Eat tripe, or don’t eat tripe
“Something very strange for someone visiting Portugal for the first time is that they serve you straightaway,” Nogueira says. “Even before you order they’ll bring you bread and appetizers, and even if you don’t eat them you still have to pay. So if you don’t want them, just say, “no, thank you” before they serve you.”
This is practical advice for saving money, but the trouble is that the appetizers in question -- gizzards, charcuterie, mussels, octopus and multiple types of bread -- are very, very good. Fish Fixe (say ‘fish fish’) is an especially good stop for this in Porto; ordinarily, I’d say it’s too close to the main tourist drag, but their second-story view of the River Douro is just so charming. For serious seafood -- where the catch-of-the-day is laid out on ice -- go to Os Luisadas. You must save room for dessert, but I really don’t know how anyone manages that, so please write me if you do. As far as eating-outdoors-with-a-view goes, DOC Restaurant on the river in the Douro region is tough to beat. And yes, you should eat Porto’s signature dish. Tripas à moda do Porto contains cow’s foot, pig’s ear, white beans and, of course, tripe; basically it’s exactly the kind of dish Anthony Bourdain would have wanted you to eat. Try it at A Cozinha do Manel.
Get cinnamon-covered pineapple (don’t ask questions, just do it). The Douro Valley is also known for its olive oil, so don’t sleep on that while you’re there. Not that anyone would let you, the stuff’ll be drizzled up and down something or other at every meal. And if you look closely enough you’ll see a decorative sardine at bars, restaurants and bars around the country -- it’s a beloved (and delicious) national emblem.
“In the past, canned fish was for poor people,” says Miguel, a guide at the Quinta da Roêda vineyard. “But now it’s fashion -- we have big chefs preparing some big dishes with canned fish. And port is the same thing. It’s the marketing that changed the way we look at port, so now it’s a fancy thing.”
I’m sure many of you picked this up a while ago, but when we talk about Portugal and Porto, we’re talking about port. You should drink port here. You might know only the deep ruby drink (still good!) but here especially you should try white port. It’s also made from grapes but tastes like honey that makes you tipsy. When you tour a port cellar -- try Ferreira Cellars in downtown Porto -- the barrels smell like they’re full of honey, but honey that lowers your inhibitions. And this is somehow the cheapest of the three varieties (the other two being the more familiar ruby and tawny).
There are no hard rules about tipping in Portugal -- it’s normal to leave a bit extra if you want to, but not compulsory the way it is in the States.