Thanks for taking the time to get to know the Fernandez family. In 2014, when we were only a two person family, we took off for a year long trip around the world. While this would have been a wonderful point to start a blog we were too distracted with surviving as two New Yorkers completely out of our comfort zone.
In 2018 the family grows by one. With the addition of Olivia we were often met with the phrase “guess you won’t be traveling as much now” or at all. We heard it so much we almost started to believe it ourselves. So as soon as we had the pediatrician’s approval we took off on a 19 hour flight to Hong Kong from Atlanta with three month old Olivia. Olivia did not know it but she was creating two parents that were forced to learn all they could about traveling with children.
It’s our hope that this site will empower you to travel with your family. The benefits of travel don’t require a passport, an extremely long flight, or even a flight at all. You simply need to go to a place you have never been or even a familiar place and look at it in a new way. Taking your family with you, near and far, insures generations to come will have a wonderfully large world view. Expanding who they include when they use a phrase “people like me”…
Just after I relocated to Porto back in April of 2019, I was walking around my new neighborhood in exploration mode looking for something to eat. The Marques neighborhood is a beautiful area anchored by the large densely wooded square which includes its center piece fountain, a band stand, an open-air cafe and a D line metro station. The square, or Praca, is typically filled with locals, a handful of tourists and clusters of retired men playing sueca (a Swedish card game) under the trees at the south end.
In the mid to late 19th century, Praca do Marques was home to a brandy market and a bullring. It also formed a barrier at what was then the northern edge of Porto where taxes were levied on goods coming into the city. In the 1930s, construction began on the French designed Church of Senhora da Conceicao on the west side of the square. Today the Praca is surrounded by the church, a mix of apartments, B&Bs, markets, bakeries, cafes, Portuguese and ethnic restaurants, miscellaneous shops and various other services including recent additions such as a cheese and wine shop, a vegan restaurant/market and a couple of small art galleries.
At the time I didn’t really know if I wanted to cook or eat out, but I quickly changed my mind! Just across the Praca from my apartment, where the northern most end of Rua de Santa Catarina (# 1585) dead ends into Praca do Marques on the corner, there is a perfect little find. Auto Mercado do Marques!It is primarily a fruit and vegetable market that is freshly stocked each Monday afternoon and where almost everything that comes from the ground is sourced from within Portugal. A handful of items come from outside the country when not in season or when not available locally such as grapes in January or mangos, papayas and cashews from Brazil.
In addition to the crisp fruits and fresh vegetables on display and poking out onto the sidewalk there are also cheeses, breads, farm fresh egg from Portugal and dried bacalhau (cod fish) from Iceland which is salted locally for 8 weeks hanging on hooks in the window. Dried bacalhau, is typically used in chowder, curry or for filling empanadas. In the back, the shelves are stocked with local wine and port, a large variety of sundries including beans, pasta, various grains, flour, canned tuna and sardines, small bags of almonds, walnuts and dried fruits from Portugal and Brazil along with spices and tea.
For the past seven years Berta has been managing the clients while her sister and the market’s owner, Antonia, can be seen stocking, tending shelves and tidying most days. Antonia has a thirty-year business relationship with the local farm in the Porto district that delivers fresh each week. Most produce is organic at a fraction of the price you’d pay in any of the other larger farmers markets scattered around the city of Porto. Everything smells and tastes like heaven in its natural state with dirt still clinging!
Beyond the food, perhaps the most enjoyable part of my now frequent visits are the cooking related health tips and advice from Berta! I’ve come to know Berta and Antonia well, and Berta is not shy about sharing her experience mixed with colorful conversation. Strawberries are good for anemia. Using the leaves from broccoli in soups and risotto can aid in weight loss…in addition to enhancing the taste. Cutting off the end off of a cucumber and repeatedly “twisting” that piece around the end of the just cut longer piece produces a pulp which aids in digestion of the cucumber in salads and can reduce inflammation. With each visit I have a new anecdote or antidote!
I was accustomed to buying fruit and vegetables from the trendy North American and European “organic” grocery chains and farmers markets. So, this first encounter, from the location and food to the knowledge sharing and banter, was a welcome change and addition to my life in Porto. On that day in April I picked up two grocery size bags packed with fruit, vegetables, nuts, cheese, bread and a couple bottles of wine for about €20 including the wine. A week’s worth of food for me…not including the wine of course! Back across the Praca, I was now home enjoying the pleasures of cooking a giant pot of soup with a glass of wine, some bread and cheese. Any thought of a restaurant at that point was just a distant memory.
