Lisbon is truly a foodie’s dream, and not only for the Portuguese food, which is pretty darn good. The city is also a mecca for a wide range of international treats, especially in Mouraria, a neighborhood known for attracting multiculturalism. While in Lisbon, definitely try as many Portuguese recipes as you can but don’t forget to sample some of Portugal’s top non-Portuguese food too.
By now, most people who know anything about Lisbon know that it’s a great place to eat deliciously fresh seafood, but what about sushi? Actually, the city is all about the raw fish diet, and there are quite a few restaurants offering all-you-can-eat menus called rodizios (yes, as in “Brazilian rodizio” but with sushi instead of meat). Lunches can be found costing around €12-14, while dinner normally varies between €16-20 at many restaurants, not including drinks or dessert. Although these restaurants are located throughout the city, the Saldanha/Picoas and Principe Real areas have a few great spots, such as Sakura Restaurante Japonês and Sushisan.
Lisbon’s African communities mainly stem from a few of Portugal’s ex-African colonies, primarily Mozambique, Angola, and São Tomé and Principe, and luckily their cuisines have followed. Mouraria is a good place to find a mix of African food and one restaurant that’s received a lot of attention in Cantinho do Aziz, a mixed African-style restaurant with an outdoor terrace that’s tucked in one of Mouraria’s narrow corners. For more of an African and Portuguese twist, try Zambeze which offers recipes from both Angola and Mozambique in addition to traditional Portuguese food, all from a rooftop restaurant.
Lisbon is home to the famous yet not-so-famous clandestine Chinese restaurants, known among the locals as the ‘illegal Chinese’ restaurants. Located near Martim Moniz, these three restaurants are located within apartment buildings without signage outside, and the easiest way to find them is by first going with a friend who has been there before. They may be a little small, but that doesn’t stop the lines from forming out the door on Friday and Saturday nights.
The locals in Lisbon also love Asian food, and one of their favorites seems to be cuisine from Nepal. Sometimes they’re clumped together with Indian food, while other restaurants stick strictly to Nepalese-only. Walk around the city and these restaurants will pop up in unexpected corners, especially outside the historic downtown area. Among the highest rated restaurants include Casa Nepalesa and Taste of Nepal Restaurant in Picoas.
It may come as no surprise that Lisbon is a top destination choice of Brazilians, and Brazilian restaurants and rodizios are at the top of the dining list for many Lisboetas. Picanha, a cut of beef popular in Brazil, is also now popular in Portugal’s capital and lots of restaurants serve it, Brazilian or not. When in the mood for true Brazilian cuisine, however, rodizio is popularly the way to go. A couple of hot spots include Fogo de Chão, a medium-sized chain with a big reputation, and Chimarrão, a much larger chain with a store in Armazéns do Chiado among other neighborhoods all over the city. And don’t leave Lisbon without biting into Brazilian sweets, especially brigadeiros. These tiny chocolate bites are heavenly and one popular location is Oh! Brigadeiro at the LX Factory.
While in Portugal, why not try popular dishes from its nearby neighbors? Portuguese cuisine is close to Mediterranean-style, there is still a distinct difference between Spanish, Italian, and Greek styles, especially when it comes to spices and cooking techniques. Lisbon welcomes these differences and there is a Mediterranean mix throughout the city. For Italian pizza downtown, try Pizzeria Mezzogiorno, which is located off of Rua Garrett in Chiado. For those who are more into moussaka than lasagna, there are many Greek restaurants and a local favorite is Santorini Coffee near the Instituto Superior Técnico, a science-based branch of the Universidade de Lisboa.
The little kebab shops around Lisbon are perfect when you’re exploring the city and need/want a quick bite. They are the city’s version of fast food restaurants, serving delicious and cheap Turkish sandwiches or wraps. The most famous type is the doner kebab, which is made of meat (usually lamb or beef) that has been cooked on a rotisserie spit and covered in vegetables and sauce. From Bairro Alto to Alfama and far north, Lisbon is speckled with these restaurants, each varying in size from super small to fairly large.