There are hundreds of places to eat in Porto, from little old-town tascas and Art Nouveau cafés to riverfront designer restaurants.
However, on any lengthy stay you might struggle for variation, despite the size of the city and number of establishments. Menus are broadly similar, with grilled fish, seafood and bacalhau as staples. The local speciality is tripas (tripe) – the story goes that the inhabitants selflessly gave away all their meat for Infante Dom Henrique’s expeditions to North Africa, leaving themselves only the tripe, and it’s been on the menu ever since, cooked à moda do Porto (stewed with chouriço and white beans). Also typically portuense are caldo verde (a thick vegetable soup) and grilled sardines, whilst courtesy of returning emigrants is the francesinha (“little French thing”) – a doorstep of steak, sausage and ham between toasted bread, covered with melted cheese and a peppery tomato-and-beer sauce.
Both sides of the Douro have become the default places to spend the evening. Along Porto’s Cais da Ribeira a dozen largely touristy fish restaurants are installed under the arches, with more simple places hidden along Rua da Fonte Taurina and other back streets. Over the bridge in Vila Nova de Gaia, there’s a mix of traditional fish places and international restaurants and bars – Spanish tapas, Indian and Italian restaurants, Brazilian grill house and Irish pub are all present. However, the cheapest meals tend to be found in the city centre – there are lots of budget places around the university (facing the Jardim da Cordoaria), up Rua do Bonjardim, south of the Clérigos church (on streets like Rua dos Caldeireiros) and near Praça da Batalha. In the main market, the Mercado do Bolhão, you can also eat a very cheap lunch of grilled sardines and the like at a couple of little cafés amid the flower stalls.