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Meghan McCarron

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Intendente Is Lisbon’s Most Interesting Dining Neighborhood

Home to a vibrant eating scene with cuisines from across Asia and Africa

On any given summer day in Lisbon, locals and tourists alike line up by the dozen outside of Ramiro, one of the city’s most iconic cervejarias, to cool down with a beer or a glass of Vinho Verde while they wait to tear into a prego (a steak sandwich filled with garlic) or mow through a pile of percebes (gooseneck barnacles).

A temple to quality seafood, Ramiro has been the defining destination in the neighborhood of Intendente since opening in 1956. Hailed by Lisbon’s most acclaimed chefs, like José Avillez, Kiko Martins, André Magalhães, and Henrique Sá Pessoa, it has been showcased on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, ensuring a permanent spot in virtually every Lisbon guidebook and restaurant list.

Lisboetas are now nostalgic for a time when Ramiro wasn’t a perpetually packed destination. Fortunately, it offers merely a preview of Intendente’s charms, which have grown enormously as the small, central neighborhood dotted with art nouveau and art deco buildings has been radically transformed over the last few years into one of the city’s most multicultural districts.

Cervejaria Ramiro
Meghan McCarron

Across the street from Ramiro is Infame, a newer restaurant located in the beautifully restored Hotel 1908. Though the bar is a useful perch to grab a drink while you wait for the line to die down at Ramiro, the food is worthwhile in its own right. Inspired by the neighborhood’s global character — people from some 80 countries live within the district — the dishes range from crispy pakora to pasta valmor (rice noodles with bok choy, Chinese eggplant, and soy sauce) to pork belly with kimchi. (If you’re set on Ramiro though, the best time to go is between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., when it’s quieter, and the dish to get is the Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato — originally created to honor Bulhão Pato, a Portuguese poet, politician, and gourmand — which is simple steamed clams with garlic, cilantro, and olive oil.)

Cooking enthusiasts shouldn’t miss A Vida Portuguesa, located in the former warehouse of the famous tile factory Viúva Lamego (which produces much of the city’s most beautiful tile work, including the seafood mural in Ramiro). Opened in 2013 by Catarina Portas, a journalist who was one of the first to invest in the neighborhood’s revitalization, the shop’s two stories are packed with brilliant local goods, from textiles to soaps to canned fish and olive oil.

Infame
Infame/Facebook

Descending in the direction of Martim Moniz and Mouraria, the streets transform into an endless collection of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Vietnamese and Nepalese restaurants and shops. Of note is Popat Store, an Indian grocery with a sturdy collection of spices and vegetables; further down is Ervanária Rosil, a Portuguese tea shop that makes its own blends and herbal mixes; and Doce Mila, a cafe and bakery with fabrico próprio — meaning they bake their cakes and pastries in house.

As the area explodes with new businesses and roving crowds, the specter of gentrification looms, and some of the area’s most vulnerable residents, many of them immigrants, are being displaced. Renovar a Mouraria is an association that seeks to stem that tide by helping locals in need, whether that is giving legal advice or offering Portuguese classes. The cafe, which helps fund the association, features a menu that changes daily — one day it might serve Cape Verde’s cachupa, another day fish and vegetable tempura. Nearby, Cozinha Popular da Mouraria, another solidarity project, also operates a community kitchen, and it offers a diverse global cuisine; depending on who’s cooking, you might get Middle Eastern, African, Vietnamese, or even German meals.

Many of the largest immigrant groups in the adjacent neighborhood of Mouraria come from former Portuguese colonies, especially from Asia and Africa, and the restaurant landscape is equally diverse. Standouts include the muamba or cachupa at Palanca Gigante, an Angolan restaurant; the chicken with piri piri sauce and the crab curry at Cantinho do Aziz, which serves food from Mozambique; kizaka (cassava leaves with smoked fish and rice) at Cartuxinha, which specializes in the cuisine of São Tomé e Príncipe; and the vindalho at Tentações de Goa (the Goan dish transforms the original Portuguese vinha d’alhos by using cinnamon, coconut milk, and vinegar instead of wine; it’s also the origin of vindaloo).

