When I visited Porto in May last year, I did a fair amount of research ahead of time, trying to figure out where things are in relation to each other and planning out a rough itinerary.
Of course, once we got there, the weather was horrendous (think: ~50 degrees and so foggy you could barely see the other side of the street – and believe me, the streets of Porto aren’t super wide). Which meant the itinerary went out the door and we replanned everything so that all the outdoor activities were piled onto our one sunny day. That being said, one thing that is less affected by weather is food plans. So we cobbled together a list between travel guides and our host’s recommendations and set out to eat our way through Porto.
COFFEE | bird of passage
Since I was staying at myhomeinporto, breakfast was usually eaten in PJs. But coffee in the morning never stopped me from more coffee throughout the day. The first day was especially gloomy, and after braving the crowds at Livraria Lello, it was time to warm up with some coffee.
Bird of Passage was nearby and looked cute so we popped in. And, since popping into the well heated space did enough warming up for me, I ended up going for an espresso tonic. The space is bright and airy, filled with cute illustrations, pops of color, and with plenty of seating to go around. They also serve up a menu of “healthy” eats (think: toasts, bowls, empanadas). On a nice day, they have a little terrace for outdoor coffee drinking.
SNACK | Cervejaria Gazela
I mean, when you’re here, you might as well trace the footsteps of greats. I re-watched Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown episode on the plane ride over, an episode punctuated by two sandwiches: the cachorrinhos (ok I guess more of a hot dog type of situation) and the francesinha (aka a heart attack tucked in between bread, and then blanketed in beer sauce). We decided to just go with the cachorrinhos.
Cervejaria Gazela is the place to go. I thought it would have been super touristy, given the exposure to international fame, but there were actually a ton of locals around the bar. But what’s not to like? Fresh griddled sausage on crunchy, practically fried bread, and then cut into bite sized pieces so it feels like you’re having a snack even if you’re on your second one…
It’s a no-frills spot that stays true to what it is, even with the tourists that stop by. The bar is small, the offerings simple, and it’s cash only. It’s a quick in and out, although some of the locals looked too comfy with large beers in hand at 11am…
AFTERNOON TEA | Majestic Cafe
When it’s yucky outside, what better than a long, leisurely meal, where you don’t have to feel guilty for lingering while you’re on vacation? Majestic Cafe is the Majestic Cafe of JK Rowling fame. Although these days, it’s hard to imagine even being able to jot down a thought with the chaos happening inside.
Majestic Cafe is one of those places that maintains the old world charm in the best way. It doesn’t feel forced. It doesn’t feel like the Disney version of European glamour, and it doesn’t feel… well.. just old for the sake of being old. It feels glamorous and quaint at the same time, and it’s easy to see how this could have been the hot and happening spot back when it opened in 1921.
Today, it is a popular tourist stop, and packed. On a cold and rainy day, it was even more packed. It was mid-afternoon, right in time for afternoon tea (which starts at 3pm). For 25€ a person, it was a lot of food. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so full from a European-style afternoon tea set before. You can pick your selection of tea (they use TWG), and each person gets a set of decidedly larger-than-finger sandwiches and a whole host of not-so-petite pastries. Sure, it’s not the most delicate spread, but hey, we’re here for the atmosphere, remember?
LUNCH | EPOCA
Our second day in the city was still overcast, but leaning towards partly cloudy. Which meant a little more outside time. Epoca was recommended by our host as a trendy and popular vegetarian spot. It’s just slightly out of the way from the main downtown area (aka insulated from tourists), and after a week in Europe, two California girls were getting pretty desperate for some vegetables.
Thankfully, we were in the area already, so popped by the airy cafe for lunch. Inside, you could tell it was a young & hip local crowd. The veg-forward menu was a refreshing change from the meat and carb diet that one can’t help but give into in Europe. Sure, this is essentially food I’d eat at home, but sometimes you just need a healthy dose of kale and arugula before jumping back into that cheese board life.
DINNER | Miss’Opo
Miss’Opo was another recommendation from our host. It’s also a trendy restaurant, a place where the young & hip local crowd gather to dine together in a lively atmosphere. The dim-lit dining space feels intimate, and the rather nondescript storefront makes it feel like a local secret. The room is beautifully designed, with rustic wood furniture warming up a industrial concrete space centered around a long communal table and stark angled white arch around the bar.
Beyond the design itself, the menu is also made for sharing. Spoiler alert, we got the cheese plate. And some vegetables to counter it. But all in all a solid dinner spot that feels purposefully curated, like you’re getting the right Porto experience hidden among the most touristy streets.
PS, this place is made for visitors. They have guest house apartments upstairs, if you’re really leaned into this lifestyle.
COFFEE | COMBI
Combi is a darling coffee roaster located just down the street from where we were staying. Outside, they have a little coffee mobile parked, which I’m assuming can tour the city. The cafe itself is beautiful, opening up to the street in a cohesive indoor/outdoor configuration.
We stopped by here on our way out, grabbing coffee for the road to Serralves. But had we not crammed an ambitious itinerary into our last (finally sunny) day, I definitely would have taken my coffee for here. And maybe never left.
LUNCH | A Sandeira do Porto
Their tagline is pretty simple: the best sandwiches in Porto. And while I’m in no position to comment on that claim (didn’t really have any other sandwiches in Porto…), I will vouch that these were pretty good. There’s a reason why there’s always a line out the door. Well, mostly because it’s a tiny space with barely enough seating for 6 at a time. But also, because they are good.
Tucked right in the middle of the hilly central streets, just a stone’s throw away from São Bento station and Clérigos tower, A Sandiera seems to have become a bit of an institution. Their weekday lunch menu includes a sandwich, soup or salad and drink for €6,50. It’s the perfect midday break that won’t break the bank. That being said, they are open from 9am to midnight, so it really can be an anytime ordeal (actually, you should probably avoid peak lunch hours).
SNACK | CREMOSI
I mean, what is one supposed to do when you’re waiting around for a shop to open and there’s a gelato spot around the corner? Not that I need any excuse to make time for gelato, but Cremosi’s pastel pretty space was just calling to me on a hot day.
Unfortunately, the port tonic flavor was not available (their flavor selection changes every day), but again, never really met a gelato I didn’t like (they have plenty of options to choose and taste before deciding).
DINNEr | Solar Moinho de Vento
Yet another reco from our dear host Juan. This time, a more traditional spot, with hefty portions to match. This was our last dinner in Porto, and a memorable one for many reasons. First, we were seated outside in the courtyard, meaning we got dinner and a show (the show being the rather elaborate garbage pick up choreography). Second, our waiter was great, jumping across the street and back from the restaurant to serve us (and at one point completely tripping and falling on his face, only to spring right back up). And finally, we ordered what was supposed to be a good portion for two… and ended up being an entire pot of chicken… served… in the pot. And definitely enough food to serve four.
But hey, you live and you learn. Or if you’re like me, you don’t learn, and continue to order way too much food at ever stop of the trip and have to try to get creative so the food doesn’t go to waste.