In the Alentejo, the country's granary, bread is a major part of most meals. It's the basis of a popular dish known as açorda, a thick, stick-to-your-ribs porridge to which various ingredients such as fish, meat, and eggs are added. Açorda de marisco—bread with eggs, seasonings, and assorted shellfish—is one of the more popular varieties. Another version, açorda alentejana, consists of a clear broth, olive oil, garlic, cilantro, slices of bread, and poached eggs. Cação, also called baby shark or dogfish, is a white-meat fish with a single bone down the back and is mostly served in a fish soup or as part of a porridge.
Pork from the Alentejo is the best in the country and often is combined with clams, onions, and tomatoes in the classic dish carne de porco à alentejana. One of Portugal's most renowned sheep's milk cheeses—tangy, but mellow when properly ripened—is made in the Serpa region. Alentejo wines—especially those from around Borba, Reguengos de Monsaraz, and Vidigueira—are regular prizewinners at national tasting contests.
Between mid-June and mid-September, reservations are advised at upscale restaurants. Many moderate or inexpensive establishments, however, don't accept reservations and have informal dining rooms where you share a table with other diners. Dress at all but the most luxurious restaurants is casual.