Joie de Vivre

Portugal: Food

I just got back from the longest vacation/trip I’ve ever had. Beverly and I traveled with her mom to Lisbon, Porto and Faro/Carvoeiro in Portugal. We logged many miles sight seeing, and it was wonderful.

In addition to working full time last spring, I taught Introduction to Animation at UMBC and Design for the WWW at Towson University. This trip was just the thing to clean my mental slate.

The weather was perfect. Most people spoke English, except, oddly, the taxi drivers. We stayed in three different Airbnb’s and one hotel.

Delta airlines truly suck. I don’t even have the words for how much they suck.

Anyway, I’ve decided to share a few things in different posts here, like I did for our Puerto Rico trip last year. And, I’ll begin with the food. Lisbon was more expensive than Porto, where meals were very cheap, even in the touristy areas. We had a little bus mix-up on a trip to Cascais, and ended up off the main drag in Lisbon. We stopped into a corner convenience shop for water, which was an eyebrow raising .50 euros a bottle. So, I suppose not all of Lisbon is pricey, but it seemed like most of where we went cost more than Porto or Faro.

We stopped in a McDonalds in Cascais to use the restroom. They only serve coke zero (no diet), and some McDonalds restaurants serve beer. They had burgers with prosciutto and mushrooms. We bought some fries, and they tasted exactly like they do here. Excellent.

We ate out a lot, and one thing to know about the meals in Portugal is that once you sit down at a table, you are in for the long haul. Even at breakfast, the pace is much slower, and they never rush you to clear up a table. It’s also customary to tip a lot less that we do in the states.

I tried a lot of new things. Sardines, once considered a junk fish, are plentiful in Portugal. If you have spent any time on this website at all, you may have picked up on the fact that I love canned fish. I got to have the un-canned varieties, too.

Cod and Sardines

We made some friends in Lisbon – Rich from Terminal Rage, and his funny wife Rachel. We found ourselves to be politically compatible, and I got to ask questions from UK folks that I’ve always wondered about – for example, I wondered how the American accent registers for most Brits. I learned a lot about the theories regarding Russian support for Brexit, and how U.S. gun policy appears to Europeans. We discussed TV shows and films. They also showed me how to deal with full sized sardines with bones. It was a happy evening.

Sardine salad

I had quite a few sardines, and most places offer sardine pâté with bread, which I liked.

Below is a bowl of grilled squid, which was accompanied by boiled potatoes and carrots. The starters included a small sharp cheese wheel, tuna with black eyed peas, and a spicy mayo.

Grilled Squid
Cheese, Mayo, Tuna with black eyed peas.

Francesinha is a Portuguese sandwich, originally from Porto, made with layers of toasted bread and assorted hot meats such as roast, steak, wet-cured ham, linguiça, or chipolata over which sliced cheese is melted by the ladling of a near-boiling tomato-and-beer sauce called molho de francesinha. Here it is:

Francesinha in the Oven with Egg

It was savory, and pretty heavy. We also tried Pica Pau.

Pica pau is a traditional Portuguese dish consisting of small pieces of fried beef in a light gravy made with beer, garlic, oil, chili, and mustard. The dish is usually consumed as a snack, accompanied by a few glasses of cold beer and bread for mopping up the sauce. We skipped the beer, and it was delicious.


We visited Pastéis de Belém, and tried a lot of pastries.


One regret I have is not trying this fruitcake in Porto. We visited this place twice for the pastries shown above the fruitcake photo. I’m so curious about fruitcake now. Alas.

One morning, we took a hike along the Douro river, and stopped for breakfast at the lookout park (Parque Infantil do Jardim do Morro) by the sky tram. It was here that I had the best hot dog of my life. To verify this, I came back to the same food truck for lunch and had a second one, and it was true.


I tried to tell the chef about it, but he didn’t speak a word of English, the poor bastard. It’s a footlong weiner, with arugula, potato sticks, cheese, ham, carrots, mayo, ketchup, mustard, and happiness. I bought them from Beverly and her mom, too.

B with a footlong

We ate a lot of seafood, and I noticed that it was usually simply prepared. I hesitate to say “plain,” but each dish stood on the flavor of the fish, with little embellishment. Even a garlic shrimp dish was hard pressed to demonstrate any real garlicky muscle.

Fish and rice
Seafood and Pasta

Shown below is a plate of rice, cabbage and beans, accompanied by fish cakes. I ordered this for breakfast, which my server thought was unusual, but I was trying to hit as many different dishes as possible. This is one of my favorites and, if I lived in Porto, I’d order this all the time. It was simple, mild, and satisfying.

I burned a lot of calories on this trip – we walked a minimum of >20K steps each day, and there was just so much to see and take in. One of my favorite meals (besides the world’s best foot long) was at the FX Factory in Lisbon. We sat outside – spent, hungry and happy. We started with olive tapenade on toast, and I had a grilled mozzarella and pesto sandwich, which came with chips. Beverly had a cheese/walnut on toast with garlic potatoes. We also had Olives.

olive tapenade on toast
the FX factory

Another first for me was a plate of cuttlefish, in an out of the way alley joint in Porto.

I love that just about every single place offers olives. Sometimes green, sometimes black, always with pits and these cool bowls which can hold them. I came home with a couple of olive plates like this.

Another place we visited twice was an Argentinian empanada restaurant. Outstanding!


If I ever go back, I’m bringing an extra suitcase and filling it with this Queso butter. Holy moly it is good.

Something I really enjoy about traveling is finding new variations on things we have at home.

Pringles variants
Potato sticks
Vanilla Coke Zero

We hard a hard time finding any sort of diet cola. We aren’t fans of “zero” sodas, and vanilla coke zero is not very good. We were able to find one single deli that carried diet Pepsi. One place in all of Portugal!!! It’s made in England, and it didn’t taste exactly the same as our diet Pepsi, but it was still delightful.

Diet Pepsi

I also have some pretty deep respect for this stuff:

We didn’t have proper coffee makers in most of the Airbnb places, and Nescafé clássico saved my rump just about every single morning. It’s not bad in a pinch!

So, dear reader, this post contains the highlights of our food experience. Beverly and I went to a grocery store – I have a ton of photos from there, too – and I made our one, single home cooked meal in our Airbnb outside of Faro. Fettuccine Alfredo, made with the closest ingredients we could find. It was pretty good, too.