Visiting Portugal is always a treat. The friendly people, vibrant culture, and outstanding cuisine make it an ideal destination. The beachy town of Cascais (pronounced kash-kaish), which we presently call home, is about 30 minutes west of Lisbon on the Atlantic Ocean coast and part of the Portuguese Riviera. Portugal was neutral during World War II, so European royalty and celebrities used this elegant coastal area as a summer getaway and refuge during the war.
Of course, what we like best about Cascais is all the delicious food it has to offer. Here is just a sampling of some of the best foods to try in Cascais.
If it’s in the sea, you’ll find it at just about any restaurant in Cascais. The Portuguese are known for their dried salted cod, bacalhau, a remainder of their history as seafaring explorers. One classic preparation is bacalhau à brás, the cod brought to life with eggs, potatoes, and onions. Served with a side salad, it’s a satisfying lunch choice.
Fish enthusiasts rejoice at your pick of sole, grouper, salmon, sea bass, tuna, sea bream, turbot, monkfish, and many others. We had a delicious sea bass at a favorite Cascais homestyle restaurant or “tasca,” Manjar Da Vila Cascais. Seafood lovers will find many types of shrimp, lobster, clams, crab, mussels, prawns, oysters, and more. Look for the small sweet slipper lobsters that are a specialty of Cascais. Mussel fans will like the Cascais restaurant devoted to them, Moules and Gin.
Another popular seafood is octopus. Many restaurants offer a lemon, garlic, and olive oil-infused octopus salad as a starter. Polvo à Lagareiro is a favorite main dish of octopus baked with potatoes and broccoli rabe in a sauce of garlic, spices, and olive oil. You’ll need some yummy Portuguese bread with it to sop up every drop. We loved ours at Taberna Económica De Cascais.
Bonus Tip: Steak Sandwich For Seafood Meal Dessert
Just finished a lovely seafood dinner in Cascais? Complete your meal with a Prego for dessert. What’s a Prego? It’s a thinly sliced marinated steak grilled with herbs and served on a soft Portuguese roll. A steak sandwich for dessert? We discovered this when we saw some people sitting next to us polish one off after their seafood meal and were told that it was a Cascais tradition, though they are eaten at other times too. So, we gave it a try. And, it may sound crazy, but it really hit the spot. We tried our first Prego after a delightful fresh seafood meal at Marisco na Praça, conveniently located in the Cascais Mercado da Vila. It won’t be our last.
2. Meat And Sausages
There are lots of delicious meat dishes in Cascais. Although Carne de porco Alentejana originated in central Portugal, this unique combination of cubed pork, tiny clams, and potatoes in tangy sauce is served everywhere, including Cascais. Tender pork and beef steaks are readily available, and the array of sausages is absolutely dazzling. There are cured and fresh sausages galore. If you can’t decide which meat you want, try the mixed grill at Flecha Azul for a bit of everything at a great price.
Roasted suckling pig makes a great sandwich. Grab one with a beer at HM Caneira, sit at a table, and people-watch. Portugal’s kinship with Brazil also provides delicious meats and sausages. You’ll find excellent beef from the Azores islands, many Brazilian dishes and even those tasty cheesy rolls, pão de queijo, at Brazilian steakhouses in Cascais, including the well-known churrascaria Fogo de Chão.
3. Pica Pau
A dish whose name means “woodpecker” might sound odd. But the name actually refers to the way a woodpecker pecks at a tree — the same way you need to pick at this dish before your fellow diners if you want to get any! Pica Pau is tender beef or pork pieces in a savory beer sauce topped with pickled vegetables. Friends share this snack while watching football and having a few beers or before a meal. We enjoyed it as a shared appetizer with fantastic ocean views at Grelhas Restaurante in Cascais’ popular Casa da Guia complex.
4. Grilled Chicken
You will find grilled or “barbecued” chicken all over Portugal. When in Cascais, try the well-loved Jardim de Frangos, or Chicken Garden. If you’re anywhere close to the restaurant in downtown Cascais, you’ll smell the marinated chicken roasting on the grill. The meal typically comes with a small salad and the best French fries you may ever eat. Crispy outside and fluffy on the inside. While known for their chicken, they have a wide menu with many other options, including the ribs, which are tender and delicious. These are not ribs slathered in barbecue sauce, just simply marinated and grilled. If you love heat, sprinkle some spicy piri-piri sauce on either.
5. Fresh Fruits And Vegetables
We love visiting farmers markets, and Cascais has several. The large Mercado da Vila downtown and the Agrobio (organic) Market in the Parque Marechal Carmona are two of our favorites. Greet the vendors with a warm “Bom Dia!” in the morning or “Boa Tarde!” in the afternoon, and they’ll brighten at your learning even a little of their language.
Mercado da Vila is open every day, but the big days are Wednesdays and Saturdays. The array of fresh fruits and vegetables is a rainbow of delight. Along with local produce, you’ll find fresh-baked bread and pastries, meat and poultry, and a huge fish market. There are also special events highlighting offerings like chocolate, craft beer, and honey. Shop like a local and get there early. Restaurants upstairs and vendors outside offer a quick meal, snack, or coffee break.
The Cascais Argobio Market is on Saturdays in the lovely Parque Marechal Carmona. Here you’ll find fresh organic vegetables and fruit. Stroll through the park. It has a café and lots of birds, including very social roosters and a peacock who may display his tail feathers for you, if he’s so inclined.
A small Eco market runs through Jardim Visconde da Luz on most days. Here you’ll find local artisanal products like the fabulous honey we bought while walking home one day.
We admit it. We love a good burger. If you do too, check out Burguês Hamburgueria Portuguesa for some of the best. They have indoor and outdoor seating and lots of drinks. These burgers are mighty, so make sure you’re hungry or split a burger and some sides. We each ate half of ours and enjoyed the other half for another meal.
They have many different choices of toppings and styles so you can create the burger of your dreams. Options also include chicken and veggie burgers. The fries are perfectly cooked, too. We’re beginning to wonder if there’s something special about the potatoes here in Portugal.
7. Sweet Treats
The Portuguese love their sweets, and you’ll often see locals stopping for a quick coffee and a small, sweet treat. We admire their ability to have just one. Local pastelarias are everywhere, and if you follow the lines of people, you will find the best in town. Be sure to try the Portuguese culinary national treasure, the pastel de nata (a small creamy custard tart). Every place has its own special recipe, so try as many as you can, and get them fresh and warm whenever possible.
Cascais bakeries have many cookies to tempt you, too. The famous areias (sand) cookies are so delicate they melt in your mouth and fall apart like sand in the bag or box if you’re not careful. We dare you to have just one.
There are cookies topped with icing, dipped in chocolate, and filled with jam or creme and many different flavors. Lemon and almond are quite popular. Two local Cascais favorites to check out are A Bijou de Cascais and Sacolinha. You’ll find quality in-house bakeries at local grocery stores, too.
Don’t stop at the cookies, cakes, and pastries. When strolling the shop-filled streets of Cascais, you’ll notice people with ice cream cones. Join the parade and stop at Santini for light and flavorful artisanal ice cream and sorbet. They have been using the same recipes for over 70 years, with no dyes and no added aromas, preservatives, or thickeners. With over 200 flavors that rotate every day, from passion fruit to pistachio, there’s a lot to try!
Have we tempted you to visit our new hometown of Cascais with all these wonderful tastes? We sure hope so.
You will often be offered “couverts” that are brought to your table before you order — typically bread, cheese, olives, and butter. These are not free. You will be charged for what you eat. If you don’t want these added items, just tell the server, and they will take them away.