The Alentejo region that covers about 30% of Portugal, is one of the most fascinating areas of the country. It is considered ‘the breadbasket of Portugal’ with rustic flavors including simple gastronomic products like olive oil, cheese, bread, Alentejo black pig, wines and more.
Évora, the capital, is the gastronomic heartland of the Alentejo region. To taste the authentic flavors of the Alentejo, don’t look further than Café Alentejo, one of the best restaurant in Évora.
In this article, we take a gastronomic tour of the Alentejo region at Café Alentejo. From black pork to Alentejo wines discover with us the unique and traditional Alentejo cuisine.
As they say at Café Alentejo:
“Whoever sits at our table finds the generosity of the Alentejo land”
About Café Alentejo In Évora
Located a few steps away from the main plaza in Évora, Café Alentejo is an old tavern or taberna from the 16th century. This historical site housed the royal entourage that accompanied the royal family on their visits to the region.
Today, this unique Évora restaurant has preserved the exceptional ancient architecture. As you walk-in, you can’t help but admire the striking arches and vaulted ceilings, in the elegant and modern setting.
Since 1999, Café Alentejo has been led by the friendly and passionate Rita Simão. A native of Évora, Rita was the “cook at the parties” while in business management school.
Her passion for the local gastronomy led her to throw herself into opening Café Alentejo despite not having any formal culinary training.
She made it her goal to provide “homemade” traditional and authentic food using the region’s products. From the cheese, desserts and the black pork flavored with unique herbs and spices, Rita only uses local and seasonal products.
Nowadays, Café Alentejo is one of the best restaurants in Évora. Let’s sit down and eat!
Warm Welcome with a Royal “Couvert”
As soon as we sat at our table, we were greeted by the waiter with a beautiful assortment of cheeses, green olives, and a plate of local charcuterie.
Typically, Portuguese restaurants serve olives, cheeses and bread on the table as part of the couvert. At Café Alentejo, it was a royal starter of the day.
Our favorite among the selection of charcuterie was the presunto or ham made from the local black pork. The cheeses, ranging from fresh to aged all had their unique character and appeal.
The waiter also presented three different local Portuguese olive oils for tasting, from extra-virgin to premium oils. Olive oil is omnipresent in Portuguese cuisine and was used generously in the meals from the appetizer to the desserts.
One interesting starter was fava beans made with a local chorizo sausage. The beans were quite tasty, though salty. We learned that fava beans are a popular snack at bars and cafes and the natural saltiness of the beans keeps customers thirsty, and likely to order more beers. They are also a cheap source of protein and commonly used in the rural areas.
To complete the starters, were typical Portuguese chicken empanadas. These empanadas were quite different from the empanadas we discovered in Argentina. These are thick and doughy and less meaty than their South American counterparts.
Seasonal and Local Main Dishes
Following the hearty starters where we tried not to eat too much, we moved on to the main dishes that represent the local gastronomy. Small plates kept flowing in from the kitchen, accompanied by bold Alentejo wines.
Scrambled Eggs with Farinheira Sausage
This very typical Portuguese starter was not only delicious, but comes with a somber history.
The scrambled eggs are cooked with a unique traditional Portuguese sausage called farinheira or smoked flour sausage.
This sausage was invented by Portuguese Jews in the 1500s as a way of protecting themselves during the Inquisition. The Portuguese Jews faked eating pork with these sausages that mimic pork made instead of flour, paprika and other ingredients.
Today, the farinheira sausages are appreciated throughout the country. With the scrambled eggs, they make for a delightful starter.
Locally Grown Wild Asparagus
Served alongside the eggs and sausage was a plate of fresh and brightly green locally grown asparagus. The asparagus, cooked in Alentejo olive oil and sprinkled with local herbs was delectably outstanding.
A seasonal speciality of Café Alentejo, there is nothing like the delicious flavors of fresh vegetables.
Traditional Dog Fish Soup
Dogfish, a relative to the shark, is a popular fish found in many Évora restaurants.
At Café Alentejo, it is one of their signature recipes and goes by the Portuguese name Sopa de cação.
This creamy soup with the mild flaky white fish was outstanding. The combination of flavors from the garlic, coriander, olive oil and additional herbs and spices was a delightful regional treat.
