The Best of Lisbon 2021

The landscape of the city has changed dramatically since the beginning of the year. We have seen some of our favorite corner joints close their doors forever, a couple of our artist friends became real estate brokers, and several cultural associations have been disbanded until further notice. Compiling this list has been bittersweet, to put it mildly.

The Atlas team mourns the fallen businesses out there that have worked tirelessly to make Lisbon rich in culture, food, and drink, and to honor them for the memories they gave us.

And we celebrate those who have survived and recognize them for their continued efforts to keep the heartbeat of Lisbon alive.

Many thanks to all of you for being remarkable.

Best Food

Best Portuguese Restaurant Overall: Lisboa Tu e Eu Bistro Flores | The chef at this spot in Principe Real takes tradition and turns it one notch up to offer the Portuguese staples we all know and love and making them into art for your belly. One unexpected ingredient or two makes hum drum basics like peixinhos da horta into a memorable culinary experience. -Ellis

Best Bifana: O Trevo | Sticking with the classic recipe, this small cervejaria in Chiado has been serving these crave-worthy staples for more than 50 years. It’s no wonder they are always packed, as Anthony Bourdain gave them a not-so-child-friendly rave review on his show, “No Reservations.” Locals and tourists alike have to agree that the secret sauce, the tender meat, and the no-frills bun make this bifana unforgettable. – Ellis

Honorable Mention: A Parreirinha do Chile – It’s back open! – Eddie

Best Pão com Chouriço: A Merendeira | Look, the truth is that nothing will ever beat the freshly baked pão com chouriço you get from that sketchy-looking truck on the side of the road, but A Merendeira comes close. This is the real deal: warm, doughy, almost the size of a small child… and of course, cheap. You can get a full menu with caldo verde, a drink, dessert, and coffee for under €6. – Melissa

Best Marisco: Mar à Vista | Seafood is the only thing on the menu at this tiny restaurant near Praia dos Pescadores in Ericeira, and they do it exceptionally well. Say yes to fresh oysters, gamba branca, and silky, saucy massada with lavagante. Expect consistently high-quality seafood. – Pearlie

Best Quiosque: Quiosque de São Paulo | Ever wanted to know what lunch was like over a hundred years ago? With all these newfangled foodie hotspots, it’s easy to forget simpler gastronomic times when a sandwich was just a sandwich and a pig’s ear salad was just a pig’s ear salad. Luckily, this kiosk is taking a cue from bygone days and replicating menu items traditionally served to the working class. Best news yet? The prices have only gone up due to inflation, not tourism, so you can eat here for peanuts and walk out ready to go back to work on the Cais. – Ellis

Best Breakfast: Mercado da Figueira | It’s where both locals and tourists still go in hoards every morning, hungover or not, because it’s simple, fast, fairly-priced, and good. – Bogdan

Best Feijoada: Boteco Dona Beija | I may be biased, but I’ve eaten a lot of this feijoada and I’ve yet to get tired of it. – Eddie

Best Asian Food Overall: Mercado Oriental Martim Moniz | Just above the beloved supermarket Amanhecer, which itself has a very nice selection of Asian products worthy of its proximity to Chinatown, you’ll find a smorgasbord of Asian delights. From Korean chicken wings to steaming hot pho, from bubble tea to delicious bão, it’s all here in this Asian food court. – Ellis

Best Brunch Spot: Royal Rawness | In Marvila; with a straight, simple, but delicious menu. With craft coffee or whatever you call it, super affordable and cozy. – Jess (and seconded by Melissa)

Best Dim Sum: Dim Sum, Oeiras | Have you eaten here yet? This spacious restaurant serves authentic Cantonese dishes, including our weekend “brunch” favourite, dim sum (aka endless plates of steamed dumplings). The jellyfish salad, fried taro puffs, and spicy crab are bloody delicious. – Pearlie

