If you’d like to enjoy an authentic Portuguese lunch in Lisbon on a budget, there are at least two concepts that you should familiarize yourself with.
Tascas are down to earth eateries, serving food and drinks, where a lot of Lisbon locals head to for lunch during the day, or for some wine and petiscos (that is, Portuguese tapas) at night. This type of establishment could be compared to taverns, and they may be typical and even old-school, or quite contemporary. When you visit a tasca, you can generally expect dishes to be traditional or at least rooted in traditional recipes, generous portions and fair prices.
The second concept you should be familiar with if you are interested in enjoying an affordable but delicious lunch in Lisbon is prato do dia. This is the Portuguese phrase that refers to daily specials, that is, the dishes that aren’t a part of the a la carte menu of the restaurant but that are prepared fresh on that given day. These specials, which are customarily divided into fish (peixe) and meat (carne) dishes, are sometimes turned into a combo, along with a soup, drink of choice, sometimes dessert, and an espresso coffee. These complete set menus, often advertised in window shops handwritten on a disposable tablecloth, go by the name of menu do dia. These specials can include very representative dishes of the Portuguese home style food repertoire, which don’t necessarily often make it to permanent restaurant menus. As such, daily specials on more humble restaurants and pastelarias shouldn't certainly be overlooked. Not only for the sake of saving money, but actually for the pleasure of widening your ideas of what Portuguese food is all about, always keeping in mind that affordable doesn’t translate in lack of quality, flavor or authenticity. Quite often, the opposite happens.
Besides tascas and actual restaurants, the most common type of establishments to actually serve prato do dia are pastelarias. Even though the name of this kind of business translates as pastry shop, the truth is that Portuguese pastelarias do so much more than serving breakfast, coffee breaks and cakes. In fact, many Lisboetas (that is, Lisbon residents) head to pastelarias during weekdays for affordable home style cooked lunches. But as this is something that only happens from Monday to Friday, you should certainly keep other businesses in mind so as not to starve during weekend lunches too!
If you’re hungry for incredible lunches of Portuguese food spending up to 10 euros, these are (in no particular order) some the restaurants you should visit in Lisbon:
A Floresta da Estefânia
We open this list with a restaurant in Cooking Lisbon’s very own neighborhood, Estefânia. “Estefânia’s forest" encapsulates what Lisbon’s eateries were like a couple of decades ago. Here, the focus certainly doesn’t go towards an updated decor or online marketing efforts. It’s all about the food: simple, tasty, abundant enough and affordable. As it often happens with this kind of tasca, pork grills are some of the highlights, with sides of golden fried potatoes and not too much attention paid to vegetables, which in Portugal anyway are most often consumed in the form of soup as an appetizer.
🍴 Rua Cidade da Horta 39,1000-101 Lisbon (Estefânia)
As Lisbon’s city center increasingly caters to tourists, either with internationally influenced menus or simply focusing on a limited repertoire of more well-known Portuguese dishes, restaurants such as Das Flores become a rare gem we must treasure. This eatery is only open for lunch, where José Fernandes and his family (wife in the kitchen, and daughters waiting tables) dish out large servings of traditional Portuguese food. Working class folks and suit-and-tie workers pack Das Flores during lunch hours to satisfy their midday hunger with dishes such as cod fritters, meat croquetes with saucy tomato rice, and iscas, that is, pan fried beef liver seasoned with garlic and bay leaf, served with plenty of onions and boiled potatoes.
🍴 Rua das Flores 76, 1200-195 Lisbon (Baixa-Chiado)
Zé dos Cornos
An icon of the neighborhood of Mouraria, Zé dos Cornos is a family-owned tasca where you’re invited to sit communally at big tables with benches. The types of dishes that stand out from the menu are grills, particularly pork based ones, such as the almost legendary ribs, known in Portuguese as piano, because of the resemblance between the connected pieces of meat and bone with the musical instrument. No matter what you choose at Zé dos Cornos, expect incredibly generous portions that stay true to the Portuguese hospitality principles of abundance at the table.
🍴 Beco dos Surradores 5, 1100-591 Lisbon (Mouraria)
In this day and age that inflation is the talk of the town, it’s incredible to note that some of the prices at Pato Real have been the same for years and years. Amazingly, the quality has been consistent all along, something that owners and brothers José and Carlos Amaral are very proud of. As it would be easy to predict, Pato Real has a legion of loyal customers that visit weekly for lunches that vary daily, but that often include some popular dishes such as roasted duck (referring to the name of the restaurant as pato means duck in Portuguese), beans and meats stew, several salt cod dishes such as pataniscas fritters and Lisbon’s most iconic dish, bacalhau à brás, a scramble prepared with shredded salt cod, matchstick fried potatoes and onions. Come have lunch at Pato Real and feed yourself like a royal for as little as 5 euros!
