Follow in the footsteps of America-based Saul Schwartz as he learns what the capital of Portugal has to offer on a gastronomic level. What are the options for vegans and vegetarians in a land that prides itself for its bacalhau, fish, meat and poultry dishes? As Saul embarks on a gastronomical journey through this city that is shaped by its bonds to Brasil, he shares his tips and suggestions for vegans, vegetarians and healthful foodies visiting Lisbon.
By Saul Schwarz
My wife Fern and I spent four days in Lisbon and Sintra during October, two of which was spent in the historic centre of Lisbon, one in the beautiful Belém area and one in Sintra National Park. You can read all about what to see in Lisbon and Belém in this article, and tips for visiting Sintra in this article.
Here’s our recommendations for a gastronomical encounter of Lisbon and its Portuguese flavours.
Gastronomic Vegan tasting of Portugal
On the final day of our trip, we had an exceptional vegan lunch experience with local Chef Mateus. We arrived at 12:30 PM for the two-hour multi-course vegan lunch. The lunch was hosted by the Chef and his twin brother at the Ambiente Hostel on Avenida Almirante Reis 86, near the Anjos Metro stop. We reserved this event through Airbnb events, at a cost of 45€ per person plus tip. Drinks were included in the menu. The Chef also advertises on the Eat With website.
The Chef has redecorated the dining room of the hostel into a lovely atmosphere with paintings on the walls and tables. Although the room seats up to 20, we had a private meal alone with the Chef. We were welcomed by the Chef who already had prepared colourful table settings, his homemade bread, and several spreads, including jam and olives. The next course was a tasty soup, followed by a main course with potatoes and the best dessert we had in Lisbon.
Fern and I really loved the traditional Portuguese meal prepared specifically by the Chef as a vegan meal, with a local ambience and flavors. Chef Mateus used vegetables and fruits from small farmers and local markets. This lunch was one of our highlights in Lisbon.
We had a great time interacting with the Chef. He moved to Portugal from Brazil in 2015. The meal revealed his true passion – cooking up wonderful meals in the kitchen. We had several nice conversations throughout the meal.
Lunch at Organi Chiado – voted the best vegan restaurant in Lisbon
Our tour guide Gabriel recommended this exceptional vegan restaurant in the Chiado neighbourhood. For lunch on the first day of our trip, we ate at one of the outside tables on the outside terrace and enjoyed exceptional salads with great vegetables. The menus vary daily, using seasonal products and this was a great healthy and natural food option for us. Most products are of Portuguese origin, with high quality organic ingredients.
Opened in 2016, this restaurant has been named as the best vegan restaurant in Lisbon several times. The restaurant is located on the historic little steps of Calcada Nova de Sao Francisco and there is also an interior dining room. Prices were very reasonable.
Al fresco dining at Saldanha Mar Restaurant
Although prices were slightly higher than average for Lisbon, the food was good. We enjoyed dinner outside on the second evening of our trip. The meal began with olives and bread. We next shared a mixed salad with lettuce and vegetables. The swordfish was particularly tender and tasty and potatoes were served with the main course. The staff were very friendly.
Saldanha Mar is located within the Doubletree Hotel at Rua Engenhiero Vieira da Silva 2. As is typical in Lisbon, dinner does not begin before 7 p.m. and is available until 10 p.m.
Vitaminas – boost your health while in Lisbon
There are several of these informal restaurants in Lisbon. On the third evening of our trip, we ate at the Chiado branch. We were able to pick and choose from an appetizing selection of fresh vegetables for our salads.
This restaurant promotes a healthy lifestyle, and the mission of the restaurant is to up vitamin levels, while lowering your cholesterol count. We ordered at the counter from the helpful staff. Prices were very reasonable.
A Brasileira Coffee Shop – a classic
In the Chiado neighbourhood, this is one of the oldest and most famous cafes in Lisbon. This historic café was the meeting place for intellectuals of yesteryear. On the last day of our trip, we sat outside and enjoyed coffee and tea. Inaugurated in 1905, A Brasileira was created by Adiano Telles, who came to Portugal from Brazil. He was the first to sell coffee in Portugal. We were told that he initially gave out coffee for free for a few months to get Lisbon residents hooked on their coffee fix!
The richly decorated Parisian style interior drew lawyers, doctors, teachers, writers, and artists. The popular café became the setting of artistic and literary gatherings. We took our turn to sit with the statue outside the café of author Fernando Pessoa, once a regular at the café.
Markets – shop like a local
There are markets throughout Lisbon geared primarily for food purchases by residents. The market near our hotel, Mercardo 31 de Janeiro, was worthwhile for an interesting stroll. The market contained many stands with fish and seafood, including the popular dried cod. Other stands were full of colourful vegetables of local produce. It was fun to briefly get lost in the vibrant colours and smells. This is the major market of the Saldanha neighbourhood.
This chain has locations in Lisbon, including the airport. The menu is slightly different from the United States menu. The venti iced tea (the largest size) is substantially smaller than the venti in the U.S. and costs 4.65€.
Mini markets – for snacks during the day
We went to several small supermarkets to buy food to take with us during the days. Prices were reasonable, but the stock is limited.
If you want to follow further in Saul’s footsteps in and around Lisbon, check out what to see in Lisbon and Belém in this article, and tips for visiting Sintra in this article. To discover more exciting places near Lisbon, go to A Real Jurassic Park in Center of Portugal – only an hour’s drive from Lisbon.
About Saul Schwartz
Saul lives in Alexandria, Virginia and has lived in the Washington, D.C. area since 1984. He loves to travel throughout Europe with his wife and family and particularly enjoys interacting with local residents and learning about life in their city and country.
Saul has previously shared his travel insights with us. Check out his story about Touring Southwest Ireland – Limerick, Clare & Galway or check out his trip to Modern Athens – Beyond the Acropolis or his fascination with The Vatican: Rome of the Popes.