Cairns: The word “Cairns” is a hiking reference to stacks of stones on trails that help guide your way. When I see them on a hike, I instantly think, Phew. I’m not lost. Traveling the world can be overwhelming. You’re in a foreign place, far from home. My hope is that cairns can be used to guide your way, so that when you visit one of these places, you feel at home, and know that you’re in good company. You’re on the right path.
It won’t be a comprehensive list, but it’ll be my favorites at least 🙂
This place is technically a bar (Gin Lovers) connected to a restaurant (LESS). My friend and I showed up at 8 PM for a nice dinner. The bar was packed, the restaurant empty. It was bar time. We’d actually thought we were at a restaurant that had octopus on the menu (something you definitely seek out in Portugal), but when we realized, alas, we were not, we decided to get one drink and head to a restaurant with octopus. We paid, then left. We then realized the octopus restaurant was closed and the restaurant across the street (A Cevicheria, see below) had a 2 hour wait. So we went back to Gin Lovers & Less. The restaurant was packed, the bar empty. It was dinner time. We waited for a few at the bar and then sat at the table we were originally at and then proceeded to eat an amazing meal with the same gracious server who sent us to a closed octopus restaurant, but was wonderful, nonetheless.
My only hang up on this place was that we could not get away from a gin & tonic. We asked for a yummy cocktail – got gin and tonic with lime. We asked for a creative cocktail – got a gin and tonic with lemon. You get the idea.
This place was advertised as a place writers, politicians, etc. frequent, but really just seemed like a date spot. Regardless, it was around the corner from my apartment and looked like a house – i.e. there were different rooms with white linen tables. We got ceviche with popcorn, which was new (see below), an amazing risotto, an overly sweet egglant, and had a lovely conversation. We were also in a rush because we were trying to make it to see Lisbon Under Stars, and the restaurant was more than accommodating which we appreciated given Portuguese culture is to eat dinner for 5 hours until it’s breakfast time again.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and when you’ve been eating grilled codfish for 4 weeks straight, all you want is some Japenese-style raw fish, and you’re willing to take a 30 minute Uber to get it. Fortunately, Sushi Prime has got you covered for 100 pieces of sushi + 6(?) additional rolls for you and 8 friends. The gorgeous view of the ocean is a nice touch, too.
Breaking the rules slightly here for a side trip to Porto, my new favorite city in Portugal. (Side note: Porto is adorable and wonderful in every way). Raiz got us in for a last minute reservation, and we loved it so much that we were all asleep on the table by the end of the evening (no joke). Must get: the brie stuff on the far left of this pic. I’d eat that every day if I could.
We loved Porto so much that we decided to stay for another night and ended up at Jimao with a late night reservation at 9 PM. We were delayed about 30 minutes, because there were people sitting at our table, and the staff didn’t want to make them move (see language on 5 hour dinners above) (Note, I’ve been kicked out of countless tables in NYC for bumping up to the next reservation). But before we all got frustrated and hangry, they gave us a glass of champagne to apologize for the wait, and we all decided to write it off as Portuguese hospitality. Then all was really well when we got 2 orders of black pasta with octopus. Ugh, that stuff was amazing. Well, I suppose all was not well, because we wished we’d gotten 5 orders of black pasta with octopus and 5 orders of the molten caramel dessert that we only ordered one of. But we’ll get it right next time.
Notable Shout Outs: A Cevicheria (Overhyped, but still delicious, get there at 6 to 6:30 pm if you want to not have a 2 hour wait; pics below), Taberna – Barrio de Avillez (Didn’t make it here even though I wanted to, but a friend said it was great. He also recommended the attached ceviche restaurant which he said was even better than A Cevicheria), Pizzeria Romana al Taglio (Standing room only)
I realized I didn’t really go to too many bars in Portugal (my mother is already proud I can feel it), but anyway, here’s a couple I liked a lot.
This is a rooftop bar, and you should go for sunset and for always. Don’t be confused about how to get there. Think literally. Park. It’s a parking garage. You’re not mistaken when you climb up several flights of parking garage stairs to get to it.
4 Caravelas basically became our home base in Lisbon after we all took a great cocktail class with Marcus, the owner, and his awesome girlfriend, Tania. We learned how to make all sorts of basic cocktails and then a few of their house specialties, and then they proceeded to give our group our own special happy hour for the month, which everyone seemed to like for some odd reason. Dive-y bar with good vibes and songs you can always sing and dance to. My personal favorites: Basil Smash and Honey Pot.
Honestly, just a really nice wine bar. Exactly what you’re looking for. We enjoyed our wine, too, which was nice (pic below).
We went because the guys were drawn to signs that read boldly and clearly in English, “WE HAVE LAGUNITAS,” but we stayed for the awesome vibes and atmosphere. Walls lined with books, knickknacks, and art, a pool table, oh and a barber shop. Supes cool. My friend and I played pool with a very nice Portuguese couple who didn’t speak English but had plans to go to New York in a few weeks time. It was nice playing and all, but my friend told me I couldn’t cheat that game (i.e. hit the white ball again when I accidentally miss the first time), so that made it way more serious and less fun. Still a nice couple though (They slaughtered us.). We also got paninis (tostas), because we were starving, and didn’t regret them at all.