7 best foods to try in Cascais
Visiting Portugal is always a treat. Friendly people, vibrant culture and exceptional cuisine make this an ideal destination. The seaside town of Cascais (pronounced kash-kaish), which we currently call home, is approximately 30 minutes west of Lisbon on the Atlantic Ocean coast and part of the Portuguese Riviera. Portugal was neutral during WWII, so royalty and European celebrities used this elegant coastal area as a summer getaway and refuge during the war.
Of course, what we love most about Cascais is all the delicious food it has to offer. Here is just a sample of some of the best foods to try in Cascais.
If it’s in the sea, you’ll find it in almost every restaurant in Cascais. The Portuguese are known for their dried salt cod, bacalhau, a remnant of their history as marine explorers. A classic preparation is bacalhau à brás, cod with eggs, potatoes and onions. Served with a side salad, it’s a satisfying lunch choice.
Fish lovers will be delighted with your choice of sole, grouper, salmon, sea bass, tuna, sea bream, turbot, monkfish, and many more. We enjoyed a delicious bar in a Cascais house style restaurant or “tasca”, Manjar Da Vila Cascais. Seafood lovers will find many types of shrimp, lobster, clams, crabs, mussels, shrimp, oysters and more. Look for the sweet little lobsters which are a specialty of Cascais. Mussel lovers will appreciate the dedicated Cascais restaurant, Mussels and Gin.
Another popular seafood is octopus. Many restaurants offer an octopus salad infused with lemon, garlic and olive oil as a starter. Polvo à Lagareiro is a favorite main course of baked octopus with potatoes and broccoli rabe in a sauce of garlic, spices and olive oil. You will need delicious Portuguese bread to absorb every drop of it. We loved ours at Taberna Económica De Cascais.
Bonus Tip: Steak Sandwich For Seafood Meal Dessert
Have you just finished a delicious seafood dinner in Cascais? Complete your meal with a Prego for dessert. What is a Prego? It is a marinated steak in thin slices grilled with herbs and served on a soft Portuguese roll. A steak sandwich for dessert? We found out when we saw people sitting next to us finish one after their seafood meal and were told it was a Cascais tradition, although they are also eaten at other times. So, we gave it a try. And, it might sound crazy, but it really hit the mark. We tried our first Prego after a delicious meal of fresh seafood at Marisco na Praça, ideally located in the Cascais Mercado da Vila. It won’t be our last.
2. Meat And Sausages
There are a lot of delicious meat dishes in Cascais. Although Carne de porco Alentejana hails from central Portugal, this unique combination of cubed pork, tiny clams and potatoes in a hot sauce is served everywhere, including Cascais. Tender pork and beef steaks are readily available, and the range of sausages is absolutely dazzling. There are dried and fresh sausages galore. If you can’t decide which meat you want, try Flecha Azul’s Mixed Grill for a bit of everything for a great price.
The roast suckling pig makes a great sandwich. Have one with a beer at HM Caneira, sit at a table and people watch. Portugal’s kinship with Brazil also provides delicious meats and sausages. You’ll find excellent beef from the Azores Islands, plenty of Brazilian dishes, and even those tasty cheese buns, pão de queijo, at Brazilian steakhouses in Cascais, including the famous churrascaria Fogo de Chão.
3. Pica Pau
A dish whose name means “peak” may seem strange. But the name actually refers to the way a woodpecker pecks at a tree – the same way you have to choose this dish before your diners if you want to have it! Pica Pau is tender pieces of beef or pork in a savory beer sauce topped with pickled vegetables. Friends share this snack while watching football and having a few beers or before a meal. We enjoyed it as a shared aperitif with a fantastic ocean view at the Grelhas Restaurante in the popular Casa da Guia resort in Cascais.
4. Grilled Chicken
You will find grilled or “barbecued” chicken all over Portugal. In Cascais, try the beloved Jardim de Frangos, or Chicken Garden. If you are anywhere near the restaurant in downtown Cascais, you will feel the marinated chicken roasting on the grill. The meal is usually accompanied by a small salad and the best fries you can eat. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Although they are known for their chicken, they have a large menu with many other options including ribs which are tender and delicious. These are not ribs coated in barbecue sauce, simply marinated and grilled. If you like heat, sprinkle some spicy piri-piri sauce over either.
5. Fresh fruits and vegetables
We love to visit farmers’ markets, and Cascais has several. The large downtown Mercado da Vila and the Agrobio (organic) market at Parque Marechal Carmona are two of our favorites. Greet the vendors with a warm “Bom Dia!” in the morning or “Boa Tarde!” in the afternoon, and they will illuminate your learning even a little of their language.
Mercado da Vila is open every day, but the main days are Wednesdays and Saturdays. The range of fresh fruits and vegetables is a rainbow of delicacies. In addition to local products, you will find fresh bread and pastries, meat and poultry, as well as a huge fish market. There are also special events showcasing offerings like chocolate, craft beer, and honey. Buy like a local and arrive early. The upstairs restaurants and outside vendors offer a quick meal, snack, or coffee break.
The Cascais Argobio market takes place on Saturdays in the charming Parque Marechal Carmona. Here you will find fresh and organic vegetables and fruits. Walk in the park. There is a cafe and lots of birds including some very social roosters and a peacock who can show you their tail feathers if they want.
A small ecological market crosses Jardim Visconde da Luz almost every day. Here you will find local artisanal products like the fabulous honey that we bought one day on the way home.
We admit it. We love a good burger. If you, too, check out Burguês Hamburgueria Portuguesa for some of the best. They have indoor and outdoor seating and plenty of drinks. These burgers are potent, so make sure you’re hungry or split a burger and some sides. We each ate half of ours and enjoyed the other half for another meal.
They have many different toppings and styles to choose from so you can create the burger of your dreams. Options also include chicken and veggie burgers. The fries are also perfectly cooked. We are starting to wonder if there is something special about potatoes here in Portugal.
7. Sweet treats
Portuguese love their sweets, and you’ll often see locals stopping by for a quick coffee and a sweet treat. We admire their ability to have only one. Local pastelarias are everywhere, and if you follow the lines of the people, you’ll find the best in town. Be sure to try Portugal’s national culinary treasure, pastel de nata (a small, creamy custard tart). Each place has its own special recipe, so try as many as you can, and get them fresh and hot as much as possible.
The bakeries of Cascais also have many cookies to tempt you. The famous areas The (sand) cookies are so delicate that they melt in your mouth and fall apart like sand in the bag or box if you’re not careful. We challenge you to have just one.
There are cookies topped with icing, dipped in chocolate and filled with jam or cream and many different flavors. Lemon and almond are very popular. A Bijou de Cascais and Sacolinha are two must-sees in Cascais. You will also find quality home bakeries in local grocery stores.
Don’t stop at cookies, cakes and pastries. As you walk through the shopping streets of Cascais, you will notice people with ice cream cones. Join the parade and stop at Santini for light and flavorful artisanal ice cream and sorbet. They’ve been using the same recipes for over 70 years, with no added colors or flavors, preservatives or thickeners. With over 200 flavors that change every day, from passion fruit to pistachio, there is plenty to try!
Did we tempt you to visit our new hometown of Cascais with all these wonderful tastes? We sure hope so.
You will often be offered “cutlery” which is brought to your table before ordering – usually bread, cheese, olives and butter. These are not free. You will be charged for what you eat. If you don’t want these items added, just tell the server and they’ll remove them.