Over the course of our 91 days in Lisbon, we ate out a lot. Probably way too much, if our pudgy post-Lisbon profiles were anything to judge by. But when the restaurants are this cheap, the food this good, and the supermarkets this crappy (ahem, Pingo Doce), what are we supposed to do? Cook carrots at home? Or go to our favorite tasca and order the full-size portion of beef, and a soup, and … I know we shouldn’t, but that dessert looks too delicious to pass up.
Having completed our circuit of the Arrábida National Park, we found ourselves in the small town of Azeitão, known throughout Portugal for its fine wines and cheeses. Here, we would visit a summer palace, which was once home to royalty, and today acts as a small vineyard for the Bacalhôa wine company.
For all its aspirations to high culture, with avenues named for opera singers and plazas dedicated to poets, Setúbal is a fishing town at heart, and always has been. With a privileged position on one of Europe’s prime natural Atlantic ports, Setúbal has long been defined by its relationship with the sea. We went to check out the docks, and indulge in the city’s most famous dish, choco frito, before climbing to the castle.
You’re never going to find us making a list of a city’s trendiest restaurants or breathlessly extolling its cutting edge cuisine. No, our tastes are a little more humble. What we appreciate is a local atmosphere, good prices, and tasty food typical of whatever region we’re in.
There can’t be many visitors to Portugal who don’t at least once gorge themselves on a pastel de nata, the small, flaky, buttery custard pie found in every bakery in the land. To watch them be made, we visited the famous Pastéis de Belém, which has been cranking out the treats since 1837.
Largely unknown outside Portugal, the musical style of fado is a big deal in Lisbon, where it was born in the early 19th century. On a chilly Sunday night, we were introduced to the mournful music at the TascaBeat do Rosário, a tiny joint tucked away in one of Alfama’s many hidden corners.
Lisbon is known as a melancholy city, and this is especially true in winter. It rains all the time, apartments are cold and damp, the tram never works, and that wind! But Lisboans have figured out the best way to combat depression: by getting good and drunk.