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Every great city needs a great sandwich. Porto, Portugal has one that might be one of the greatest sandwiches in the world: the francesinha.
What is a francesinha?
The francesinha is an absolute gut-buster of a sandwich. This is not a sandwich you eat if all you want is a light snack. The francesinha is for when you want to eat a massive meal and then go pass out. It’s perfect if you want to line your stomach before or recover from port tasting in Porto.
The ingredients in a francesinha vary, but here’s the gist of it: a ton of meat, cheese, and bread, topped with sauce (and possibly a fried egg, in case this all wasn’t heavy enough). The francesinha (which means “little French girl”) was created by Portuguese people who traveled to France, experienced the croque monsieur, then made it their own. Nowadays, the sandwich contains some combination of ham, linguiça, steak, sausage, melted cheese, a fried egg, thick slices of bread, and a sauce made from tomatoes, beer, port wine, spices. If that’s not enough, it’s served with french fries on the side, which are perfect for dipping in the sauce.
Where to eat a francesinha in Porto
There are several restaurants in Porto that are famous for francesinhas, including Bufete Fase, Cafe Majestic, Chamico, Santa Francesinha, O Golfinho, Santiago F, O Afonso, and Lado B.
I couldn’t visit Porto and not have a francesinha. I love sandwiches, and I especially love ones that are filled with meat, cheese, and nothing else. On a quiet, rainy evening, I visited Santa Francesinha.
The Francesinha is heaven. It’s so much meat and cheese and egg gooeyness. I washed it down with a Super Bock Stout. The sauce, while tasty, could have been a bit spicier in my opinion. Trying other francesinhas in Porto would perhaps give me a greater perspective on how the sauce can taste, as that’s the part of the sandwich where restaurants can really focus their effort on standing out from the crowd.
Anthony Bourdain aired an episode of “Parts Unknown” from Porto a few weeks after I got back home from my first trip to Porto. He’d been there just before me, but he too had to have a francesinha. Warning: the video below will make you very hungry.
On a subsequent trip to Porto, I went to this same francesinha restaurant that Anthony Bourdain had visited. There is now a small shrine dedicated to the man.
O Afonso has excellent francesinhas. The one I had tasted fresh, with an excellent, flavorful sauce. It’s my favorite one that I’ve had (so far).
If I had a death wish, I would be doing reviews of the best francesinhas in Porto. Instead, these couple of visits will have to suffice. Sorry for not being more thorough!
Porto is a city filled with great food. While many visitors will rightly gravitate towards its seafood, be sure to leave a large hole in your stomach for Porto’s greatest culinary creation, the francesinha.