Best Falafel: InkFarmFood | This place has it all: handwritten menus, funky murals, fresh juices, and the best falafel I’ve ever had outside of Israel. Don’t be surprised if they offer you a freshly fried falafel while you’re waiting for your food – that’s the mark of a truly authentic Israeli establishment. I recommend sitting at the bar and chatting up the owner (he might even sneak you an extra falafel… or five). – Melissa

Best Petiscoes: Leziria | Portuguese food the way it’s meant to be truly eaten. A variety of easily shareable plates covering all the classics, including plenty of vegetarian options, all perfectly executed from whatever’s fresh by a pair of owners and their staff who treat customers as their guests and the neighborhood as an extension of their living room. Perfect – O Vadio

Runner Up: Sal Grosso – Jess

Best New Trendy Food: Han Table BBQ | It took Lisbon a while to figure out that Korean table top BBQ has been trendy in NYC for decades, but better late than never. It all finally started with Han Tabel Barbecue in Gomes Freire, about two years ago, which was the first one in town despite years of (often Korean) demand. Now they’re spreading all over town like.. well, a virus. – Bogdan

Best Pizza: Lupita Pizzaria | They have a small curated menu which makes choosing all the easier, so be assured whatever you pick will be amazing. Their dough is made with massa mãe and is baked to perfection. – Gloria

Honorable Mention: Mergulho Collective in the Arroz Estúdios courtyard is the real deal. I have personally tried and tested it on a weekly basis for months now – Eddie

Best Pizza (São Paulo Style): Nonna Beija | An offshoot of the aforementioned Boteco Dona Beija, this is one of the only places to get the topping-ladened pizza of Brazil. There was another delivery option that you could only order through Facebook, but they closed for… unknown reasons. They have their own delivery website (https://nonnabeija.pt/delivery/) and have very limited opening times, but the catupiry, palmetto, and pretty much every other topping is worth timing your dining. – Eden

Best Restaurant for Outdoor Dining: Bambu Tré | Aside from the incredible Vietnamese food (get the assorted platter, for God’s sake!) this restaurant has the coolest patio out back, hidden from the bustle of Rossio, and it’s tiki-themed. Yes, it is surrounded by bamboo, yes, there are Christmas lights scattered about, yes, there is a broken kid-sized motorbike hanging on the wall, and no, we don’t understand why it’s there either…but we love it. – Ellis

Best Middle Eastern Restaurant: Tantura | Every single thing on the menu here is ridiculously good. It’s a Middle Eastern restaurant with everything from shakshuka and labneh to cocktails and halva, not to mention eight (eight!) different kinds of hummus, and I’m talking about REAL hummus here. It’s also got an amazing vibe and incredibly nice staff, and the prices are reasonable enough that you can order several dishes and spend several hours getting uncomfortably full. -Melissa

Best Açai: Oakberry Açai Lisboa | This women-led Brazilian joint is the go-to place for açai. For those who aren’t in the know, açai is considered a “superfood”, served as a cold sorbet type of thing which resembles what you might get if all the other super-berries got it off in a freezer. There are toppings too (state of cherries unknown). – Eden

Best Ramen: Panda Cantina | This place isn’t new but very recently it’s become very hip. You are now very unlikely to get a table without an ungodly wait (and no, this isn’t just COVID). That said, it is worth it for the oh-so-reasonably priced and delicious Chinese-style ramen. Three options keep it simple and the beer is great. – Eden

Best Vegan Food: TIE!

Veganeats Caffe | A tiny breakfast/lunch spot run by an old Portuguese couple who are the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. Everything is homemade, super affordable, and delicious – whether you’re vegan or not. They do a main dish that changes daily, plus vegan versions of Portuguese classics like pão com chouriço, alheira, bacalhau à Brás, and various cakes and pastries. They’ve also started doing their own delivery service on the weekends, which is a great alternative to food delivery apps. There’s nothing better than getting a visit from these people on a Saturday afternoon, trust me. -Melissa

Ao 26 the Vegan Project | The best thing about an all vegan restaurant (if you are, in fact, of the herbivore persuasion) is looking at a menu and being able to choose anything. Ao 26 doesn’t disappoint, offering a host of Portuguese classics and inventive dishes in addition to the obligatory vegan burgers. They also have great desserts and wine. A little more expensive, this is an actual vegan restaurant where you can go out for an evening. – Eden

