Getting familiar with a new city can feel daunting. On our first visit to Lisbon, Portugal’s capital and largest city with half a million inhabitants, we were unsure where to start.
Determined to explore the city like a local, we set out to taste Lisbon food, one neighborhood at a time.
A hilly city on the banks of the Tagus River, The Queen of Sea (as it’s nicknamed) is best explored on foot and using its old-fashioned trams and buses. This way, we steered clear from guidebooks and stumbled onto Lisbon restaurants where locals eat using our own flair for finding authentic food experiences.
Along the way, we stopped at popular venues known for authentic Portuguese and Lisbon food.
With this food guide in hand, let’s explore what to eat in Lisbon and Portuguese cuisine through these 10 Lisbon restaurants where locals eat.
Table of contents
- #1 Carvoaria Jacto – Portuguese Steakhouse in Penha de França
- #2 A Grelha Masqueria e Churrasqueria in Graça Neighborhood
- #3 Farol Restaurante Cervejaria in Alfama
- #4 Mascote da Atalaia – Fado and Lisbon Food in Barrio Alto
- #5 By The Wine – Petiscos in Chiado
- #6 Time Out Market – Mercado da Ribeira in Cais do Sodré
- #7 Casa CID in Cais do Sodré
- #8 Madragoa Café – Classic Portuguese Cuisine in the Artsy Santos Neighborhood
- #9 Lisbon Food Market – Mercado de Campo de Ourique
- #10 Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém – Iconic Portuguese desserts in Belém
- See the video below of the Lisbon restaurants where locals eat
- In Summary
- Where to Stay in Lisbon And Eat Where Locals Eat
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#1 Carvoaria Jacto – Portuguese Steakhouse in Penha de França
Almost every evening on our way to our Airbnb in Penha de França, located just east of the tourist-crammed Alfama neighborhood, we walked by this local restaurant always busy with locals.
We learned that this local restaurant in Lisbon is known as a “Steakhouse of Excellence”, using the best local meats, cooked the Portuguese way.
You can choose your beef, lamb, or pork, and the restaurant will prepare it perfectly for you. Besides the meats, you’ll also find a variety of fresh fish from the ocean. Salad is complimentary and the quality is excellent.
On our last night in Lisbon, we stopped in for dinner. Since we didn’t have reservations, we were led to a table in the middle of the already buzzing restaurant.
Claire chose to have bacalhau assado na brasa com batata a murro or roasted codfish prepared with potatoes. This was one of the Lisbon food we had been told to have by a Portuguese friend and had missed.
The fish came in an impressive plate that could have served three people. Although beautifully presented, the cod was lacking in taste and the texture was less than tender.
Rosemary picked the pork ribs or costeletas de porco preto. This was definitely our preferred dish. These perfectly cooked ribs were juicy, flavorful and very tender. Paired with a bold red wine from the Alentejo region, this was a wonderful culinary match.
What to have for dessert is Portuguese chocolate cake. Dense, with a gooey chocolate center, it was best savored in small bites.
For a typical Portuguese dinner at a Lisbon restaurant where locals eat, head to Carvoaria Jacto for their amazing meats.
Where to Eat in Lisbon Penha de França Neighborhood
Address: Rua Maria Andrade 6 B, Penha de França, Lisbon
Hours: Open Mon – Sat; 12:00 pm to 10:00 pm
Pro Tips: Skip the bacalhau and instead get the porco preto or other Portuguese typical meats. Reservations highly recommended. Huge portion sizes. Go hungry or plan to share.
#2 A Grelha Masqueria e Churrasqueria in Graça Neighborhood
The first indication this was a local restaurant was the lack of a menu. There was nothing in English and only a slogan of the local beer with unrecognizable dishes written in large letters on the windows.
This was our first night in Lisbon when we discovered this no-frills restaurant local Lisbon restaurant. Intrigued by the animated crowds sharing tables and the busy waiters, we stepped in feeling a little out of place in the very local environment.
However, the warmth and delectable scents of meat sizzling was an invitation to stay. The tables were packed in the middle of the week, though we found a table right by the entrance.
This Lisbon restaurant where locals eat specializes in fish and grilled meat. Once seated, the friendly waiter brought the menu and the traditional couvert with bread, cheese, olives from the Alentejo region and homemade butter. We chose the traditional Portuguese arroz de mariscos or seafood rice stew, a hearty dish for a cold January dinner.
This Lisbon food came in a large bowl, perfect for two to share. The rice was served with a mix of shrimp and clams in their shells, covered with cilantro and a light tomato-based sauce.
Without any hesitation, we joyfully slurped up this soupy rice dish. With the fresh seafood and fragrant herbs, this was the perfect homestyle dish for a winter night.
