The afternoon beamed a hazy yellow light upon the street, casting soft shadows across brightly tiled buildings – the iconic trademark of Porto. After days of heavy rain and dark skies, a moment of sun was not only appreciated, but savored, and required an office outing into the light.
“Where should we go?” I asked our team, readily expecting the family owned pizza shop just around the corner that has become our second home.
Eyeing me with caution, Francisco smiled,” If you like great presunto (ham) sandwiches served by a woman with the mouth of a sailor, I know the perfect place.”
“Will Mica’s ears burn off if we take him in the pram?” I ask.
Nodding with confident assurance, Francisco replied, “Even worse, if we even whisper something negative against her favorite football team, Boavista, she’ll not only dowse us in expletives, but she may throw Mica in the smoker!”
Located in the sleepy-eye residential neighborhood of Pinheiro Manso, Tasca a Badalhoca has become the “go to” place for men needing a quick bite. Okay, so not exclusively for men, but few women find novelty in an owner who is biting at the bit to share her sharp sarcastic wit. Nor are they generally huge fans of walls decorated in football paraphernalia or self aggrandizing awards. Add the dark cavern like interior lacking any windows whatsoever, and a name that generally translates to “filthy slut” – originating 120 years prior to the current owner – and you can understand why women might run the opposite direction. For all intensive purposes, it’s the ideal “man cave”.
But here’s the kicker, it may feel like a testosterone filled fun house, but it’s actually a beautiful social experiment in breaking social classes, because among the perfectly fitted penguin suits by Anderson & Sheppard, Caraceni or Yves St. Lauren, you’ll also find scuffed boot workmen downing their mug of house wine and papas de sarrabulho out of a tin bowl: a typical soup of northern Portugal generally consisting of pig’s blood, chicken, pork, ham, salami, lemon and bread, and garnished with cumin (family recipes differ greatly). The restaurant is a testament to food’s unifying force; a unique ability to rub elbows with anyone as long as your palate is filled with mouthwatering quality cuisine.
From the outside you’re greeted by a short, squat burgundy colored building with a large circular entrance, much like walking into the top of a large oak barrel. Inside, what was traditionally covered in sawdust to absorb bits of dripping pork fat, or the occasional splash from a celebratory beer clink, is now tiled and clean. Long thin standing tables adorn either side of the first room allowing a consistent flow of traffic.
The second room, with a touch of natural light sneaking in from the open back door behind the counter, is the heartbeat of Tasca A Badalhoca. As each customer inches their way up to the cashier, asking for one of the dozen or so items on the menu, the Queen hurrumphs, as if the request for 1 sandwich is equivalent to 5 dozen. Throwing out a few irritated side comments, and the ever expected eye roll, customers watch in anticipated bemusement.
As to the famed presunto sandwich, admittedly, it’s delicious! Served on their homemade bread made in their bakery located just across the street, the sandwich boasts of one and only one thing, freaking amazing smoked ham. No condiments, no accouterments other than a slice of cheese upon request, it’s down to the basics: bread + ham at one euro fifty each.
Is it worth a visit? Absolutely! Don’t expect a seat or a traditional Portuguese smile at first glance – though warmth and kindness does run rampant – but you will get simple fab food and a great story.
Tasca a Badalhoca
Porto Cathedral, Rua Dr. Alberto Macedo, 437
+351 222 618 532
Hours: 12:00 to 20:00