Best Vegan Place to Take People Who Aren’t Vegan: The Food Temple | Tucked away in a charming corner of Mouraria, The Food Temple is the ultimate I-can’t-believe-it’s-all-vegan dinner destination. Sit outside in the courtyard at a makeshift table on the stairs for the full experience, and order a few dishes to share. The menu rotates regularly, but if you have the chance to order the “veganiscas” (vegan pataniscas made with jackfruit) don’t miss out. Dessert is also ridiculously good. – Melissa

Best Restaurant that survived Covid-19 and didn’t change a thing: Amigo Lee’s | Amigo Lee’s is not the official name of this staple clandestine Chinese restaurant that stands out from the rest. Its official name is “Dumpling” something or other, and it’s not on Glovo, Uber Eats, Instagram, Facebook, or Tik Tok. Its entire staff — owners Mr. Lee and his lovely wife — barely speak two words of Portuguese and even less English. It does not have a vegan-friendly menu. It’s easy to miss. Its decor feels more like Soviet communal living than a center-of-Lisbon restaurant. Hell, even some of Atlas’ own staff don’t think it’s worthy of a “best of” list. But those members of Atlas staff are wrong and should be fired. To see why, go all the way up the fairly recently built and almost never functioning escalator on the East side of Martim Moniz park, make a right, find the little Asian calligraphy sticker on the first buzzer on your right, ring the bell, look up to see Mr. Lee or wife pop their head out the window above and, depending on the looks of you, buzz you up. Then head up to the third floor, be greeted with a beautiful smile, sit down, relax, and prepare for the hands-down fastest and best (minus the language barriers) service in town. Take in the unique, hand-made by Mr.Lee decorations donning the humble walls of the four dining rooms. Sip on some Tsing Tao beer, Chinese soda, or an impeccably-poured glass of box wine. Choose from a picture-based menu, order, and, within minutes, indulge in flawless dumplings, duck, chicken, octopus, pork buns, noodles, hot and sour soup, bokchoy, the best cabbage you’ve ever had in your life (A9 on the menu), and overall food-gasmic bliss, courtesy of two of the hardest working and nicest people in Lisbon. Mr. Lee and wife, I know you probably can’t read this, but all of us here at Atlas are grateful and glad that you survived 2020 (as one of us always knew you would). – Bogdan

Best Restaurant that closed due to COVID: Sama Sama, A Maria Não Deixa, Taqueria Pistoles e Corazon… there are so many. – The Atlas Staff

Best Frozen Food to Have in the Freezer In Case of Face-Eating Zombie Attack: Siberian and/or Ukrainian and/or Kazakhstani Pelmeni and Vareniki | No freezer is complete without a few bags of these delicious dumplings from the former U.S.S.R.. Delicate rugby ball-shaped dough filled with meat, fruit, cheese, or veggie combinations is the perfect quick meal for both adults and children looking to stave off hunger during the apocalypse. Procure your favorite(s) at Mix Markt and throw in a bottle of Russian Standard for good measure so you can stand waiting the seven minutes it takes to boil up these bad boys. Once out of the pot, throw on a pat of butter, a dollop of sour cream, or a sprinkle of your favorite vinegar, and these yummy, comforting goodies will get the job done. Quick, easy, and tasty? Da, pozhaluysta. – Ellis

Best Drinks

Best Bartender: Filipe at House of Corto Maltese | Let Filipe take your tastebuds and your wits on a wild ride. This guy knows what he’s doing and can mix your favorite spirit with something unexpected, very much like the wonderland he has built inside his tiny bar between Santos and Cais Sodré. Go check it out and bring your best friend: there isn’t much room at the bar and we don’t want to attract TOO much attention to his genius. That might slow down the service, as Filipe is the only one working the bar. – Ellis

