Larger than life (and your stomach)
This venue was a very recently visited one and I thought it’d be worthy of a mention. I was travelling around Porto for a couple of days and enjoyed all the great sights and ancient points around the city. The city has much history to offer and I highly recommend you make include this one to your travel plans. Like with most of my travels, I make it important to try the different dishes and signature foods that a country, and especially a city, can offer.
It took a bit of searching through the curving streets of Porto to discover this spot. I had been looking for something rich to sink my teeth into until I stumbled upon the brightly displayed Santa Francesinha. This chain can be found throughout Portugal. They’re well known, as the name implies, for their Francesinhas. I ordered my first one here, having to decide between five different types of Francesinhas they had on offer. They were mostly the same with a few different alterations here and there.
I ordered a Santa Francesinhas (signature version). This behemouth of a meal is a meat lover’s paradise. In essence, it’s bread covered in ham, linguica, sausages (the variety changed from time to time, although they mostly used chipolata), roasted meat or steak, a massive layer of cheese completely engulfing this combination, bacon and a tomatoe and beer sauce soaking the concoction. It is very common to have fries on the side.
Just a heads up, it is often a theme to be provided with appetizers without being asked in some restaurants in Porto. This wouldn’t be much of a problem if you were not charged for them. However, in many cases you are. This includes fresh olives, bread sticks with a side of sauce, etc. As one of the waiters provided me with the fries, I had to make sure that I was not being charged for them. He replied warmly that its included with the meal. I couldn’t really complain.
My Francesinha came with a skewered cherry tomato, black olive and slice of thick cheese combo on my dish like a flag to showcase its glory. A fried egg topped it all off like a crown sitting above the surface of the dish. I immediately dug in.
I make this joke every time and will continue to do so every time I am asked about my Portuguese culinary experience: In the two days eating there, I felt like I ate two cows and a pig. Perhaps it may not be the most humorous joke, although my mates who were travelling with me would relate with the joke quite well. Portuguese love their meat. Almost nothing showcases it as well as the Francesinha. It isn't necessarily about the quality but the raw amount of different meats included in it. The sauce goes great with the provided fries. The sauce, from my two-time experience eating there, is a slight bit spicy. Although its mild and a short lived spice.
You may ask for the beer sauce to be excluded. However, taste-wise, it only felt as though I were drinking spiced tomato sauce without any traces of the beer. Francesinha’s are deceptively quick to consume. It might feel as though you really hadn’t eaten anything heavy if you’re quick enough. However, its going to stick in your stomach for several hours. Don’t be surprised if dinner doesn’t seem like a likely option.
If you’re ever keen to tackle this monster in Porto, you’ll have plenty of places to find this dish. However, I would recommend you go somewhere decent for your first go. The Café Santiago is a good venue for it as well. I’ve had it twice in two days and wish I could have it again. The prices range from 8.5 to 16 euros for one. I paid 12.5 and 9.5 euros for both Francesinha's I've tried. Keep in mind that this food is all fat, carbs and protein.
I would suggest trying it anyway as it is an experience you can’t miss. Since half the reason to travel is enjoying what the country has to offer with food (That’s my view, anyway). It’s a fun meal to eat with mates as well due to the challenge. Although, feel free to eat it on your own. The Café Santiago gets particularly busy due to its location. Finding a seat might be difficult. While Santa Francesinhas secluded location makes it a little easier to find a free seat. The latter definitely has great and friendly waitering staff. I would highly recommend them.