When in Porto, take the D line metro two stops north of Trindade station to Marques or just walk the 15 minutes uphill from the city center and go visit Berta and Antonia at Auto Mercado do Marques! You will have a thoroughly enjoyable experience not found in any on-line travel magazine or referred by a hotel concierge.
This is not an article about tying your child to a tree while you relive your college champion flip cup days. Some of my favorite places serve coffee, kombucha, and smoothies. What you will find, are some of the best deals in Atlanta that won’t look twice as you walk in pushing a stroller. Some even have designated play areas for your child while you partake in a delicious libation.
Monday Night Brewing Garage is probably the most child-friendly brewery in America. Designated play areas have everything from a wooden train set to a play kitchen. It leaves no question that you are invited in with children. You must keep your kids close and keep an eye on them but isn’t that just part of your everyday parenting? Monday Night Brewing has fabulous fermented offerings for all beer palates. “Dr. Robot” is a blackberry lemon sour, offered year-round. Its tart fruity flavor is perfect after a hot day of lifeguarding your children. All of Monday Night’s Imperial Stouts are sure to please. The dark beers come with the option of adding a shot of Nitro Cold Brew Coffee for $1. That should provide you with the energy needed to keep up with your children for a few more minutes. An outdoor fire pit gets going during the winter months to add danger and intrigue to any visit. Running parallel is a large completed stretch of the Westside Beltline. If your kids are older, they can go for a bike ride or run laps while you sit and sip. A rotation of local food trucks and caterers make every visit a culinary adventure. Keep an eye on Groupon for occasional deals here.
Whole Foods Midtown. I know this one sounds like I am slipping, but it is one of the best places to sit down and consume the beverages you just selected from their entire stock of liquids. This Whole Foods has a rooftop space, Canopy Court, complete with seating, corn hole, large connect four, Jenga, and tvs. To enjoy this space, you can either shop in the store and bring anything that is not in glass, or simply head upstairs and order off of their well-selected but pricier menu. To get there, take the elevator on the far right (if you are facing the elevators) to the top floor.
In the heart of Midtown, Cafe Lucia is a small but well-stocked cafe with a comfortable living room style sitting area perfect for you to break out the coloring book for the kids while you make your selection. Having a food menu with items like PB&J french toast means even the finickiest of little eaters will be able to find something to stuff in their belly. Located just a few minutes’ walk from Piedmont Park it is a great stop before or after. If you have a thirst for something stronger than a cafe au lait, grab a beer or glass of wine from their long list of offerings. If you find yourself there on a Friday you are in luck . . . $5 cocktails ALL DAY.
While it may not have a children’s nook design to entertain your child, Eventide Brewing has many features that put this brewery on my child-friendly list. First, they are actually friendly here to kids and adults alike. I have never been the only one there rocking a bookbag full of wipes, crayons, and snacks. Having other fathers around helps ease the occasional pang of guilt of being in a brewery with my child. The wide-open spaces, low seating, and board games make this a great place to relax before heading out to dinner or bedtime for the kid. There is also an outdoor space generally occupied by patrons and their dogs.
I am only one man, let me know your favorite places to go out and have a drink with your family. Coffee, beer, cocktail, and smoothie aficionados are all welcome.
With all the cost involved in travel finding some free things to do in a new city is a definite win. In our home city of Atlanta there is almost always something free going on for families to enjoy. Here are a few of the pocket friendly options that are available year round. Also some resources to find out what may be going on unique to the time you are in town.
Story time at the Peachtree library- Found in Midtown Atlanta- “Mr. Ken the Librarian” puts on a stellar story time for different age groups every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 10:30am-11am. This program is set up for kids of Pre school age and younger. While there is no child too young, 4-5 years old is probably the oldest child you want to bring. This is not just a story time, your child will be singing, playing with bells, and marching around the room before the half hour is over.
Piedmont park– there is something here for everyone. My family’s classic walk through here starts off with a stop at the playground found in the center of the park. Adjacent, there is a small foot bridge that is the perfect perch to feed the ducks, fish, and turtles found in Lake Clara Meer. Be sure to bring some bread or crackers with you.