🍴 Avenida de Berna 37, 1050-181 Lisbon (Avenidas Novas)
This no-frills restaurant has existed since 1930 and is protected under the Lojas com História municipal program that highlights and supports shops which have contributed to Lisbon’s identity. Rustic servings at incredible good value are what hungry diners flock to A Provinciana for. Expect dishes ranging from simple meat or fish grills, to other celebrated Portuguese recipes such as arroz de cabidela, vinegary chicken rice cooked with its own blood, polvo à lagareiro, roasted octopus drenched in olive oil, roasted pork knuckle, and so much more. It’s mind blowing how this kind of restaurant still exists in Lisbon’s very touristic center - so be sure to make the most of it!
🍴Travessa do Forno 23/25, 1150-193 Lisbon (Restauradores)
A Tasca do Gordo
If you crave a good Portuguese lunch when you visit Belém, the so-called monument district of Lisbon, famous for its historical buildings and as the birthplace of Pastéis de Belém, walk a little further from the tourist action and head to A Tasca do Gordo. This is the kind of place that focuses on simple and honest food, and that will have locals sigh out loud “they don’t make them like this anymore”! This translates on a limited permanent menu but a good rotation of daily specials. Most regulars come here for the grilled meat or the dobrada, Portuguese tripe and white bean stew. When the weather is pleasant, ask for a seat at the terrace at the back and enjoy your meal outdoors.
🍴Rua Cordoeiros a Pedrouços 33, 1400-071 Lisbon (Belém)
Tasquinha do Lagarto
If you’re a fan of Sporting, the Portuguese green soccer club, you must come here. And if you couldn’t care less about football but still love Portuguese food cooked homestyle, still visit Tasquinha do Largarto, a very rewarding stop in the neighborhood of Campolide. This restaurant made a name for itself because of some of the specialities that it serves, including cozido à Portuguesa, that is, Portuguese meats stew, as well as the grilled octopus (pictured here), roasted pork cheeks, and saucy rices featuring different fish such as grouper or monkfish. When it comes to dessert, their biscuits cake with a dollop of chocolate mousse (an unlikely combination elsewhere) is worth saving some space for!
🍴Rua de Campolide 258 C, 1070-039 Lisbon (Campolide)
If there’s one meat dish that is internationally associated with Portuguese cuisine, that is grilled chicken, or peri-peri chicken. In Portugal, this is known as frango de churrasco, and it is served at BBQ focused restaurants known as churrascarias. A Valenciana is all about charcoal grills and their star dish is indeed chicken, which folks from all over Lisbon come to enjoy here or to take-away. Expect succulent meat and crispy skin, and the punch of spicy peri-peri sauce, which you can add to taste. Arguably, this is one of the best things you ought to taste in Lisbon, for such a delicious price too!
🍴Rua Marquês de Fronteira 157/163A, 1070-294 Lisbon (Campolide)
Casa da Índia
The name of this restaurant is misleading, almost making you think that Indian food is what’s served around here. But when you see the chickens getting charred on the grill by the window shop, you start suspecting that there’s something quite Portuguese cooking inside… Indeed, Casa da Índia is as Portuguese as they come, serving grills and comfort food until the late hours. Besides well-known local foods, this restaurant serves daily specials with dishes such as fried tiny fish with saucy rice, roasted rabbit and quail. An interesting choice if you’d like to broaden your knowledge about Portuguese food in the very heart of the city!
🍴Rua do Loreto 49/51, 1200-241 Lisbon (Bairro Alto)
After visiting A Castiça and a few other tascas around Lisbon, you’ll start noticing that there is a correlation between football and incredible food at good prices. That’s exactly what happens here, at a tavern decorated with soccer club scarves that, in between mouthfuls of home cooked Portuguese dishes, helps break the ice and gets the conversation rolling with diners and staff. Husband and wife Inocêncio and Joaquina delight regulars with dishes that change daily, with particular focus on grills. A few times a month, they even run live fado music shows but, for that, you’d have to come back for dinner!
🍴Rua da Castiça 2 A, 1750-056 Lisbon (Lumiar)
Rui do Barrote
Well-established restaurants like Rui do Barrote still capture the essence of what the area used to be like before it started being gentrified. Just like some of its peers on this list of affordable Portuguese lunches in Lisbon, Rui do Barrote specializes in grills over charcoal, featuring fresh fish and meats, as well as other dishes involving staple ingredients like salted cod, octopus and different cuts of beef.
🍴Rua Castelo Branco Saraiva 95A, 1170-085 Lisbon (Penha de França)
A Licorista e o Bacalhoeiro