Sapateiros 230 (Baixa). Monday to Friday 8am-8pm, and Saturday 10am-3pm. Price: main course from €9
Tasca Zé dos Cornos
Hidden away 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 (the experience is 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 €6.50
Tasco do Vigário
If you’re in Alfama, Tasco do Vigário is the place to go. Just a little down the tram #28 route from Portas do Sol, stop here for 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.
Zé da Mouraria
To find Zé da Mouraria, just look for a queue outside. The entrance is not inviting, but give it a try. 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 €14.50