On Saturdays from March 30th – November there is a free history walking tour that starts at the Green Market found near the 12th street entrance to piedmont Park. The meet up point is the Conservancy information table. The tour starts at 11am and generally goes for 60-90 min.
If you are an early bird, pun intended, there is a bird walk organized by the Atlanta Audubon Society. This starts at an eye rubbing 8am and goes on for 2-3 hrs. every first Saturday of the month. Check the Atlanta Audubon Society web page to ensure start times.
HIGH Museum Second Sunday – this event has art making, story time, and access to their 2 sensory rooms all included for the price of nothing. Free admission runs from 12pm-5pm with special programing from 1pm-4pm. As you can guess it gets very crowded. If you have a Bank of America card the HIGH is part of the “Museums On Us” granting free access for the card holder on the first full weekend of every month. Another hack, but not free, is Facebook parenting groups based in Atlanta. I have seen extremely discounted guest passes for sale by parents that thought they had more friends than they actually do when they purchased these passes.
Walk the Eastside Beltline– Its always motivating for kids and adults alike to have an activity going while on walks. The activity on this walk? Finding Tiny Doors…. The first one can be found on the left side wall of the overpass that you go under shortly after starting the Beltline from Monroe Drive NE. My favorite destination for this walk is the Historic Fourth Ward Park Playground. If its warm out bring some clothes that can get wet so the kids can enjoy the interactive water features at this, what may be the best in Atlanta, park. Food, Beer, and coffee can be found all around you on your walk. From the O4W playground you are only a few blocks away from Ponce City Market.
While the Martin Luther King Jr Historic Site should be a stop on you visit to Atlanta, free or not, this inspiring destination will cost you nothing. Consider taking MARTA or the above ground street car as parking is a pain. The street car can also take you from there to another great playground and the largest interactive fountain in the world, Centennial Olympic park.
Have any fun free activities? E-mail me and I will post them on the blog, or post links in the comment section…
Planes, trains, and automobiles, long travel times are never easy. There have been moments that I wanted to cry out for mommy so imagine how your child feels. No one is going to have a good trip if the child is upset. Olivia has traveled with us to Hong Kong, Taiwan, NYC, Scotland, Vancouver, Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto, Spain twice, Canary Islands, Portugal twice, and France. Here are 5 tips to insure the entire family has a great trip.
Hotels/Apartments – Our family does a mix of hotels and apartments as they are both great in their own ways. Hotels are great because who doesn’t like their bed made for them every morning? Vicente loves hotel breakfast, and it allows him to sneak some food for an afternoon snack. I like the gym amenities that a hotel provides. Most hotels in Europe are extremely baby friendly. You can request a free crib and bathtub. Some hotels even have cute baby specific toiletry upon arrival. Call your hotel, they may have strollers and car seats for use as well. We also like apartment rentals, especially when Olivia was an infant, we filter our search for apartments with washing machines. We try to pack light and being able to do a load of laundry is a life saver, babies are messy! We travel with TONELIFE laundry soap sheets. They work great in a hotel sink or in a washing machine. Apartments with kitchens allow us to make food for Olivia that she is accustomed to, giving her a little reminder of home. The extra square footage in an apartment allows your toddler some space to explore that does not have a toilet in it.
Rent a Car Seat or use trains. We like to travel light so when we fly, and rent a car, we rent a car seat. Our favorite travel option is the train. You will get to walk around with your babies and its safer. Papa (Vicente), our driver, gets to enjoy some scenery as well.
Early Dinner, having a baby doesn’t mean you have to resort to room service. You can still go out to restaurants. Just go a little earlier so there is more room and less people to bother. Not an early dinner family and you want room service? Use the hotels ironing board on its lowest to the ground setting. It makes a great child height eating surface.
Wardrobe malfunctions and disasters happen – Bring extra clothes, diapers/wipes and trash bags so you can change anywhere.
A supply of stickers works as a better bribe than candy or cookies. Why? Because who wants to deal with a child hopped up on sugar stuck in a car, train, or plane?
