Rule number one when choosing where to eat is to not search for a restaurant while hungry. But that’s easier said than done, right? As a tourist, you will most likely hover over those shiny-looking menus outside the restaurants in the center of Lisbon, because there’s where pretty much everyone told you to go to and, to be honest, you don’t feel like overthinking it. How do you avoid getting lured into a blatant tourist trap? Well, for starters, you can take a look at my suggestions of the top five restaurants in the center of Lisbon with Portuguese food.
I didn’t want to turn this into a copy of all those crowdsourced top lists, and I have already written about my 10 favorite restaurants in Lisbon for a fellow travel blogger, so I chose to narrow down to five guaranteed good ones, one per type of budget, including a meatless option.
High-end cuisine, Portuguese inspired
I wouldn’t normally recommend a restaurant in a typical nightlife area because they tend to be crowded and overpriced, but at Duplex RB you definitely get what you paid for – high-end cuisine in a casual environment, just steps away from finishing off the night with a couple of drinks (literally). You can either choose the ground floor bar to start the night, or you can walk over to “Pink Street” and browse the bars there.
The good thing about this restaurant is that it’s close enough to the popular bars but not so much in the middle of them that you’d end up not being able to enjoy a quiet dinner.
I’d say the menu is contemporary cosmopolitan with a hint of Portuguese flavor (if that wasn’t a thing, it is now). I have a soft spot for octopus, and theirs is probably one of the best in Lisbon, and I assure you, you cannot leave the restaurant without trying their signature dessert, the chocolate Duplex.
Please be aware they only serve dinners (if you’d like a lunch option with the same quality, check out the pizza place owned by the same group next door, La Puttana) and the bathroom is mixed (with individual stalls inside) and serves both the restaurant and the downstairs bar.
Rua Nova do Carvalho, 58/60
8-11pm Mon-Thu, 8pm-midnight Sat & Sun
Average €70 for two people
Recommended to book ahead
O Ze da Mouraria
Typical tasca in the heart of the Mouraria quarter
If the blue-and-white checkered tablecloths, the mismatched tiles, and the walls covered with photos from local Fado singers aren’t enough signs that you’ve stepped inside a typical Portuguese restaurant, the trays overflowing with homemade-style food sure are.
I can’t think of a local or a tourist who hasn’t heard about this place at least once when asking for restaurant recommendations in Mouraria. It’s so crowded that it took me three attempts to finally score a table for one for lunch (and I wouldn’t mind sharing a table with strangers either if it came down to that).
Portions are really big but they’re sweet enough to pack the rest in a plastic container for you to take home (if you don’t find it too weird to go back to where you’re staying in Lisbon with leftovers).
Whatever is on the fixed menu is delicious (I was going to use the catchphrase of a certain fried chicken chain but realized it would be a copyright infringement…) but you can never go wrong with the day’s specials, particularly if arroz de pato (rice with roasted duck) is one of them.
Rua João do Outeiro, 24/26
Average €40 for two people
Recommended to book ahead for large groups
Meatless restaurant with fresh, seasonal ingredients
Being vegan or vegetarian in Lisbon is not a problem. Yes, even in the land where bacalhau (salted cod) is king, sardines are queens, and pretty much every single traditional pastry is made with a dozen plus eggs.
As a meat and fish eater, I need a break from all animal protein every now and then and I like Organi’s approach. They never serve meat, most drinks are organic, and they have a “catch of the day” mentality when it comes to putting together the daily menu.
The first time I ate here, I had the vegan feijoada and loved it so much I actually asked the waiter twice if the dish was 100% vegan (yes, it was). The second time, I went for the fish option (that day was my old pal octopus) and wasn’t as impressed. Overall, both dishes were light and not greased up for flavor. That’s a plus! And the service is very good. I love staff that are well trained in the hospitality business, what can I say.
Calçada Nova de São Francisco, 2
12.30-3.30pm & 7-10pm Mon-Sat
Average €25 for two people
Weather permitting, sit outside
Chamines do Palacio
Low-key Portuguese cuisine in a spectacularly decorated palace
What a spectacular finding this restaurant was! Twenty years of Lisbon, many days walking by this building, and I had no idea what hidden gem it was (no, seriously, a hidden gem).
First of all, you’ll be amazed at the beautiful blue-and-white tiles decorating most of the palace’s walls. And second of all, you’ll be amazed at how this place is hidden in plain sight. The more you visit Lisbon, the more you’ll realize how often you’ll be surprised by findings like these, to be honest.
The menu is basically a trip through the most typical Portuguese dishes and they have something I absolute love, the traditional dish of the day. I do love their bacalhau com broa, though. To me, that could be the traditional dish of the day every day.
Palácio da Independência, Largo de São Domingos, 11
Noon-3pm & 7-10pm Mon-Sat
Average €25 for two people
Take time to admire the tiles
Delfina – Cantina Portuguesa
Contemporary Portuguese cuisine, with a “cooked-by-grandma” feel
Delfina is a typical Portuguese name, the kind our old grandmothers or aunts would have. So Delfina is the embodiment of that spirit but with the contemporary approach it deserves. You see, this is not only a restaurant. This is the restaurant of AlmaLusa Boutique Hotel, where guests and outsiders are welcome from morning to night.
All ingredients are fresh and seasonal, most of them sourced from the nearby Mercado da Ribeira every day, which means they will usually have one menu for the Summer and one for the Winter. When in doubt, order anything from the Delfina’s Choices section on the menu. It’s like Portuguese food with a worldly twist.
Praça do Município, 22
7.30am-11.30pm Every day
Average €40 for two people
The esplanade is not the greatest spot (not much of a view there) but the peculiar decor inside makes up for it
My question now is, have you decided which one of these restaurants in Lisbon will you choose?