Where to Eat Seafood in Lisbon Graça Neighborhood
Located on the top of the hill leading to the Graça neighborhood, this local restaurant in Lisbon is tucked away from the tourist attractions. Attached to the nearby Lisbon food market, Mercado de Sapadores, you’ll not miss the large glass windows with the Super Bock beer sign.
A Grelha Marisqueira E Churrasqueira
Address: Rua dos Sapadores 1, Graça, Lisbon
Hours: Open Wednesday – Monday; 12:00 pm to 11:00 pm, Closed on Tuesdays
Pro Tip: In Portugal, you don’t have to pay the couvert if you don’t eat it. However, this local restaurant had some of the best couvert we had in Portugal, with fresh bread and artisanal cheeses. So for this one, feel free to dig in.
#3 Farol Restaurante Cervejaria in Alfama
Walking back from the Museu do Azulejo, the national Portuguese tile museum, we struggled to find a Lisbon local restaurant open on a Sunday afternoon. Luckily, we stumbled onto this restaurant near the Santa Apolonia train station in the Alfama neighborhood.
While restaurants near train stations are never the best choice, too tired to walk any further we decided to give Farol a chance. This restaurant had the typical Portuguese atmosphere, simple and traditional.
The bar counter occupies the main stage, with a few tables spread out in the length of the restaurant. There is additional seating outside, which we could imagine busy on sunny days.
Looking for authentic Portuguese cuisine, we were in luck as we perused the menu. From the sea, we chose two classic dishes. I ordered, polvo a la lagareiro, a Portuguese seafood dish featuring octopus cooked “a la lagareiro-style.”
This style of cooking includes boiled or baked potatoes that are smashed, salted, and tossed with seafood in olive oil with cilantro or other herbs.
The surprisingly tender octopus and potatoes that tasted of the earth made for an enjoyable experience.
Rosemary, dreaming about grilled sardines, chose this typical Lisbon food. Simply prepared, the generous sardines were served with boiled potatoes.
Simple, tasty and filling summarizes the overall experience. Farol, a Lisbon restaurant where locals eat was a surprising find.
Where to Eat in Lisbon Alfama Neighborhood
Farol Restaurante Cervejaria
Address: Rua Caminhos de Ferro 106, Alfama, Lisbon
Hours: Open Mon-Sun; 6:00 am – 12:00 am
The service is rather slow. We went on a Sunday afternoon and were not rushed for time. If you are catching a train at the nearby station, plan for plenty of time in advance of your departure.
Prices are slightly higher than at other Lisbon local restaurants, but we found the quality to be worth it. This is also a great spot to stop for a thirst quenching local Portuguese beer, like Super Bock.
#4 Mascote da Atalaia – Fado and Lisbon Food in Barrio Alto
Have you heard of Fado? Fado is the soul of Portugal and its symbol. Fado now on the Unesco list of cultural heritage, is a musical style originating in Alfama and Bairro Alto, Lisbon old neighborhoods.
Today, Lisbon visitors throng to listen to Fado, a music with melancholic tunes and lyrics. Ironically, it is now performed at well sought-out places, whereas originally you could only hear it at infamous bars where the city’s poor and sailors gathered.
At Mascote da Atalaia, the local and intimate atmosphere stays true to the origin of Fado. Space is limited and tables shared. You go there to listen to Fado with a serving of petiscos and wine.
The night we went to Mascote da Atalaia, a solo Fadita or Fado woman singer, was accompanied by an acoustic guitar and the pear-shaped Portuguese guitar. We decided to go beyond the petiscos and try the Fado menu.
This simple menu included a starter, main dish, dessert as well as wine and coffee.
To start, we both had the hearty caldo verde soup. To follow, Rosemary had a grilled tuna dish with peppers, while I savored a classic Portuguese stew with peas, chorizo and a fried egg on top.
To finish, Rosemary had the pudding with the Ginja, Portuguese sweet cherry liquor, we enjoyed on our Lisbon Food Tour. And, I was in heaven with the marbled looking chocolate salami dessert made with rich chocolate and crunchy Maria biscuits.
While simple, the dishes were tasty and full of flavor. The portions were reasonable and we were happy with the options presented.
If you want to listen to Fado, away from the tourist crowds, we recommend the local Lisbon restaurant, Mascote da Atalaia.
Where to Eat in Lisbon Bairro Alto Neighborhood and Listen to Fado
Address: Rua da Atalaia 13-15, Bairro Alto, Lisbon
Hours: Open Sun-Wed; 6:00 pm – 2:00 am; Thurs – Sat; 6:00 pm – 3:00 am
Pro Tip: To guarantee a seat at this intimate local Lisbon restaurant, make reservations ahead of time. Listen to Fado all evening, while you enjoy the moderately priced menu at 25 euros (approx $29), wine and coffee included.