Lastly check out our post specific to flying if that what you have going on. Have a wonderful trip and enjoy your family everywhere…
“What time will we start drinking?”, asked mostly out of fear. I will get to the answer later but my British friend David Kell, who has a strict not before 5pm rule, would not approve…
The Douro Valley, origination point of the wine we had been enjoying in Porto, has been on our list from before Olivia was born. There wasn’t a question if we were going, only for how long and how we were going to get there. With Olivia, our two year old, we were not sure if the travel time would be too long for a day trip. Would there be anything for her to do if we stayed for a few nights? Once we decided on a day trip the next question was tour group or self guided? After adding up all the expenses, the hassle of taking the train, and finding a taxi to every vineyard we decided on booking a tour. Based mostly on the fact that the self guided savings seemed to be minimal and the early morning train coupled with a late return was far from ideal. Turns out we made the right decision.
We booked with Oporto Road Trips, booking direct with the tour company saves you $10 the perfect amount to buy more Port wine. We received 2 tasting at different vineyards, stops for some very scenic pictures, a 45 min boat ride on the Douro River, and lunch. This tour group was the only one we could find that did not have an added charge for Olivia. Free of charge she was still given a meal at lunch, a car seat in the Mercedes Sprinter, and non alcoholic beverages at the vineyards. The convenience of being picked up and dropped off from the hotel was very appreciated.
The vineyards all gave more than enough wine and Port to experience a solid level of day drinking without being neglectful parents. The first vineyard, Quinta Do Beijo, gave us an in-depth tour of the property and process for making wine and Port. We were lucky enough to be there during harvest time and saw full exposed vats of crushed grapes. As a “thank you” for visiting, guests are given a taste of a Port wine straight from the barrel. This white port is so old that the tour guide struggled to figure a price if it was sold by the bottle, its not. After our tastings we were off again in the sprinter van.
At this point we were asking ourselves when lunch would be. Turns out we still had picture time, boat cruise, and a quick stop at an old train station before any food is offered. I highly recommend taking a light meal with you and eating breakfast. For your child there is little to no opportunity to buy food so bring enough for most of the day.
The best time for trying to put your little one down for a nap was the rabelo cruise. For nap time we put Olivia in the Lille Complete and she was out before we boarded the small wooden boat. My one disapointment is that the cruise would have been a perfect time to sip on some Port now that Olivia was asleep. Tip, stash someting to drink or eat for the boat ride. There are no easy oportunities to buy anything before the cruise so this takes some day before planing.
We did not bring a stroller but it seemed one would be useless and hard to maneuver in many of the toured areas. There was not a huge amount of walking but there were a few stairs.
… 9:45am, that’s the time we had our first drink. Bring some food and prepare to take some incredible pictures of one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world.
Davis finds a restaurant with a killer view and even better food atPraia da Luz…
The sun was shining, and it was 22 degrees. The perfect spring day! With an appetite, I took the #203 bus from Praca do Marques about 20 minutes to the Mercado da Foz bus stop and walked down Rua Diu 5 minutes until I hit the ocean. The views are spectacular cutting through this little section of Porto with the trees just starting to bloom and the street stacked with 19th century townhomes and shops. No two facades are alike. When you dead end into the beach, you’re immediately introduced to the “boardwalk” or Passadiço with hikers, runners and bicycles in abundance enjoying the boulder lined sand, the pier and lighthouse which leads you back to the Douro river and downtown. I learned later that this is actually part of the Porto leg of the Caminho de Santiago trek as it passes along this section of Portugal.
Following the boardwalk down toward the sea about 50 meters north of Rua Diu, I randomly came upon Praia da Luz restaurant and beach bar. It’s not visible from above, but just below street level the world changes. The vibe reminded me of St. Tropez for just a minute, but it’s more welcoming, down to earth, real and relaxed. At this point I was starving and walked inside the long narrow restaurant to white linen table clothes and the mirrored rear wall that brings the ocean inside…all directly on the beach. Fresh baked breads, homemade butter, tuna spread, tomato dip and Portuguese olives were accompanied by an amuse bouche. I didn’t ask, but it was fabulous and something from the sea. The menu is diverse though leans toward fish, so I ordered the seabass baked in sea salt and rosemary along with the fresh spinach and boiled potatoes…everything swimming in garlic and butter. Half a bottle of Portuguese Douro Valley white wine later and my planets were aligned. The service was flawless and the total bill, on the pricey side for Porto, including wine was about €25.
