The Francesinha is one of most unique Portuguese dishes, and people either love it or hate it. In Porto, people are immensely proud of their famous sandwich. Any discussion of where to get the best francesinha in Porto can open a intensely heated debate as everyone has their favourite place (see the suggestions below).
Made from big slices of bread, ham, sausage, steak, melted cheese, this is quite a hefty sandwich. It doesn’t stop there, though: the sandwich is then covered in a beer sauce and served with a portion of french fries and usually a beer. If that doesn’t sound filling enough for you, many places offer a Francesinha Especial which has an egg on top.
The history of the Francesinha is fairly unknown, although most people point to a man named Daniel da Silva. Da Silva claims to have invented it after living in France where he came across the croque-monsieur. He returned to Portugal in the 1960s, moving back to the Alentejo where he was from, and tried to introduce the his Portuguese-style croque-monsieur to the people of the Alentejo.
There’s no record of whether he tried to introduce a simple croque-monsieur first or whether he went straight in with what we no know as the Francesinha but, either way, the people of the Altentejo were having none of it. Perhaps this was because they already had invented the bifana, and didn’t need another sandwich, or perhaps they thought it was a monstrosity of a sandwich. It certainly couldn’t be that they thought it was healthy as Alentejo food, particularly dishes like migas, is incredibly heavy.
Either way, da Silva couldn’t find an audience for his culinary creation. At least, until he moved to Porto. While working at Restaurant A Regaleira, he decided to showcase his recipe again. This time it was a hit, and soon just about every bar in the city would be creating their own Francesinha recipes.
That’s one version of the story anyway. Another theory suggests the Francesinha dates much further back to the the Peninsular War (1807–1814). During that time the soldiers would eat sandwiches with many different types of meat and cheese, although without the sauce and french fries.
In truth, nobody really knows where this sandwich came from and that’s not really most people’s concern. For most people, tourists and locals, the biggest question is where can I get the best Francesinha in Porto?
The best francesinhas in Porto
As mentioned, there’s a lot of debate about this. Is there francesinha that could be objectively considered the best? I wonder if Porto held a vote would a consensus be reached or would the vote be evenly split?
Where makes the best Francesinha in Porto is just one of those questions that doesn’t really have an objective answer, like what is the meaning of life. Everyone just has their own opinion.
That said, there are restaurants and bars that crop up every time this question is asked. In no particular order, here’s a few of the places you should try.
- Bufete Fase: Rua de Santa Catarina 1147, 4000-457, Porto
- O Golfinho: Rua de Sá de Noronha 137, 4050-526, Porto
- Café Santiago: R. de Passos Manuel 226, 4000-382, Porto
- Lado B: Rua de Passos Manuel 190, 4000-382 Porto
- Yuko: Rua de Costa Cabral 2331, 4200-232 Porto
- Francesinha Café: Rua da Alegria 946, 4000-048 Porto
- Capa Negra II: Rua do Campo Alegre 191, 4150-177 Porto
Restaurant Regaleira doesn’t always crop up, but it may be the first place to successfully serve a francesinha so, if you have time, it’s worth visiting it from the point of view of history.
Once you’ve tried all of those places and reached your own consensus, you’ll either want to hit the gym or, if you’ve fallen in love with this dish, maybe try some of the variations.
- A Francesinha Especial with prawns and shrimp at Francesinha à Barcarola: Rua de Costa Cabral 806, 4200-212 Porto
- A Francesinha de atum (tuna) from A Cascata: Porto Coliseu Rua de Passos Manuel Nº 173 4000, Porto
If you’re vegetarian or vegan, or you’re just not ready to handle that much meat, the good news is that there are plenty of places that offer alternative francesinhas.
Vegetarian & vegan francesinhas
- Lado B (vegetarian francesinha): Rua de Passos Manuel 190, 4000-382 Porto
- Moment’Um (vegetarian francesinha): Rua da Estação 82, 4300-171 Porto
- Em Carne Viva (vegan and vegetarian francesinhas): Av. da Boavista 868, 4100-421 Porto
- O Oriente no Porto (vegetarian): Rua de São Miguel 19, 4050-452 Porto
- Francesinhas Al Forno da Baixa (vegetarian): Rua do Almada 160, 4000-196 Porto
Francesinhas in the rest of Portugal
Some people say you can’t get a good Francesinha outside of Porto, and that may be true. If you want to try one, this is definitely the place to come. If Porto isn’t on your itinerary, however, and you are desperate to try them, you can find them in other parts of the country.
Francesinhas are increasingly available throughout Lisbon, although quality varies. Some of the most recommended places to get one include:
- Marco: Largo Santos 14D, 1200-109 Lisboa (map)
- Dom Tacho: Lisboa, R. David de Sousa 19A, 1000-105 Lisboa (map)
- Lucimar: R. Francisco Tomás da Costa 28, 1600-093 Lisboa (map)
Rest of Portugal
You’ll also find francesinhas in the Algarve, Madeira, Coimbra, and Setúbal. Who knows, maybe they’ve even started to sell in the Alentejo.
If you really want to try one, and you really want to try a good one, though, you have to make the pilgrimage to Porto. Then you can try a few places, and come back here and leave a comment and help us answer the eternal question.
Other foods to try
As well as the francesinha, typical Porto food include Caldo Verde (a cabbage soup eaten throughout Portugal), Tripas à moda do Porto (a tripe dish only really found in Porto), Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá (a style of cooking bacalhau), Broa de Milho (a corn-based Portuguese bread), and Cabidela (rice cooked in the blood of a chicken).
It’s also worth trying a few of Portugal’s other sandwiches. The bifana is a favourite, along with it’s cousin the prego, along with the sandes de leitão (suckling pig sandwich). For more suggestions, take a look at Portugalist’s guide to Portuguese sandwiches.
Have you tried a francesinha in Porto? Do you have a favourite place? Share your thoughts and reviews by leaving a comment below.