As you can expect from traditional Évora restaurants, it was served with local Alentejo bread.
The Meat Delicacies at Café Alentejo
Oxtail Stewed in Alentejo Wine
As the meal progressed, Rita introduced two regional meat dishes that best exemplify the local cuisine.
The first was oxtail stewed in red wine. This dish is made using a recipe that has been passed down through the family. It is also a meal that takes five hours to prepare.
The oxtail was fall off the bone tender, and perfectly seasoned. Served with mashed potatoes, this made for an excellent dish.
Black Pork with Traditional Migas
The black pork was one of the dishes we were most excited to try. The region’s black pork from Iberian pigs fed by foraging for acorns is some of the best in the world.
At Café Alentejo, the black pork cheeks were served with a migas, a traditional bread dish from the region. The black pork cheeks were succulent. Meaty, with a surprisingly lean taste.
Migas are made with hardened Alentejo wheat bread mixed with garlic and olive oil and fried. They often accompany pork dishes. The unusual textures of the lightly crispy migas was outstanding. The combination of the pork and migas was a heavenly match.
To accompany these delicacies, we enjoyed red wine from the Alentejo region, which is smooth, balanced with red fruit flavors and a hint of spice.
Trio of Traditional Desserts
Any Portuguese meal wouldn’t be complete without desserts. The Portuguese are known to have a sweet tooth and they cherish their desserts.
These desserts are traditionally made with a large number of egg yolks and sugar and often referred as Conventual desserts. In fact, one of the desserts was made primarily of egg yolks and almonds. It was quite slurpy and very sweet.
The pudim de aceite or olive pudding was the most surprising of the three. With its slight dark green color, it had a slightly bitter and fruity flavor from the olives.
Our favorite was the Portuguese cheesecake. Melting in the mouth, it had a nice balance between eggs and sugar.
A Cellar Full of Alentejo Wines
Alentejo wines are an integral part of Café Alentejo. These wines add context to the regional and delightful food and they are carefully sourced from local producers.
For our meal, we had the opportunity to taste three different wines from the Alentejo region. The Solar dos Lobos wines, from a traditional Alentejo family, perfectly complemented the dishes.
The light white wine paired perfectly with the cheese and soup. We found the red wine almost too light for the rich flavors of the delicious black pork.
Although we typically prefer red wines, our favorite this time was a white wine from Ervideira, a local family owned winery. Served with the desserts, this Late Harvest Wine was the perfect combination to round up our meal.
Within the restaurant is a huge cellar that still maintains part of the original architecture. Opened in 2013, the wine cellar is the perfect place to sip the regional wines while admiring the architecture.
With more than 3,000 different types of bottles, Rita knows how to please any wine lover. In the cool cellar, which is ideal to escape the scorching hot Évora Summers, Café Alentejo can host private dinners for up to ten people. This is one of the best-hidden secrets of Évora. If you can, seize the opportunity to eat in a royal cellar!
Eating at Café Alentejo in Évora is unspeakably memorable. The quality, the authenticity and the diversity of regional dishes along with the wines are unmatched.
You’ll taste the simple and hearty Alentejo fare, using only the freshest ingredients that result in mouth-watering dishes.
The friendly and accessible staff will make you feel at home within this historic restaurant. Café Alentejo offers you the perfect door to experience Alentejo cuisine.
Where to Stay in Évora
We stayed at the Vitoria Stone Hotel, which is rooted in the traditions of Alentejo with a sophisticated side. Located just 200 meters from the outer walls of Évora, the Vitoria Stone Hotel is an easy 10-minute walk from Café Alentejo.
Address: R. do Raimundo 5, Évora
Hours: Everyday 12:00 pm – 2:00 am
For Reservation: (+351)-266-706-296
Savor The Adventure!
Our visit to Évora was supported by the Visit Alentejo Tourism Board. Opinions expressed in this article are always our own.
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Rosemary is a writer and culinary explorer. Together with her partner, Claire, they created Authentic Food Quest to inspire people to travel deeper through authentic food. Through food, they believe, people can have more meaningful connections on their travels. Prior to creating Authentic Food Quest, Rosemary worked as a director of strategy in advertising for over 15 years. Take the quiz and find out your Food Traveler Profile.