From inside the main restaurant with its wall of windows I could see the outdoor, more casual bar/restaurant which is part of the Praia da Luz facility and private beach. The main building also has a roof top section and outdoor bar to take in the spectacular ocean view. Outside, there are tables and white umbrellas as far as the eye can see along a large terraced wood deck with chaise lounge chairs beyond spilling into the sand. The outdoor menu is less expensive and more expansive with Portuguese tapas, ceviche, carpaccio, burgers, salads, pastas, various other local dishes, desserts and the like.
I followed the live music outside, ordered my first Porto Tonico and settled into a sofa under the gigantic “sail” that shades the rear section of the outdoor bar. For context, the Portuguese Porto Tonico is white port wine, tonic water, a slice of lemon and a sprig of mint. One glass alone is not possible. The man on a guitar was local and the music was chill. As the afternoon wore on and the drinks kicked in a “DJ” appeared. A barefoot, 60 something gentleman in white tee shirt and faded jeans looking like he literally lived on the beach with his dark tan and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. The music changed to something more from the Hotel Costes in Paris suitable for dancing and the eclectic people watching.
Under normal circumstances I’d be embarrassed to say that I was now in my sixth hour at Praia da Luz. Did I nap at some point? I do recall multiple conversations throughout the day. The sun was lowering, the crowd now growing with an ever-changing mix of locals, tourists and those just passing through on the Camino. A dessert was in order. I asked for something that wasn’t heavy and fit with the beach. They brought their “cream of the universe”: lime mousse, lemon curd and merengue…you do the math! For some unexplained yet completely obvious reason they also brought me a shot of “cachaça” which is a Brazilian liqueur made from fermented sugarcane juice. Good, yet evil. To me it sort of tastes like a cross between Turkish raki and maybe tequila…it’s aggressive on the way down!
I grabbed an Uber and headed back downtown for home. The bus, the Metro or even walking were all completely inappropriate at this point. Praia da Luz is yet another example of what Porto has to offer with a unique setting on the beach, excellent food and service. Highly recommended.
“Does this smell?” I asked Jo about our Osprey carrier. From the other side of the room she responded “Yes.” Earlier in our trip we had walked for twelve days from Porto, Portugal to Compostela de Santiago, Spain, averaging 13 miles / 21k a day. After a comfortable train ride back to Porto, we had to confront some hard truths. The Osprey was in desperate need of a washing. Feeling inspired, I took the carrier into the shower, soaped it up, and rinsed. I then carried the still dripping frame pack through the hotel room as my cleaning trophy. I was proud of what I had done, both me and the carrier were fresh again. But I was met with dismay. Upon seeing me, Jo quickly asked,“what are we going to carry Olivia around in all day?” I had not thought that far ahead. And at my urging, we had left the stroller at home. But this moment was travel-gold disguised as wet, and admittedly, still musty nylon. My impulsive shower wash forced us to find a new way to carry our daughter. It also made us reflect again on one of the first family-travel questions I was ever asked.
“It looks like you don’t take a stroller with you when you travel, would you recommend leaving it at home?” When I first heard that question, I was extremely biased, and responded with a resounding “yes!” Then, I had traveled exclusively with carriers, and I had always opted for the hands-free terrain-versatility that they offered. But, I was speaking from my limited knowledge base; I had never experienced the back-saving advantages of a stroller. With the framed carrier sodden we came up with two solutions. The first one was to use the soft carrier with Olivia on our back. That was merely a variation on the theme I knew well. The second solution, however, was the game-changer. I also went down to ask the hotel if they had a stroller that they lent out to guests, and as it turns out, they did. We now had a genuinely new option to try out in Porto.
My first stop with the bright red umbrella stroller was the gym. Why? Because that’s where the sterilization wipes, sprays, and unlimited amount of paper towels can be found. I sprayed and wiped the entire stroller down to a standard that even Jo was proud of. While I clumsily pushed the stroller through the hotel door Olivia took a look and exclaimed “oh, nice!” and started to climb in. Porto, Portugal and its steep cobbled sidewalks and streets combined with its availability of all types of public transport made it a perfect place for testing child transport superiority. With an unencumbered back, we rolled our daughter into a day of sightseeing.
