Restaurants

On the whole, restaurants in Porto and the north offer extremely good value, although the smaller ones often don't accept credit cards. Dress throughout the region is informal, and reservations are usually unnecessary.

The cooking in Porto is rich and heavy. It's typified by the city's favorite dish, tripas à moda do Porto (Porto-style tripe), a concoction involving beans, chicken, sausage, vegetables, and spices. Caldo verde ("green soup") is also ubiquitous; it's made of potato and shredded kale in a broth and is usually served with a slice or two of chouriço sausage. Fresh fish is found all the way up the coast, and every town has a local recipe for bacalhau (dried and salted cod); in the Minho it's often à Gomes de Sá (cooked with potatoes, onions, and eggs). Lampreias (lampreys)—eel-like fish—are found in Minho rivers from February through April and are a specialty of Viana do Castelo and Monção. In the mountains wonderful truta (trout) is available in any town or village close to a river.

As is the case throughout Portugal, pork is the meat most often seen on menus, but nearer the border with Spain, wonderfully tender veal and steak can be found in the form of posta mirandesa and barrosã. Most dishes will be served with batatas (potatoes) or arroz (rice), both fine examples of staples being raised to an art form. Potatoes here, whether roasted, boiled, or fried, have an irresistibly nutty and sweet flavor. Rice is lightly sautéed with chopped garlic in olive oil before adding water, resulting in a side dish that could easily be devoured as a main course.

The wine available throughout the north is of high quality. The Minho region's vinho verde is a light, young, slightly sparkling red or white wine. The taste is refreshing, fruity, with good acid—qualities that also make it an excellent starting point for distilling aguardente (Portuguese brandy). Both reds and whites are served chilled, and vinho verde goes exceptionally well with fish and shellfish. Port enjoys the most renown of the local wines (ask for vinho do Porto), but the Douro region, where the grapes are grown for port, also produces some of Portugal's finest table wines.

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