The Algarve Restaurants

Unless otherwise noted, casual dress is acceptable throughout the Algarve. Reservations are not needed off-season, but they’re typically required at the better restaurants in summer. Algarvean cooking makes good use of local seafood. The most unusual regional appetizer—espadarte fumado (smoked swordfish)—is sliced thin, served with a salad, and best when accompanied by a dry white

wine. Other seafood starters include deep-fried sardines, cold octopus salad, and marinated mackerel fillets. Restaurants generally serve their own version of sopa de peixe (fish soup) as well as a variety of succulent shellfish, including percebes (barnacles), santola (crab), and gambas (shrimp). Although main courses often depend on what has been landed that day, there's generally a choice of robalo (sea bass), pargo (bream), atum (tuna), and espadarte.

At simple beach cafés and harbor stalls the unmistakable smell of sardinhas assadas (charcoal-grilled sardines) permeates the air. These make a tempting lunch served with fresh bread and a sparkling "green wine" like Casal Garcia, which is indigenous to Portugal. Perhaps the most famous Algarvean dish is cataplana—a stew of clams, pork, onions, tomatoes, and wine—which takes its name from the lidded utensil used to steam the dish. You have to wait for cataplana to be specially prepared, but once you've tasted it, you won't mind waiting again and again.

In inland rural areas, game highlights most menus, with many meat dishes served do forno (oven roasted). Specialties include cabrito (baby goat), leitão (suckling pig), and codorniz (quail), as well as ensopado de borrego (lamb stew).

Regional desserts are varied and most eateries, right down to the smallest backstreet café, will offer some form of homemade sweet, probably chocolate mousse, caramel flan, doce da casa, or a baked cake. Other traditional Algarvean sweets include rich egg, sugar, and almond custards that reflect the Moorish influence, including doces de amêndoa (marzipan cakes in the shapes of animals and flowers), bolos de Dom Rodrigo (almond sweets with egg-and-sugar filling), bolo Algarvio (cake made of sugar, almonds, eggs, and cinnamon), and morgado de figos do Algarve (fig-and-almond paste). You will find these on sale in pastelarias (cake shops) and in some cafés.

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