There are certain foods that people go out of their way to enjoy. Those kinds of specialities that turn ordinary restaurants into legends and often into symbols of a city. Here are ten things to eat in Lisbon that people rave about.
It’s perhaps even more famous outside Lisbon thanks to the Nando’s chain. But there are no Nando’s in Lisbon and Lisbon’s chicken is nothing like Nando’s. First of all, it’s far from being fast food, it’s meant to be enjoyed slowly and ideally on the terrace of the Bonjardim restaurant. Also known as “Rei dos Frangos” (“The King of Chickens”), it’s very much a local place but also a tourist magnet, with many claiming this is the best chicken they’ve ever had.
Lisbon’s most famous pastry is often imitated but never duplicated around Portugal and now even the world. The original place to try them is Antiga Confeitaria de Belem (known to most simply as “Pastéis de Belém”) but there is also a couple of “Nata Lisboa,” small spots specializing in the delicacy, in the Chiado and Principe Real neighborhoods.
“THE BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE IN THE WORLD”
“O Melhor Bolo de Chocolate do Mundo” is really the world’s best marketing name. Although quite good, truth be told, it’s not even the best chocolate cake in Lisbon… But given the name, you feel compelled to try it. It’s now served at several cafes and restaurants around the city but a good place to find it is at the Santini ice cream shop in Chiado.
“PÃO DE DEUS”
It literally means “God’s Bread” and will taste divine if you love coconut. It’s more a pastry than bread, and ever since the chain of “A Padaria Portuguesa” bakeries presented its own square-shaped version it’s become a fad that will surely become a long-lasting favorite.
It doesn’t look that appetizing at first sight, but you’ll be sold at first bite. This soupy dish of bread and shellfish (or cod) is traditional in southern Portugal but served all over the country. No one does it better than the Pap’Açorda restaurant which uses lobster and prawns in its “Açorda Real” and gives the bread the aroma of coriander.
There are those who’d stay away at any cost, those who eat them regularly, and then there are those in Lisbon who actually have them only once a year during the big “Festas de Lisboa” street feasts. You’ll see (and smell) them grilling in almost every corner in June, and that’s enough to make them one of the city’s icons.
The Pinóquio restaurant could present nothing else on its menu and still make big business thanks to its clams arriving from Algarve. People come from miles away just to enjoy this garlicky dish which helps explain why its serves between 15 to 20 kilos of clams daily, from noon to midnight. This dish is available at many traditional restaurants in the city but there’s something special about Pinóquio’s.
CHOCOLATE CROISSANT FROM “BENARD”
So what if the croissant is not native to Lisbon? Forget the rushed not-so-welcoming service and enjoy a chocolate croissant at the Benard cafe. It’s incomparably better when straight out of the oven, but it’s always a treat getting chocolate all over your fingers and lips as it drips from the flaky pastry.
This is one of the best-loved traditions in the country, served at many bars to accompany glasses of wine. It’s become a popular experience at the Artis and Tasca do Chico bars in Bairro Alto, with tourists especially fascinated by the fact that it arrives in flames at the table.
“ESTENDAL DO BAIRRO”
Alluding to the laundry seen hanging from so many windows in the older districts of Lisbon, chef Ljubomir Stanisic came up with the idea of presenting fried pieces of cod held by clothespins. Looking like something of a contemporary art project, it’s become so famous that it can never leave the menu of his restaurant 100 Maneiras and we like the ingenious way it pays tribute to Lisbon.