#5 By The Wine – Petiscos in Chiado
The Portuguese have their own version of Spanish tapas, called petiscos. Like tapas, they are also small bites, but generally small versions of large plates. Petiscos are an important part of Portugal’s gastronomy.
Enjoyed in social settings, petiscos generally consist of sardines, codfish or bacalhau, local sausages, regional cheeses, all washed down with delicious Portuguese wines.
One of the best Lisbon restaurants where locals eat for petiscos is “By The Wine José Maria da Fonseca.” Situated in the trendy Chiado neighborhood, this is the flagship store of the famous Portuguese winemaker José Maria da Fonseca.
Wine lovers will enjoy spectacular Portuguese wines from around the country. To cure a little hunger one afternoon, we stopped in for petiscos.
Accompanying two refreshing glasses of white and rosé wines, we savored a variety of local specialties. The black pig Iberico ham and other cold meats paired perfectly with bread from Algarve. Many local kinds of cheese are available as well as delicacies from the sea like salmon ceviche and mussel salad.
By The Wine in Lisbon is the best Lisbon local restaurant to sample Portugal’s famous petiscos.
Where to Eat in Lisbon Chiado Neighborhood
Address: Rua das Flores 41- 43, Chiado, Lisbon
Hours: Open Tue-Sun; 12:00 pm – 12:00 am
Pro Tip: Local Lisbon restaurant with an inviting atmosphere and a wide selection of Portuguese wines. Try something new and ask the knowledgeable staff for recommendations on the local wines.
#6 Time Out Market – Mercado da Ribeira in Cais do Sodré
The Time Out Market in Lisbon has become one of the most visited and talked about culinary spots in the city. Since it’s opening in 2014, the food hall attracts hundreds of visitors and locals on a daily basis.
The canteen-like food hall has several stalls offering a variety of local Portuguese food, drinks, desserts, and products. On one end are stalls from a few Michelin-star chefs representing different regions of the country. All around are dozens of stalls selling regional specialties.
In the interior of the large open room are communal tables, perfect for those eating in groups. Wines from different regions of Portugal as well as craft beers were also available in the center.
For a sample of the national cheeses and dry cured meats, visit the Manteigaria Silva food stall, the city’s best charcuterie store.
At chef Susana Felicidade’s stall, Cozinha da Felicidade, you’ll be treated to a creative adaptation of bacalhau, Portugal’s national dish.
Bacalhau com Natas, which is divinely prepared codfish with sweet-potato chips and olives, will leave you wanting more. The name of her stall means “Kitchen of Happiness,” and that is exactly how you feel as you savor the fresh, tender and delicate flavors.
Where to Eat in Lisbon Food Market in Cais do Sodré Neighborhood
Address: Av. 24 de Julho 49, Lisbon
Hours: Open every day, 10:00 am to 12:00 pm
Pro Tips: At the peak hours at lunch and dinner, finding a space to eat at this Lisbon food market can be challenging. Go during the off hours for a more relaxed experience.
#7 Casa CID in Cais do Sodré
Located at an inconspicuous corner at the back of the Mercado da Ribeira, Casa CID is the kind of place that you can easily walk by.
Luckily, our local guide, Patricia, a chef, who led our Lisbon food tour told us about this little gem. The restaurant, Patricia said, “is a typical Portuguese bar where locals eat traditional fried foods and other Portuguese dishes.”
Far from the hip and modern feel of the renovated Time Out Market, this corner restaurant takes you back in time.
Graffiti “decorates” the rundown entrance and you won’t find any tourist. Instead, locals sipping on a beer while eating traditional Portuguese food congregate there.
From the outside, you’ll see the food displayed from the window. Several plates of traditionally fried Portuguese food waiting to be served. Freshly grilled sardines, pasteis de bacalhau, and other traditional Lisbon foods entice passersby to stop in.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to venture inside and get the full experience of this local Lisbon restaurant. It is definitely on our list for our next visit to Cais do Sodre.
Where the Locals Eat in Lisbon, Cais do Sodré Neighborhood
Address: Rua Ribeira Nova 32, Cais do Sodré, Lisbon
Hours: Open Mon -Thur: 12:00 pm – 10:30 pm; Fri – Sat: 12pm to 12am; Closed on Sunday
#8 Madragoa Café – Classic Portuguese Cuisine in the Artsy Santos Neighborhood
We stumbled onto Madragoa Café while looking for another local Lisbon restaurant. We were immediately seduced by the warm and cozy environment and Cristina’s welcoming smile.
Seated next to a huge painting of Van Gogh’s “Café Terrace at Night” we perused the menu which featured Portuguese regional and homestyle cuisine.
