Restaurants

With the exception of some luxury hotel dining rooms, restaurants are casual in dress and atmosphere. The emphasis is generally more on the food than on the trappings.

At almost any of the ubiquitous beach bar–restaurants, you can't go wrong by ordering the peixe do dia (fish of the day). In most cases it will have been caught only hours before and will be prepared outside on a charcoal grill. You'll usually be served the whole fish along with boiled potatoes and a simple salad. Wash it down with a chilled white Dão wine, and you have a delicious, satisfying, and relatively inexpensive meal. In Figueira da Foz and in the Aveiro region, enguias (eels), lampreia (lamprey), and caldeirada (a fish stew that's a distant cousin of the French bouillabaisse) are popular.

The inland Bairrada region, between Coimbra and Aveiro, is well known for leitão assado (roast suckling pig). In Coimbra the dish to try is chanfana; this is traditionally made with tender young kid braised in red wine and roasted in an earthenware casserole. In the mountains, fresh truta (trout) panfried with bacon and onions is often served, as is javali (wild boar). Bacalhau (dried, salted cod) in one form or another appears on just about every menu in the region. Bacalhau à brás (fried in olive oil with eggs, onions, and potatoes) is one of the many popular versions of this dish.

The Beiras contain two of Portugal's most notable wine districts: Bairrada and Dão. The reds from these districts generally benefit from a fairly long stay in the bottle. The flowery whites from around here should be drunk much younger. Bairrada is also well-known for its superb sparkling wines.

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