Portugal's epicurean evolution owes a hefty debt to its second-biggest city – Porto played an indispensable role in helping the country find its newfound foodie foothold and sealing its position on the European gastronomic radar. The artery-shattering Francesinha (a stack of cured ham, linguiça sausage and beef on bread drowned in melted cheese and a hot tomato and beer sauce) is Porto's iconic eat, but the city's culinary radar extends far and wide from there.
Best cheap eats
The pilgrimage-worthy sandes de pernil (roast pork sandwiches) dished up at simple tasca Casa Guedes are the stuff of Porto legend, right down to the Brazilian-inspired secret sauce. It would be remiss not to order the version topped with Serra da Estrela cheese (€4.90), a gooey sheep’s milk wonder from Portugal's most mountainous region.
Quinta do Paço
Since 1920, Quinta do Paço has served up one of the city's most famous pastries to the tune of some 2500 per day (5000 on weekends!). At this leitaria (dairy), the eclairs – crispy on the outside, perfectly creamy on the inside due to fiercely traditional whipped cream – marry marvelously with a strong espresso.
A culinary trifecta of crispy bread, spicy sausages and molten cheese makes Porto's most famous cachorrinho (small hotdog) at Cervejaria Gazela a mandatory stop on the city's gastronomic map. Served cut in bite-size pieces, it's perfect for sharing and the burn is just fiery enough to encourage a continuous flow of draught lager.
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Best high-end dining
Two-Michelin-starred Yeatman is synonymous with Portuense fine dining and harbours astonishing city views across the Douro River from Vila Nova de Gaia to match. Chef Ricardo Costa's seasonal touches – be it land (traditional goat stew), sea (poached langoustine) or air (pheasant) – floor diners along with a regional wine list that is considered one of the world's best.
A former engineer self-taught in the kitchen among French chefs, reads the pedigree of the chef at Pedro Lemos the eponymously named restaurant in Foz do Douro. Inside the contemporarily-restored stone house (a former British pub) or on the rooftop terrace, extraordinary dishes such as farm-raised quail with mushrooms and asparagus or corvina with mussels and Jerusalem artichokes are the foundations of its Michelin star.
Chef Vasco Coelho Santos, empowered by a stint behind what once was the world's most famous restaurants (Basque country's El Bulli), executes his 10-moment tasting menus for just 16 lucky gourmands nightly at high-end upstart Euskalduna Studio. Whether oxtail with herbs and kimchi fermented for 27 days, or tomatoes with hazelnut flour, juniper and shaved cured veal, each dish shocks and awes in the most surprising of ways.
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Top vegan and vegetarian
Opened in 2018, Fava Tonka presents a one-of-a-kind offering for Porto: high-end small plates (€9 to €13) aimed at altering perceptions that gourmet plant-based food is hard to haute. The seasonal, organic-focused menu sparks curiosity in its vagueness: celery root, shitake and peanut; kale cake, potato emulsion, onion jus and so on. Free your mind.
Baixa mainstay daTerra features a beautiful, weekly-changing vegan buffet flush with a global cornucopia of scrumptiousness: Thai-style veggies, Portuguese-influenced tofu and soy dishes, beet hummus, Brazilian-style vegetarian feijoada (in this case, a tomato-based stew with breaded tofu) and much more.
A modern, mostly vegetarian brasserie that's perfect for solving a very typical culinary conundrum: where to eat when your dining companions are split between carnivores and herbivores (two to four meat-based dishes are offered daily). Standouts at Essência include asparagus and fennel risotto and spaghetti with beetroot pesto and curds, among others.
Porto's classic gut-busting treat is a polarizing subject about town, but almost no conversation about the city's best version doesn’t involve a mention of this classic café. Café Santiago's family secret is in the sauce (made fresh daily), the quality-control of the pork (which comes from famed sausage house Salsicharia Leandro) and the house-cut chips.
It's cheeky to trademark "The best Francesinha in the world" but Lado B did just that – and the kitchen takes the obviously subjective claim quite seriously. The fries are crispy, the bread is crunchy and the beer is fresh. Hurry up and wait.
With a bit more charm and character than the average Francesinha destination, Yuko Tavern stands out for its five varieties of the famed open-faced sandwich, including versions with smoked sausage and/or topped with a fried egg.
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Best tabernas and tascas
Taberna dos Mercadores
Family-run Portuguese taberna (tavern) Taberna dos Mercadores nails a delicate balance between stylish space and homely-executed national dishes. Rustic benchmark choices include açorda de marisco (stew made from day-old bread, vinegar, garlic, coriander, eggs and seafood) and meat casseroles featuring special beef from Arouca mountain cows.
Taberna de Santo António
All stone and guitars, this simple taberna owes in success to its emphasis on hearty Portuguese classics: bacalhau (salted codfish), grilled sardines and cozido (meat and vegetable stew). On warm days, Taberna de Sanso António's pavement seating in Miragaia – mere steps from the Douro – is the place to be. Your final feliz? One of Porto's best chocolate mousses.
Flor Dos Congregados
Two centuries worth of gluttons have crowded into stone-walled, beamed-ceilinged gastro-den Flor Dos Congregados for its famed Terylene sandwich, featuring a slow-roasted pork loin marinated for 20 hours in wine, onions, tomatoes, garlic, rosemary, oregano and chilli. It's traditionally chased with a glass of sparkling Tinto Bruto wine. Porto perfection.
Best of Vila Nova de Gaia
Taberna São Pedro
You'll step through a waft of grilled sardine fumes as you enter the azulejo-clad doorway of this salt-of-the-earth seafooder across the Douro River in Vila Nova de Gaia. But it doesn’t stop there: at Taberna São Pedro all manner of fresh fish and skewers of shrimp and squid are thrown on the grill as well, the hard-earned wares of the old-school-fishing-hamlet surrounds. Bom apetite!
Another skilled craftsman in the francesinha game. The brick-oven-baked version at Tappas Caffé features three types of sausage and a sauce laced with chiripiti, honey, and a liquor forged from bagaço (a brandy-adjacent Portuguese firewater). Reserve ahead!
For gourmands on the Port-tasting trail, Vinum (a stylish, top-end dining destination at Graham's) takes traditional Portuguese cuisine to new heights with the best of the nation's extensive bounty: matured Trás-os-Montes beef, Ria Formosa clams and Azores red tuna, for example. Bookend your meal with Port, obviously!