A Vida Portuguesa
Meghan McCarron

The neighborhood is also home to several other old-school Portuguese restaurants worth exploring. After all, this was the home of Severa and Fernando Maurício, legendary fado singers, whose careers, at different times, changed the acceptance of fado in Lisbon. The latter even has its own museum in Rua João Outeiro. Nearby, Zé da Mouraria, one of the most popular tascas in Lisbon, is famous for steak with fries and their grilled squid. For a quick meal, Adega dos Presuntos serves a nice cuttlefish sandwich.

North of Mouraria, in the Anjos neighborhood, Carvoaria Jacto specializes in grilled meats, including the posta mirandesa, a traditional DOP beef from northeast Portugal. The newly renovated Mercado de Arroios features new shops, restaurants, and themed events alongside fish and the vegetable stalls. Soon it will also be home to Mezze, a restaurant from the association Pão a Pão, which aids Middle Eastern refugees. The chefs and staff are composed entirely of women who are refugees from Syria, and after successfully crowdfunding 23,000 euros, the restaurant, which will serve Middle Eastern dishes like kibbeh and baklava, is nearly ready to open.

The area’s diversity is also celebrated in the central square of Martim Moniz, where food kiosks sell everything from Brazilian caipirinhas to Peruvian empanadas. The sun-drenched area can be harsh in the summer, but it’s pleasant to visit in the evening. Take the lift to the top of Centro Comercial Martim Moniz for a final drink in the rooftop bar Topo. Take in a view of the many layers of the neighborhood. Five centuries after global trade turned Lisbon into an international port, the city feels truly multicultural again.

Ramiro: Av. Almirante Reis nº1 - H | +35 (1)2 18 85 10 24 | cervejariaramiro.pt
Infame: Largo do Intendente Pina Manique 4 | +35 (1)2 18 80 40 08 | infame.pt
Hotel 1908: nº6, Largo do Intendente Pina Manique |+35 (1)2 18 80 40 00 | 1908lisboahotel.com
A Vida Portuguesa: R. Anchieta 11 | +35 (1)2 13 46 50 73 | avidaportuguesa.com
Renovar a Mouraria: Beco do Rosendo, 8 e 10 | +35 (1)9 22 19 18 92 | renovaramouraria.pt
Cozinha Popular da Mouraria: R. das Olarias 5 | +35 (1)9 26 52 05 68 | cozinhapopularmouraria.org
Popat Store: R. Sra. Saúde 2 | +35 (1)2 18 87 11 63
Ervanária Rosil: R. da Madalena 210 | +35 (1)2 18 87 20 97 | ervanariarosil.pt
Doce Mila: Beco dos Cavaleiros, 15 Martim Moniz | +35 (1)2 18 85 31 83
Palanca Gigante: Beco do Cascalho | +35 (1)9 24 42 66 93
Cantinho do Aziz: R. de São Lourenço 5 | +35 (1)2 18 87 64 72 |cantinhodoaziz.com
Cartuxinha: R. das Farinhas, 7 | +35 (1)9 64 97 29 56
Tentações de Goa: Rua São Pedro Mártir 23 | +35 (1)2 18 87 58 24
Zé da Mouraria: R. João do Outeiro 24 | +35 (1)2 18 86 54 36
Adega dos Presuntos: Beco Barbadela 10 |+35 (1)2 18 86 48 87
Carvoaria Jacto: R. Maria Andrade 6A | +35 (1)2 18 14 75 55
Mercado de Arroios: R. Ângela Pinto 40D | +35 (1)2 18 47 58 19

Célia Pedroso is a Portuguese journalist and the Lisbon bureau chief of Culinary Backstreets. She is the co-author of the book Eat Portugal - The Essential Guide to Portuguese Food. Find her on Instagram at @celiapedroso.

Read next: Your primer on Lisbon’s burgeoning high-end dining scene →

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