The stroller performed much better than expected over uneven cobble stone side walks. Olivia did not seem to mind the bumpy ride and it even helped put her to sleep at times. Taking the bus to the seaside with the stroller was not as easy as it would have been with one of the other hands-free baby haulers, but it did allow me to sit down on a bus for the first time in a while. The other huge advantage is how easily we could transfer responsibility of carting Olivia around. The responsibility of carrying Olivia in the outsized Osprey frame pack is exclusively mine. The soft carrier usually gets strapped to whatever parent Olivia choses as her mule at that moment, but then stays there. The stroller could easily be toggled from one parent to the other.
There were some drawbacks to a stroller, especially in the storied cities, towns, and villages of the “Old World.” In Porto, many sidewalks taper to 2 feet across. At times they completely disappear, and we tried our best to walk in single file, one shoulder to the wall. Keeping the stroller out of traffic while avoiding oncoming pedestrians was a full time job. In crowds the stroller was also at a disadvantage. Many Portuguese did not see our stroller, or pretended they didn’t. As we jostled our way through the thick of humanity, we wondered if we were the only ones concerned for our little stroller. We had by then affectionally dubbed it “Little Red,” and knew, objectively at least, it was easily visible.
Portugal has recently been awarded the United Nations’ first award for being an Accessible Tourist Destination. What it took to get that appellation, however, was not clear to me. Looking for ramps and elevators became a constant occupation. Overall, Little Red was a welcomed relief from the long days of carrying Olivia, and if nothing else, it forced us to look around more, and find a path we may not otherwise have taken. If we had to carry it between hotels or through airports, however, even my tepid support might be tamped down. Calling or emailing your hotel or vacation stay and finding out if they can provide one is the way to go.
The next day, with the Osprey frame pack still not completely dried, we used our Lilly Complete. Generally, we only put Olivia in this carrier to get through busy areas such as airports, train stations. We’ve also adapted it to be our on-the-go sleeper. We have traveled so much that it is now her preferred place to sleep. As an all day carrier, however, we were uncertain. We were trying a new back position which would bring her flush against my back, and we would attempt to keep Olivia in it all day. The biggest concern was overheating, for all parties involved. The close-to-the-body position turned out to be optimal for shopping in the small shops around Porto. With the large frame pack, I am always afraid that I will turn and knock something over. And despite its moniker, “Little Red” always felt in the way. Jo also felt much more comfortable carrying Olivia in the Lilly Complete over the Osprey. Jo feels unbalanced while using the Osprey, which makes sense. It is optimized for me, 100 lbs bigger, and a full foot taller. The Lilly Complete also kept our hands free as the Osprey would, but with a soft exterior, allowed easy storage when Olivia wanted to walk around. The biggest draw back was encountered at snack time. Because Olivia is flush to our body there wasn’t a lot of room for her to eat or drink while we were carrying her.
Osprey Poco Plus has been our go to child transport system since Olivia has had the neck strength to hold her head up. It allows us to go on hikes and walk all day with her. It also has some great built in storage that frees up the hands of both parents. The optional rain cover has never failed to keep Olivia dry allowing us a full day of exploring no matter what the forecast is. On almost all of our vacations we go on some type of hike and this is the only system we could travel with that would lend itself to a day in the woods as well as an amble around town. This is also the carrier that Olivia will remain seated the longest without asking to walk herself. In Porto, we did find some draw backs. The radius needed to turn is rather large, so in stores and on public transport people and or things often get hit. While it does fold into itself when the child is not in the seat, if you have items stored in the pack it will not completely collapse. While it did not get the best overall marks on our test, it is our only option if we plan to do any hiking on the trip.
Overall the best advice would be to take the soft carrier, unless you are planing a hike, and contact hotels before booking to find one that has a stroller.
My Girlfriend and I were early for a brunch with friends and killing time one Saturday when we stumbled upon a tiny place with an octopus on the sign outside. We thought we would stop in for a quick snack and glass of wine before the brunch…we were starving. Who knew? Tortas de polvo & Companhia is at the top of the last little side street (Rua Conde São Salvador 52) near the port in Matosinhos. Parallel to the Rio Leca and generally between Brito Capelo and Mercado Metro stations it is easy access via Metro from downtown Porto.