Best Bar for an Amicable Divorce: O Galeto | It wouldn’t be a best-of list without this Saldanha staple snagging at least one category. If you and your significant other can’t stand the sight of each other, then you’re in luck as this half a century-old restaurant has stool-to-counter seating where you can focus your gaze on the amazing roast beef platter, tomato soup gratinada, or beef tartar that you ordered. Go Dutch or make them pay, just remember you aren’t obligated to share…though I recommend it. – Ellis

Best Ginjinha Spot Where Local Alcoholics and Prostitutes Make Tourists Feel Both Welcome and Uncomfortable: Amigos da Severa | In the heart of Mouraria, right next to what was once home to Severa — the dead-of-tuberculosis-at-26-years-old prostitute who brought fado to the masses centuries before Madonna tried and failed — stands Amigos da Severa. This tiny local landmark, when open, does not offer over-priced chocolate cups of cherry liquor and endless lines of jolly vacationers. What it does offer is fairly-priced beer and ginjinha, a charming, older-than-time, non-English-speaking host with a conspicuously red nose, colorful, decades-long loyal customers (with similar noses), and character. – Bogdan

Best Mocktails: Guacamole | Sure, it’s a Mexican restaurant and sure, it’s a chain, but their virgin margarita and their zero-alcohol beer-based michelada are on point enough to win this category. Not feeling it? Don’t worry! There’s more fun to be had on their mocktail menu with the super-refreshing Juan Lemon minty infusion and the Tea-Tox with the burnt cinnamon stick. All highly recommended. – Ellis

Best Wine Bar for People Who Know Nothing About Wine: Vino Vero | Located on a tiny side street in Graça, Vino Vero is the natural wine bar you never knew you needed. Don’t worry about a long and complicated wine list; just tell the waiter what you feel like drinking (red, white, rosé, fruity, dry, sweet, etc.) and they’ll bring you the perfect choice. And come hungry, because every single thing on the tapas-style food menu will blow your mind (think cured meats, fresh burrata, cheese boards, sourdough… you get the idea). – Melissa

Best Way Not to Become a Drunk During COVID: Cycling | Lisbon has more bike lanes than ever, and less traffic on the road. Now is the time! – Eddie

Best Culture

Best Area for Free Street Art: Mouraria | The stairs going past Jardim de Graça on the East side (which is to your right, if you’re going up to Graça) are a great place to check out some off-the-grid local virtuosos of the spray-paint can, with new pieces added on a bi-weekly basis, most of them not just territorial pissings. – Bogdan

Best New Gallery/Exhibit Space: Prisma | New? Who knows -— new to me. It used to be something else, but now it is a cool new cultural association just up from Martim Moniz. Strong lineup of events, workshops, exhibitions, etc as well as cheap wine. However, the adjacent building is crumbling and lumps of masonry will occasionally rain down upon the corridor. Watch your heads, you have been warned. – Eden

Best Museum for Not Art: Casa do Capitão | A life saver in 2020; open space with live music and great snacks to restore some sense of normalcy. – Jess

Best Outdoors

Best Beach: Praia da Adraga | Epic sunsets, anyone? Adraga is one of the go-to places for locals during summer, and it’s a favorite among photographers for its superb cliffs and golden hour light. Hit the beach early to get a good spot, and enjoy a wonderful lunch at the little restaurant just at the beach. The seafood is so fresh, and the view is just magnificent. This is one of the loveliest beaches in Portugal and it’s just a stone throw’s away from Lisbon. – Roxanne

Best Flat, Mostly Tourist-Free Bike Ride: Cais do Sodre to Vasco de Gama Bridge | Avoid the crowds of well-dressed, overly serious joggers and giddy scooterers and head not West but East along the river Tejo. In the roughly 40-minute journey (depending on your speed) you will see makeshift homeless cities, trucks, trains, boats, ships, docks, run-down buildings and shiny, ugly-but-expensive new construction projects, beautiful little parks and unique playgrounds, boardwalks, sculptures, Parque das Naçoes, and, finally, the second longest bridge in Europe. And it’s all flatland. – Bogdan

