When I learned that Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown was airing a travel and food show in Porto, Portugal it brought back memories of the first time I visited Porto and came face to face with a real “Francesinha”.
Porto, the second-largest city in Portugal after Lisbon, is located along the Douro river in Northern Portugal and is known worldwide for its Porto wine, a fortified after-dinner dessert wine. It is also known for its Francesinha sandwich, a distant relative of the French croque-monsieur which was brought back to Porto when a Portuguese immigrant, who lived in Belgium, returned to Porto and adapted the sandwich to the Portuguese taste.
It was during a vacation to Portugal, in August 2013, when my wife and I visited Porto. While there I asked a local friend where I could get one of the best Francesinhas in town. He suggested a visit to Café Santiago in Rua Passos Manuel near the Coliseu do Porto.
As I walked into Café Santiago I knew that I was in for a real treat. The place was packed with people and all of the tables were full. There wasn’t a single bar stool empty and there were plenty of people standing in a corner waiting to get a seat.
One of the waiters came over to us and told me “sorry, there is a long wait”. He also assured me that my wait would be worth it. We decided to wait for a table and waited for our turn to be seated. About 30 minutes later a table became available and we were seated.
Once we got seated, I looked at an extensive menu of different francesinhas and decided to order a Francesinha à Santiago, the house specialty, along with a glass of Super Bock, a Portuguese beer on tap. When my meal arrived, it was like a magnificent work of art! It came with everything you could ever want between two slices of toasted bread. There was a fresh sausage, linguiça, steak, mortadella, ham and a fried egg surrounded by melted cheese and topped with an amazingly delicious secret sauce. Oh, and the francesinha was surrounded by fresh hand-cut fries.
Can’t wait for Anthony Bourdain’s show on Sunday, July 2nd, so that I can reminisce about my August 2013 visit to Porto and my first experience eating the famous Francesinha sandwich.