Inside, the small bar and kitchen dominate the space with only 3 tables and a small counter along the side wall next to the kitchen. It’s adorable! The woman managing the customers while taking orders and “translating” for the kitchen spoke some hybrid of French, Portuguese and English. She was as charming as she was attentive to everyone’s needs.
We started with a glass of perfectly dry Portuguese house white wine from the Douro valley while checking out the menu. The miniature blackboard in the window had a torta de polvo (octopus pie or tart) for €3.50. This is what originally pulled us in and was to be our snack! We miscommunicated the order somewhere between the Portuguese and the French exchange and ended up with two Tortas. What could go wrong? Wrapped in the crust was what appeared to be ground octopus with tomato and mushrooms. The dough was light, warm and both sweet and spicy at the same time. It was a sort of brick red in color. Alongside the torta was a fresh mixed salad of greens, onions and carrots. It was a meal vs. a snack, but we slammed them both down knowing at this point our pending brunch with friends would be reduced to liquids and conversation. With our second glass of wine we also successfully split the “tres polvos” plate which was, as you may have guessed, three different tapas size octopus tastings. One was similar to a ratatouille, another grilled and the third mixed with potatoes and onion and served cold in a perfect cylinder shape. All excellent. Since we were this far in…we went for the dessert. A coffee tasting crème drizzled over the top of thinly sliced white cake of unknown ingredients. We didn’t ask, but it was warm and fresh and similarly sensational. The total bill was just shy of €20 for both of us.
As we were getting close to the meeting time for brunch we walked around the corner to meet our friends and had another glass of wine while explaining why we were not going to eat! Tortas de polvo & Companhia…it is not to be missed!
I was walking down the north end of Rua do Bonjardim near Praca do Marques in Porto one afternoon and noticed a man on a step ladder. I now know him to be Pedro. He looked like he was cleaning the windows of a 19th century townhome. I walked up and asked if he spoke English in my broken Portuguese. He chuckled responding in perfect English and explained that this was actually his restaurant and that he would be open again for dinner at 2000hrs that evening.
Taberna Dom Castro at Rua do Bonjardim 1078 is now a permanent fixture in our lives. Pedro serves delightful local Portuguese meals for lunch or dinner at very reasonable prices. At €14 per person all-inclusive for lunch or dinner, you should always make a reservation! Upon arrival, you ring the doorbell for access because Pedro and his small staff are busy cooking and serving the mix of business people, locals, and tourist clientele.
Small and cozy with green checkered table clothes on “picnic” style wood tables and an open kitchen in the back, you will feel at home immediately! Maybe 10 tables in the place. There is no menu of course as all the food is based upon what is fresh for today. Pedro asks if you would like meat or fish and proceeds to describe all the course options which can be tailored to your specific desires.
On our most recent visit we shared a large platter of freshly grilled piping hot sardines. These are to be eaten whole, head and all, popped into your mouth like candy with a squirt of fresh lemon across the plate. My friend’s two year old daughter was gobbling these down like she was in heaven. Along with the sardines was another platter of breaded pescada branca, a light and mild white fish…warm and a perfect complement to the sardines. On the side was a large steaming bowl of rice with grelo which was more like a soup in consistency. Grelo, a local Portuguese green, is something like a cross between spinach and kale. Tasty with the rice and the broth. The bread basket was filled with various warm Portuguese breads including white, wheat and dark.
We ordered a carafe of house white and one of house red and both were perfect with the meal, light and dry. Café (espresso) and bottled water trailed behind. Just when we thought the experience could not be any better….Pedro came by and described the dessert options! Everything is made in the back and we ordered one leite crème, otherwise known as the Portuguese version of crème brulee and a chocolate mousse. Both of these are difficult to describe to the level of the actual experience. The leite crème looks like a creme brulee, but is softer in consistency and a bit more sweet with less vanilla taste. Perfectly torched before it was brought to the table. The cornerstone of the meal for me was the chocolate mousse. It was creamy in texture vs. sponge like and made of dark chocolate with a surprise nibble of random chocolate chunks inside.
Being raised in a place where most food is manufactured and full of chemicals, it’s still amazing to me to actually taste the ingredients in the food you are eating. Pedro’s, Taberna Dom Castro is a perfect example of classic traditional local Portuguese food at its best.