Best Gym to Work Off All Your Nervous Energy: The Bakery CrossFit | It’s surprisingly easy to forget about the terrifying state of the world while you’re getting your ass kicked by the most brutal workout imaginable. That’s just one reason why I spend several hours per day at this place; others include the attached café (specialty coffee, healthy lunches, fresh juice, etc.) and the absolutely lovely team of people who run it (plus the various dogs who often make guest appearances). Classes are usually conducted in English, and the intimidating CrossFit stereotypes simply don’t apply here. It’s hands down the best place in Lisbon to break a sweat, blow off some steam, and find out that you’re way stronger than you thought. – Melissa

Best Park: Tapada das Necessidades | Take some breadcrumbs or old crackers and feed the ducks in the pond and drop a few coins in the collection box at the back gate to keep the cats fed but avoid the geese at all costs. Those guys will nip at your feet if you get too close. The menagerie of animals roaming this hillside park only makes the wild surroundings cooler. There are nooks and crannies to hide among the cacti and overgrown succulents if you’ve come with a book, and there’s a lawn big enough for you and your friends to have a game of footie or a picnic on a warm day. This spot is the best place for an adventure walk in town. – Ellis

Best Sport to Practice for five people max: Hackey Sacking after a climb in Monsanto or a cycle to Jardim do Passeio dos Heróis do Mar along the river front. – Eddie

Best Shops and Services

Best Place to Get a COVID Test: Cruz Vermelha Testing Center | I went there for a rapid test and it was super quick and easy! -Melissa

Best Bookstore: Bookshop Bivar | Not just a good bookshop, that focusses mainly on English language books, but also a very friendly atmosphere! -Eddie

Best Open Mic: Camones Cinebar | Shaka’s weekly Tuesday Open Mic at this humble joint in the heart of Graça for the better half of 2020 has been getting RSVP-ed out within hours because it redefines the entire concept of Open Mic. Why? Because Shaka can. Facebook it. – Bogdan

Best Place That Has Everything: Supermercado Sarkar | Google map this one. It’s like a Disneyland for the senses. It has everything. Every. Single. Thing. And then some. – Bogdan

Best Place to Fix Electronics: Martim Moniz | There are three or four shops on either side of the park with professionals from the East in them who can fix almost anything and don’t even care abut what Apple says. -Bogdan

Best Shopping Place for Communists: See “Best Place That Has Everything” – Bogdan

Best Place to Meet Expats: A.M.O. Brewery – Jess

Best Place to Avoid Expats: Sshh! The expats are reading! -Eddie

Miscellany

Best Place to Cry in Public: The Cais do Sodré to Cacilhas Ferry at sunset | [This one requires a bit of planning] If you’re gonna cry, then you’d better make it damn epic. I’m talking cinematic here. Step one, get yourself an ice cream; it makes EVERYTHING better. Step two, wear something red or orange. Step three, recharge your travel pass. Step four, hop on the ferry to Cacilhas, and go up on the first floor. Secure a nice spot alone by the window. Step five, blend in with the environment, Wes Anderson style (hint: the boat seats are all orange, hence the color-coordinated outfit!). The light should start to get golden just before sunset, and the boat will get filled with this beautiful, warming light. Step six, let the tears roll down your cheeks; don’t hold back. You’ve only got about 5 minutes of this beautiful boat ride, so you might as well just make the most out of it! Step seven, look out the window and try to spot a minimum of 3 gigantic jellyfish. They’re there, floating about; most likely, they’re just cheering on you. Everything will be ok, trust me. Now go get yourself a glass, two, or three of ginjinha in one of the little tascas, and cry some more. -Roxanne

Best Place to Pretend This Isn’t Happening: The various community farms and gardens around Lisbon are a very nice place to remind yourself that people do stuff together other than drink. -Eddie

Best Place to Think About Serious Life Changes: Miradouro das Portas do Sol | Right before and during sunrise. -Bogdan

Best Place to Pick a Fight: See “Best Açai.” – Bogdan

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