Tascas and Cantinhos in Lisbon

Lisbon has the stylish modern restaurants that mark it as a culinary destination worthy of Frank Bruni's assessment in the New York Times, but in addition this is a city of humble Tascas and Cantinhos serving traditional foods simply done. With plates of the day and special offerings at lunch, meals are around the ten euro mark or less. Wine may come in a pottery jug or a open bottle on the table from which you will be charged for only what you drink.

These simple restaurants will not earn any awards for their decor and with tables crowed together you will probably be seated cheek by jowl. If there is an open seat next to you it could be taken at any moment so prepare to move that handbag or coat you've deposited there. There is probably a television, though if you're lucky the sound will be off. The atmosphere is more likely to be noisy and communal rather than romantic.

We've been eating at a number of these places and I've tended towards grilled seafood. The fish and meat is often displayed in the restaurant window and the grill is generally visible from the street. Sometimes you'll see a hand written menu of the daily specials. It is advisable to follow the  crowds for the best of low-cost dining, they certainly know where to go to find the balance of value and quality. We followed the locals right into Principe do Calhariz around the corner from our flat. We ate grilled sea bass and grilled chicken with wine and water for twenty euro.

I'm not quite sure why grilled chicken comes with  rice AND chips but luckily for me grilled fish dishes seem to be served with boiled potatoes and a vegetable. On another day we enjoyed a similar meal at the friendly Restaurante Verde Minho not far the National Theatre.

This afternoon we ate at Floresta do Salitre across from the office where D. is working. The restaurant was heaving with office workers coming in for their lunch. Again the grilled seafood appealed to me (this time squid and prawns) while D. had sausage and egg. The menu like many of the others includes traditional bacalhau (cod) dishes as well as grilled meats and seafood rice.
Some of these places are so small they are more snack bars than restaurant. I particularly like the extremely modest Cantinho da Saudade across the street from the Mercado Ribiera. The food is displayed as it cooks in the window. The lady who works here showed me how she makes the different types of bacalhau fritters including one with potato and one with flour. In addition to the cod fritters I ate a stew from northern Portugal with chick peas, pasta, cabbage and pork picture at the top of this post. Like so much of the food in Lisbon it was salty but delicious.

I couldn't resist including the photo below of a meal I made for A. & A., this was my version of a traditional meal simply done.