Mouraria may be one of the last bastions of hope in what seems to be quickly becoming Brooklyn, Portugal. Mouraria’s filth, character, colorfulness, and diversity are the exact opposite of the carefully crafted simulacrum of these urban elements at, say, LX Factory.
As an eight-month resident of the neighborhood, I have had the privilege of exploring its shady winding streets at all hours of the day and night. And I have discovered quite a bit of inspiration and strength in terms of food, music, and art; some of it I would like to share with you below.
*Proceed only if you own no selfie stick.
The Flamingo Bar was mentioned in our Best of Lisbon 2016 list as being a quite noble hole in the wall. It’s still there, with the same friendly staff, reasonable prices, and unique attention to detail in terms of customers, drinks, and the soundtrack. When the surrounding area quiets down (around 23h), this place will still give you refuge.
The decor literally feels like home, because, well, it might be. The calligraphy on the walls, as well as the mind-boggling carved carrots made to look like roses and served with most meals, are all hand-made by Lee and his wife, respectively. Neither Portuguese nor English is spoken, but some French is, and the menu has pictures. The service and food are enough to keep me and my roommates going there several times a week. I suggest the cabbage in garlic sauce, A9 on the menu.
I have yet to meet Zé but, judging by a painting of him above the kitchen window, he seems like a decent chap.
The fish is to kill for. In the evenings and on weekends, the hungry crowd outside can rival the line to the first McDonald’s opened in Moscow in 1990, which is saying a lot (trust us). Although the wait-time is significantly shorter and definitely worth it.
You’ll recognize it from all the flags and rags decorating the entire residential street around it. A great companion to the fallen Anos 60, this is a good place to enjoy some live music (not just fado), have a made-with-love tosta mixta, and shoot the breeze with a friend on the steps outside. The bar closes around 23h, usually when the cleaning lady nonchalantly starts sweeping garbage and stragglers down the steps, back to Martim Moniz.
Andy, a local Brazilian expat, plays ’90s hits on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. If you ask him nicely, he is more than happy to have you embarrass yourself on the microphone to his acoustic accompaniment. The staff includes the owners, all of whom are a great bunch. There are locals and tourists alike, and the second floor (which feels like Sherlock Holmes’ opium den) is open to the right kind of people. They host private events and have a colorful yet limited bar.
Finally, if you explore long enough, you are bound to come across what I consider to be one of the strongest pieces of graffiti in Lisbon. Being from NYC, I have never been a fan of selfie sticks. I have also realized a new-found hatred for the Brooklyn-born Ronaldo/Beckham haircut + beard look that a large portion of the male population seems to adhere to so much. This piece spoke to me. It makes me want to speak Portuguese so I may one day meet its maker(s) and share a beer with him or her or them. Its location must remain secret for the sake of humankind.