Porto street eats and Port wine for dummies

Friday, May 25th — Port wine-tasting at 2:30 in the afternoon? Why not?

Porto has got to be the best of my excursions in adventurous dining yet. While exploring the town on foot, I noticed several “greasy diners”, really, the most uninviting places (based on looks alone) with outdoor menus displaying the likes of tripe, baccala, and sardines a la cooking style of one way or another. Set on eating like the locals do, I began peering into doorways for the friendliest-looking grandpa that returned my smile. Grandpa already saw me coming for he suddenly appeared – all smiles – and gestured for us to come in. I shook my head to say “no”.

Tripas e sardinhas” I say, pointing my finger at what I presumed to be tripe and sardines. Sis #1 wants a green salad. “Uhm… e salada verde, por favor,” I add. He still wants us to have a seat but with the skill of a someone who has learned the art of speaking with the hands, I motioned that we were tired and wanted to take the food to go. The message rang loud and clear. Grandpa was sharp as a whip. He still insists that we come in and sit down anyway, then went to fetch foil containers with covers, of which he proudly displayed with a wave of his hand before rushing off to help grandma in the kitchen.

For 10 euros total, the portions were huge! The light, tomato-based tripe stew had small white beans and morsels of the chewy, honeycombed offal. The grilled sardines, charred to a smoky flavor, still had interiors intact and came with lots of sliced raw onions. It was good and it was cheap. All it lacked was a bottle of the local white wine.

The Francesinha

This local favorite deserves its own write-up, just like those egg-n-cream delights of Belem, but I didn’t think it would be complete, or fair, to feature this sandwich without trying several versions throughout restaurants in Porto. It’s the simplest dish. Thin slices of cooked ham, pork cutlet, and chorizo in between two slices of white bread. Cheese, melting, oozing, spilling over all in a light tomato-based sauce. It is so good, sis #2 comes over after eating a hamburger and promptly begins to mop up the last bits of sauce with a piece of bread. I got this at the Praca Ribeira waterfront with a couple of beers and man did it EVER hit the spot.

Port wine tasting

Without missing a beat, the nuances of port wine came right after that francesinha chow down. That’s the beauty of Porto central; everything is within walking distance. We chanced upon this place without prior knowledge that it was listed in hip travel guides Le Routard and Le Guide Vert Michelin. Excellent, articulate demo and tasting of the different ports (white, ruby, tawny) which, I hope, graduates me a notch up from Dummies to Port 101.
Vinologia – rua Sao Joao, 46 | www.lamaisondesporto.com


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