4 Precious Tips for Eating and Drinking in Lisbon and Cascais on a Budget
Publish date : October 12, 2022
Traveling (or living) on a budget sometimes makes us feel we’re not enjoying a travel or living experience to the fullest. That’s why we bring you 4 precious tips for eating and drinking in Lisbon and Cascais that don’t require any sacrifices.
Eat at local restaurants
Start off with a delicious but simple breakfast, the Portuguese way: a hot coffee with milk and toast or cake. This can be very affordable at local cafés and pastelarias (cafes/pastry shops). Order some extra pastéis de nata, areias, pão de deus or any other tasty-looking pastries you lay your eyes on. You can eat them later when you’re craving a snack.
A typical lunchtime is from 12 pm to 2 pm. Restaurants’ kitchens often close at 3 pm. You want to look for restaurants and tascas (Portuguese bistros) where the Portuguese eat on a daily basis. In places like that, you’ll be sure to find one or a couple of daily dishes (pratos do dia), that are considerably cheaper than anything à la carte. Check if there’s a menu option too, combining soup, dish, dessert, and espresso. You’ll know you’re at the right place if it costs less than €10. If you’re not particularly hungry, have a bifana no pão or prego no pão, both typical meat sandwiches. Against your best intuition, bifana is actually with pork and prego with beef.
Dinner is usually from 8 to 9 pm, sometimes later on Fridays and Saturdays. Go to a tasca and share some petiscos (tapas), like a cheese platter, pastéis de bacalhau (salted cod fritters), charred chouriço sausage, olives, and bread. In the summer, look for a paper towel sign with the handwritten words ‘Há caracóis’. This will lead the way to cheap fresh snails. Actually, the more paper signs there are, and the more paper towels are used in general, the more likely that tasca is the real deal.
Of course there are international fast-food chains that can beat local restaurant prices, but where’s the fun in that? At least, let me tell you about the local ones. You can find these names scattered across town: h3 Hamburgology (a lot of them in Lisbon, one in CascaiShopping), Hamburgueria do Bairro (a lot of them in Lisbon, one in central Cascais), and Madpizza (a few of them in Lisbon, but none in the center, and one in the Oeiras Parque mall in Oeiras). Hamburgueria do Bairro has very decent vegetarian and vegan hamburgers, though meat ones make up most of the menu.
Skip the appetizers at restaurants
It’s common courtesy for the waiter to bring simple appetizers to the table (bread, cheese, olives, pâté, what have you). What isn’t common courtesy is for the restaurant to offer you these things, you’ll pay up when the bill comes. They’re not expensive, but it’s probably a cost you don’t need. You can simply tell the waiter to take them back — the best-guaranteed way there won’t be any surprises at the end.
Drink house wine, imperiais, sangria, and ginjinhas
Save for special occasions, most of us don’t need special wine, craft beer, champagne sangria or fancy liquors. We like it trivial and simple. That’s what these suggestions are all about.
Portugal is big on producing wine of all colors and varieties, so you can get wine at a wide range of prices. The house wine at a restaurant is the cheapest and, honestly, perfectly good! You can get it in a glass (at around €2), small bottle or big bottle. Also, salty food sometimes calls for a refreshing beer, so why not have the everyday draft beer that we call imperial? The brand is usually Sagres or Super Bock, but — despite local belief — they both taste similar. 25cl will be about €1. If you’re at a tasca, they might give you tremoços (lupin beans) or peanuts to go with. These are free, you can enjoy them guilt-free!
In the summer, you might prefer a sangria with your meal, which is usually a bit more expensive and you can’t always find a place where they’ll serve it in a glass. If you’re in a group, you can order a jar for everyone.
At the end of a meal or as a treat in the middle of the afternoon, have a ginjinha, a sour cherry liquor served in a shot glass.
Drink tap water
I’m personally not a fan of tap water in Lisbon and Cascais, because it tastes like chlorine, but there’s nothing wrong with it from a health standpoint. It all comes down to personal taste: a lot of people around me seem to think it has quite a neutral taste.
If you have a reusable bottle, bring it with you, you’ll find water fountains where to refill them. At restaurants, you’ll also save some money by ordering a copo de água.