One of the most beloved local dishes from Porto both by residents or tourists is without a doubt the Francesinha. Translated directly as little Frenchie, it is considered by AOL Travel one of the 10 best sandwiches in the world!
The origins of Francesinha can be traced back to the 60s when a Portuguese immigrant in Paris which adulterated the french recipe of croque-monsieur returned to Porto, his hometown. According to the tale, Silva, the Chef, used to refer to the French women as the spiciest he ever met, referring to the femme fatale charm. This was something which clearly contrasted with the Portuguese women living in a conservative and highly patriarchal society by then under the dictatorship of Salazar). Eager to make Portuguese women “take off” a few their clothes, he covered the original recipe with a secret very spicy sauce, while adding more layers of meat in the sandwich. The legend was born!
Don’t be deceived by the name. Francesinha is a typical dish which is the materialized nightmare of non-meat eaters, since it consists of several layers of meat, such as beef, bacon and sausage. Add a spicy secret sauce and several slices of melted cheese and it becomes enemy number one for the ones looking to eat strictly healthy!
Vegan or meat lover, is mandatory that everyone who visits Porto tastes this sandwich and we, as the nice locals that we are, will present you the 10 best restaurants to eat Francesinha. You can find the list restaurants where you can eat cheap yet great francesinha, or try new variations of the dish, including vegan alternatives.
1 – Santiago
What: The first entry is also the most popular among tourists. It’s located in the heart of the city, in front of the Porto Coliseum, near Rua de Santa Catarina and Avenida dos Aliados. The restaurant appeared in several international magazines and its specialty is the standard francesinha, which is served well and generously. The sauce of this restaurant is extra spicy, so be ready to drink a lot. Usually large queues are formed here due to the fact the restaurant is small, so if you want to be in the heart of the trend and don’t mind being in a crowded place, then Santiago is for you.
Why: Trendy, central and flawless
Where: Rua de Passos Manuel, 198, Baixa, Porto
2 – Café Nelma
What: This restaurant isn’t very popular amongst tourists, but I can assure you it is for locals. This restaurant isn’t the original Nelma, since the previous was so crowded that the management had to buy another establishment so it could accommodate all the demand. The staff here is incredibly authentic and nice, and the place itself is clean. However, bear in mid one thing: this Francesinha is REALLY spicy, so be prepared to sweat!
Why: Spicy, inexpensive, served by authentic great staff and clean space.
Where: Rua do Paraíso 19
3 – Tappas Café
What: Tappas café is probably the only restaurant on this list of best francesinhas which is present in several cities in Portugal and not only in Porto. This is no coincidence, because the quality of its francesinhas is indeed superior, specially due to one important detail: they are conceived using traditional ovens, giving it a fantastic traditional flavor. Oh, and as a bonus, for large groups, you will receive small shots of Xiripiti! Try it!
Why: Traditional rustic oven, Xiripit shot in the end, delicious and flavorful.
Where: You can find Tappas restaurants in Gaia, near the beach (only accessible by car), Matosinhos or the University Hub in Porto.
4 – Bufete Fase
What: You can see this one in almost every Top lists of Porto. It’s a small restaurant, with only 5 small tables, so make sure you arrive early. The Francesinhas are the only thing you can eat in Bufete Fase and it’s pretty standard. The sauce is a little bit more liquid, which some may dislike, but the good thing is that you can order less or more spicy sauced Francesinhas. Average meal, with chips and the fino (beer) costs around 11€.
Why: Cosy, central
Where: Rua de Santa Catarina 1147
5 – PortoBeer
What: This restaurant is located 10 minutes walking from Casa da Música, right in the middle of the Boavista Avenue which connects Casa do Música to Matosinhos, the coast. Located strategically near several 5 stars hotels, the space itself has a more modern decoration than the other restaurants presented in this list. The same applies to the menu: while Francesinha is the Queen of the restaurant, many more dishes are presented here. The options for Francesinha include the traditional standard one, variations with other types of meat such as grilled meat and chicken.
Why: Modern, several variations of the recipe, wide selection of beers.
Where: Avenida da Boavista, 1245
6 – A Regaleira
What: The francesinhas from the Regaleira restaurant are special. Why? Because it was here that the recipe is born. Yes friends, this is the original francesinha. However, take in consideration that the recipe is simplified and the size of this francesinha is smaller. The restaurant itself is cozy, very traditional. If you think you’re stomach isn’t ready for a francesinha, worry not, because they have many other Portuguese traditional cuisine options to choose from, and it’s cheap!
Why: Traditional, Cheap, Authentic
Where: Rua do Bonjardim 87
7 – Cervejaria Brasão
What: We really love this place. We are going to be honest here, this was the last one that we tried from this list and we must confess it’s the one that surprised us the most. You don’t have to wait much to understand why after you set foot in the place: the decoration is amazing. Not only does the place have a great vibe to it, it also has a fantastic view over the river. The francesinhas are without a doubt some of the best we have tried. The beer is served in metal cups, with nice silverware and greatly crafted tables. And the best of all? Despite the incredible quality and the offer in terms of food (because the menu here is really, really varied and you can really get from oysters to great beef meat from Marão, which is a specialty from the mountains) the price is quite reasonable. Oh, and it’s located right in the heart of the city, at the left of Aliados.
Why: Price/Quality relation, decoration, wide variety
Where: R. de Ramalho Ortigão 28
So, there you have it. These are our recommended places to go for a Francesinha, just like a local would. Take into consideration that you’ll be very full after eating your francesinha. So why don’t you book with us a guided video-tour, so that we can walk through the most emblematic sites of Porto and take care of the digestion of the Queen Sandwich? Book with us a photo/video guided tour and register all the fantastic moments in your stay!