Portugal Part 6: Casual Dining in Lisbon
Updated: Aug 27
Lisbon has a dynamic culinary scene balanced by staples like their fresh seafood and delightful pastries. There are plenty of dining venue options from food courts to Michelin-starred restaurants. This post is dedicated to some of the more casual dining venues that I enjoyed and would recommend.
Pastéis de Belém
Pastéis de nata or pastel de nata is arguably the most famous Portuguese dessert. And perhaps the most famous place to get it is Pastéis de Belém which opened in 1837. Pastéis de Belém is rumored to have the original recipe for this delicious dessert, passed down by the monks of the Jerónimos Monastery. This place is so popular that lines start early in the morning and sometimes extend down the street.
This pastelaria serves more than just pastel de nata. They have donuts oozing with chocolate filling, eclairs stuffed with cream and so much more.
That said, they are known for their pastel de nata the way that Cafe du Monde in New Orleans, Louisiana is known for their beignets. On a record day, Pastéis de Belém made and served over 40,000 of these tarts.
If you are unfamiliar, a pastel de nata is a tart that is crunchy on the outside, sweet and creamy on the inside, and wholly delectable. I have eaten a pastel de nata at room temperature and it was amazing, but to get one that is fresh off the printing press, and still warm, was a treat and a delight.
These tarts are incredibly creamy but to my surprise, there is no cream in them whatsoever. The only ingredients are milk, sugar, eggs and spices. In order to get that creamy texture, they are baked at very high temperatures, for a short period of time, so that the outside of the tart achieves perfect crispiness and the inside remains moist and "creamy." I was told that the best way to enjoy them is to dust the top with cinnamon - so, so good.
Time Out Market
You may be familiar with Time Out Market if you have visited New York, Boston, Montreal, Chicago or Dubai, in 2019 or thereafter. The Time Out Market that launched them all is the one I visited, which was opened in Lisbon, Portugal in 2014.
In addition to cooking classes, markets and a music venue, Time Out Lisbon has over 40 restaurant stalls serving up a variety of food and drinks in an energetic atmosphere. It is a great place to taste the best foods from all over the city, all under one roof.
Dry Cured Ham
Manteigaria Silva sells over two tons of dry, cured, ham per month. It is worth coming to taste a few of their dozens of varieties at their stall in Time Out Market.
This image, which one friend characterized as "spooky," is a do-not-miss culinary item in Portugal. Bacalhau is dried and salted codfish and it is Portugal's national dish. The Portuguese have been known to say that there are 365 ways to cook bacalhau, or one for each day of the year. One such preparation is made with chickpeas, as seen in the dish pictured below, on the left.
Bacalhau and Sardine Snacks
And if you aren't in the mood for Portuguese food, there are numerous other options including Thai, Italian, Japanese, sandwiches, burgers, pastries and so much more.
There are plenty of bars serving up wine, beer and cocktails as well. Since we were in Portugal however, we completed the meal at Time Out Market with a port tasting.
Corrupio, referring to "a state of constant movement," is a lively restaurant with an open kitchen and a beautiful bar. The restaurant, run by chef Daniel Ferreira, serves traditional Portuguese cuisine.
Natural Oysters from Ria Formosa, with Chopped Shallot Sauce, Vinegar, Apple and Chives
Octopus Salad with Mint and Sweet Potato Chips
Fish with Lemony Rice and Fresh Herbs
This is a dish I am definitely going to try to recreate at home. It was simultaneously light (because of the fish, lemon and abundance of cilantro and dill) and hearty (because of the creamy rice) and just so yummy all around.
In most circumstances, I do not think of canned or tinned fish as a delicacy. In Portugal, that is not the case. In fact, some of the best fish in the country is canned and you can find it at Comur. Comur, founded in 1942, serves up all kinds of quality, canned fish in a carnival or circus-like environment.
Whatever your preference - anchovies, eel, sea bass, trout, octopus, tuna, mussels, mackerel - they have it. They are most famously known for their codfish and sardines. And if you like your fish packed in olive oil, they have that of course, but they also offer flavors such as curry powder, chili, garlic and more, all made without any additives or preservatives.
Empada de Galinha
Empadas are small, flavorful, savory, pies. You will find them in cafés throughout Portugal stuffed with meat, vegetables and cheeses. They make a great snack, picnic food or a light lunch. I chose a chicken empada which tasted a lot like a chicken pot pie with more meat, less liquid and a thicker crust, and it all fit conveniently in my hand.
Ginja, or ginjinha is a sweet liqueur made from sour cherries. This drink is a Lisbon speciality that can be found in bars throughout the city, often served in chocolate cups. You sip the ginja and then eat the chocolate cup. I enjoyed a shot of this sweet, and slightly sour, liqueur on the cobblestone streets of Lisbon to toast my trip to Portugal.
Next up is my last post about Portugal where I will share some of the wonderful, fine dining experiences I had in Lisbon.