With a focus on the local specialties, we ordered the restaurant’s signature dish, bacalhau Madragoa. As Cristina brought the dish to the table, she proudly talked about her Portuguese heritage and her unique approach to Lisbon food and Portuguese cuisine.
The dish, she told us “puts a twist on the traditional Portuguese bacalhau or codfish.” The beautiful dish combines melt-in-your-mouth cod with sliced and breaded potato sprinkled with olive oil, and a variety of delicately scented herbs.
The end to a perfect dining experience closes on something sweet. At Madragoa Café, you’ll find a flavor for every taste. While tempted by the decadent chocolate cake, we opted for a traditional almond cake. The morgado da guia, an almond tart with a chocolate base, was the quintessential finale.
For Lisbon restaurants where locals eat, with a “feeling of home,” venture out to the Santos neighborhood for a taste of Portugal’s regional foods.
Where to Eat in Lisbon Santos Neighborhood
Address: Rua da Esperança 136, Santos, Lisbon
Hours: Open every day; 7:00 pm to 12:00 am
Pro Tip: For the best experience, ask Cristina for her personal recommendations. You’ll not be disappointed.
#9 Lisbon Food Market – Mercado de Campo de Ourique
A short tram ride away from central Lisbon is the Campo de Ourique neighborhood, an area rarely visited by tourists.
This neighborhood is known to locals as a foodie haven, where new concepts are tested and launched.
In the core of the neighborhood is Mercado de Campo de Ourique, a food market with a variety of stalls, selling fresh produce, fresh fish and meats. Alongside are stalls serving Portuguese tapas or petiscarias, a variety of Portuguese dishes, drinks and more.
Petescaria – 2 à Esquina, located in the middle of the food hall offers small bites with a touch of modernity. Small dishes that can be eaten in a small frying pan, accompanied by bread, are the main focus. Expect to find mackerel, chorizo, farinheira (Portuguese sausages) and a variety of salads.
If you are willing to taste the flavors of Portugal, where most tourists don’t go, this historic market that opened in 1934 is a treat.
#10 Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém – Iconic Portuguese desserts in Belém
Pastéis de nata, or pastéis de Belém (Belém is the suburb of Lisbon where they were created) are egg custard tarts that were created by monks in a Belém pastry shop in 1837.
These desserts are the most iconic and famous Portuguese dessert. While you find pasteis de nata at almost every Pastelerias or pastry shop, a trip to the original Belém pastry shop is a must.
Made by Monks who were expelled during a revolution in 1820, selling the pastries was a way to make money. Shortly, the pastries became very popular with local visitors after a small store attached to a sugar refinery started selling them.
Today, the store Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém has preserved the traditional recipe. So popular, the store bakes over 10,000 tarts per day for visitors seeking to taste this unique traditional recipe.
This is the only store that can sell these pastries under the name Pastel de Belém.
The puff pastry-like dough is made with lots of butter folded into the layers. Small pie shells are filled with the egg custard preparation and then cooked in a very hot oven. Pastéis de natas are served warm with a strong cup of Portuguese coffee, called bica in Lisbon.
Besides pastéis de Belém, you can also find savory options. The hot ham and cheese sandwiches called tostadas are our personal favorites. You’ll also find quiche, croissants and more.
Lisbon has established itself as one of Europe’s hippest destinations. With a thriving tourist scene, comes tourist trap restaurants and trendy food concepts.
Portuguese and Lisbon food is simple, flavorful and impeccably prepared. If you are unsure of where to eat, go to the Lisbon restaurants where locals eat.
Explore the city and use this Lisbon food guide to find the best Lisbon restaurants where locals eat.
If you prefer to take a food tour with a local, click below and book your off the beaten path tour of Lisbon with Taste of Lisboa.
Do you have a favorite place to eat authentic Portuguese food in Lisbon? In the comments below, please tell us your favorite place to eat Lisbon food.
Savor The Adventure!
Where to Stay in Lisbon And Eat Where Locals Eat
Our preferred neighborhoods for a local food experience in Lisbon are Penha de França and Campo de Ourique. Very local, both these neighborhoods are easily accessible to and from the main venues and tourist attractions in Lisbon.
In Campo de Ourique, we visited Hotel da Estrela and enjoyed the charming and serene atmosphere, away from the bustling capital city. The decor is contemporary decor with the basic amenities including free wi-fi, private bathrooms with walk-in showers and more.
The hotel restaurant serves traditional Portuguese cuisine including Portuguese conventual desserts. There is also a private garden where you can relax with a glass of wine. You’re in close proximity to restaurants and shopping and getting around is easy.
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Claire is a culinary explorer and the engineer brain behind Authentic Food Quest. Together with her partner, Rosemary, 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. Take the quiz and find out your Food Traveler Profile.
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10 Authentic Food Experiences You Want To Delight in Portugal