Portugal: O das Joanas Cafe
When we arrived at Lisbon International Airport, we found the metro station relatively quickly. Problem was, it was closed. Apparently the metro workers were on strike that day.
We ended up wandering around for a long time before we finally figured out where the bus stop we needed to get to was...outside the airport. We were tired from lugging around our bags in the hot sun and stressed from not knowing where to get off the bus (and not having any Portuguese language skills to ask for directions). On top of all that, I got yelled at by a little old lady in Portuguese for focusing too much on the map on my cell phone (a little old man was kind enough to translate what she said after she got off).
Lisbon wasn't exactly off to a great start. But that all changed once we met our AirBnb hostess, Maria. We were quite a bit late for our scheduled meeting, but she was very understanding and waited at O das Joanas Cafe in the little square close to her flat:
Maria gave us a quick tour of the area and then walked us through the flat. We were stunned by the extent to which she prepares for her guests. There were business cards of nearby restaurants stacked on the bookshelf right alongside a couple city guides. There was a drawer full of Lisbon maps and a book of emergency phone numbers. Best of all, she had prepared quite a spread of bread, cheese, fresh fruit, and juice. Aww, Maria, you really shouldn't have.
After Maria took her leave, we mowed through the strawberries and bread and then headed back to O das Joanas Cafe for lunch...and free wifi. The fruit was nice, but we wanted something more filling. We figured we shouldn't go too far for our first meal in Lisbon and we wanted to take advantage of the free wifi to plan the rest of the day.
Luckily for us, O das Joanas Cafe had English menus.
We started off with a pastel de nata or custard pastry (1.20 €):
Dessert first? Yea. We couldn't wait to try probably the most famous Portuguese treat. It's really nothing like a Chinese egg tart. The crust is flakier and the custard filling is more...custard-y. I'm not a huge fan of Chinese egg tarts (I bring shame to my ancestors, I know), but these Portuguese tarts? Woo, baby!
Finally came the actual lunch entrees. There was a sandes de salmao fumado or smoked salmon sandwich (4 €):
It came in dark malt bread with cheese curd spread, spinach, and dill. Everything tasted so fresh and yummy. Even the side salad was great,
I saw bacalhau a conde da guarda (4.90 €) on the daily specials blackboard and insisted on ordering it without really knowing what it was (no English translations for the specials, sigh). When my program director heard that I was going to Lisbon, she wrote out a list of foods I absolutely had to eat. Bacalhau was the first thing on that list. Seeing as how my program director is Portuguese, I took her advice to heart and pounced on the chance to try bacalhau the first opportunity I could.
Bacalhau is dried and salted cod. It can be prepared in many different ways. Bacalhau a conde da guarda turned out to be a kind of pan fried cod mashed potato:
Omygawd. So good. It was by far the best thing that meal. Wow.
In comparison, the tosta mista or grilled cheese and prosciutto sandwich (3.40 €) wasn't quite as memorable:
Finally, we couldn't resist trying an empada de galinha (1.20 €)
Which is basically an individual chicken pie:
Everything we had at O das Joanas Cafe was well prepared, fresh, and just tasted damn good. It's definitely one of those places where locals go to sit, have some coffee, and just chill for hours. We made it into our trip-planning headquarters during our stay in Lisbon. And when I say headquarters, what I really mean is that we shadily sat on the public benches in the square and mooched off the cafe's free wifi. Heh.
One night, we slipped down to the square for some much needed Internet time and came across a pleasant surprise:
Live music! It was so great to just relax and enjoy the night listening to the sultry voice of the female artist. I couldn't understand a single thing she sang, but I believed every word of it.
Loved O das Joanas Cafe even though we only really ate there twice. Everything about it was awesome. The laid back feel, the community, and of course, the food. It's not exactly in a touristy area of Lisbon, but it's a local gem worthy of a detour.
O das Joanas Cafe
Largo Intendente Pina Manique, 28
Lisbon 1100-285, Portugal
+351 21 887 94 01