Restaurants in Portugal

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When eating out at one of Portugal's restaurants you will notice that there is a range of food on offer to suit even the most meagre of budgets: €25 and under should get you a good square meal in most of Portugal's restaurants and usually much less will suffice to appease your appetite. As servings tend to be large and rice and potatoes are a staple feature of Portuguese cuisine, you can expect to eat well without breaking the bank. In fact, you are quite at liberty to order a meia dose (half portion) or uma dose (portion to share between two) rather than tackling a large portion on your own.

The prato do dia is the dish of the day and is often a regional speciality, so give them a try if you are looking for authentic gastronomy. The usual menu is the ementa or lista but the prato do dia or especialidade da casa/região might offer up cheaper and more interesting alternatives to the often overpriced arroz de marisco.

Unlike in Spain, the plate of starters that is put on your table while you look at the menus (commonly just bread and butter but it can also be more elaborate dishes of olives, sardine spread or cheese) is usually not free in Portugal and so don't be surprised to find it on your bill at the end. Each item should be listed on the menu so that you know what you are paying for, but every mouthful is likely to be added to the bill.

Different types of restaurants exist in Portugal, from the usual restaurantes to a tasca, or tavern; a casa de pasto is a cheap dining room serving a three course menu, generally at lunchtime, or a cervejaria is an informal establishment serving snacks and beer throughout the day and evening. A marisqueria specialises in seafood and can be rather posh, but is usually just a normal restaurant with a more upmarket fish menu than its neighbours.

Another difference to Spain is that in Portugal restaurants serve food earlier, with lunch from noon until 15h00 and dinner from 19h30 until 22h30. After this you may find it difficult to get a meal unless you are in one of the larger resorts or towns. The more straightforward cafés and restaurants don't charge for service so leave a bit of change for the staff (you will already have paid a cover for appetizers, remember) but nothing too ostentatious. The larger restaurants will either include service at ten percent or expect you to leave about that as a tip.