Classy al-fresco dining in the belly of the beast
Cais do Sodré has certainly cleaned up its act, and Taberna Tosca is one of the venues responsible for turning this former sailor-and-prostitute neighborhood into a magnet for tourists and hipsters. Nonetheless, this restaurant continues in peaceful coexistence with the homeless guys who still use the Praça de São Paulo’s fountain as a bath, perhaps because Taberna Tosca has marked itself as authentic. The simple menu here manages to hit on all the major food groups and all the key Portuguese meat and fish flavors, from chouriço (sausage) to chocos fritos (fried cuttle fish). They’re not necessarily served the traditional way — not everything is served with rice AND potatoes AND french fries, for example — but they’re prepared right, by someone who clearly values local cuisine but believes it’s ok to change things up a bit. The interior of the restaurant is cozy enough, with exposed stone arches and enough room for a small group here and there. But if you’re like us, you want to be outside, where the action is. Don’t mind the occasional dude selling sunglasses and fake hash, the waiters chase them away. But the humanity at the fountain is a testament that Lisbon hasn’t yet turned into Disneyland.