Yup, you heard that right. I’m a chef, and my wife and I totally ate a shit load of fast food in Portugal.
The food in Portugal is absolutely amazing. It’s fresh, it’s local, it’s oh so good. When you’re a tourist on a 1 or 2 week vacation, you’ll eat out every day and get to enjoy all the great stuff for every meal. However, when you’re living there, at least temporarily and don’t have a steady stream of income coming in… fast food can save your wallet.
We planned well coming to Portugal, but our budget took a major hit when we had to suddenly change our plans due to problems with our first apartment. It was a blessing in disguise in the sense that it allowed us to be more flexible and experience life in different neighbourhoods in Lisbon, as well as other parts of Portugal, but it also had a drastic negative side-effect. Having to move so frequently (due to everything being so last minute) had basically tripled our accommodation costs. That means less money for everything else, including food (as much as that broke my chef heart).
Even if you’re just a traveler, if you’re in need to save some cash, these tips will help you in a pinch.
Our first friend is something you can find all over Europe… the kebab house. Middle-eastern immigrants have imported their food to small quick-service shops, where you can eat a full plate (meat, salad, fries) for anywhere from €4.50 – €6.50. Some of them will even give a large enough portion to save some for a small lunch the next day. It’s not the best food in the world, but hey, it tastes great and it’s cheap. It does the trick.
Ok, so I have no shame in this next statement…. well, I sort of do… but I’ve comes to terms with it.
I love McDonald’s in Portugal. There, I said it. McDonald’s became somewhat of a much needed oasis in the desert. Basically, it became our affordable comfort food. It’s consistent, you know what your’e gonna get, and you can eat for 2 people for under €11.
It’s strange actually. Surprisingly, McDonald’s doesn’t quite have the same reputation in Portugal as it does in North America. I’m used to all the locations at home being quite gritty, full of rowdy students leaving a huge mess, or a lot of random riff raff. The environment and the system in Portugal is actually quite nice! It’s relatively calm and relaxing… I still can’t believe I’m saying it, as I write this post, but it’s true. All the locations are VERY clean. They have quite a bit of seating space, free wi-fi (which is great for travelers), and a pretty seamless automated ordering system that makes it operate much more efficiently than we’re used to in Toronto.
On top of all this, McDonald’s in PT carries things you’d only find here, based on Portuguese classics like Caldo Verde (kale soup), and McBifana (bifana is a pork cutlet sandwich, popular festival street food).
Wow, I just wrote a whole post promoting the benefits of McDonald’s. I’m gonna go ponder the meaning of life now, or something of the sort. Maybe in a dark cave in the wild. See you in 40 years.