Every year with summer right around the corner, nets with gastropod molluscs appear hanging by some restaurants’ doors. These announce the return of one of the most appreciated appetisers by the Portuguese, the snails and the caracoletas (big snails). That’s why we have prepared 5 suggestions where to eat snails to present to our readers.
This delicacy emerges with the warm season of the year and, it is at the end of it that, unfortunately, it disappears. One of the combinations that the people of Lisbon love the most is, without a doubt, eating a plate of snails accompanied by an imperial (designation of draught beer commonly used in Lisbon) after a nice day at the beach.
We suggest you read our article about the Traditional Flavours of Lisbon that will elucidate the origin of the typical dishes of Lisbon.
What Is There to Say About Snails?
It is known that since the time of the Roman Empire that snails were consumed, with more emphasis on the areas that are now the Iberian Peninsula and France. But what it seems is that its consumption goes back to the time of our gatherer ancestors.
Nowadays, this mollusc is part of the gastronomy of many zones of Europe, like the world-renowned roasted escargots, from the French cuisine.
Here in Portugal, this delicacy is most appreciated in the centre and south, with preference for the smaller snails. These are cooked on a low heat with salt and oregano. Afterwards, the cooking is finished in a broth composed by onion, bay leaf, garlic, white wine and olive oil. Some people add a bit of chorizo and chilli to make the flavour even more intense.
The caracoletas are bigger and are roasted with salt and served with a sauce, usually of mustard.
These seasonal specialties are part of a big list of traditional appetisers that are served all year round in typical restaurants. When you go try snails, you can opt for a smaller dose served in a small dish or for a bigger dose served in a stainless steel platter.
Cutlery is not used, as the snails are removed from the shell with the help of a toothpick or with a metallic one, in the case of the caracoletas.
You can rest assured that snails are a healthy food, seeing that they are rich in proteins and low in fats and calories. Mineral salts such as magnesium, iron, zinc and copper are also its components.
Just a WARNING! It is a healthy food as far as snails are concerned, excluding the broth that cooked them. We understand those that don’t resist in dipping bread in this delicious sauce. 🙂
5 Suggestions Where to Eat Snails
During this time of the year, in Lisbon, you can find many traditional restaurants or cervejaria (restaurants that serve seafood and traditional dishes in which beer is the main drink) where you can taste this delicacy. You just have to pay attention to the small posters improvised by the door or in their shop windows. We cannot promise, but we’re almost sure that every single restaurant cooks this typical specialty well.
Nevertheless, we have 5 suggestions where to eat snails. These are restaurants of Portuguese gastronomy and in all of these you can taste not only snails and caracoletas, but also traditional dishes and/or appetisers, for example: roasted enchidos (cured dry sausages with different fillings) moelas (gizzard), pica-pau, amêijoas à Bulhão Pato that you also shouldn’t miss.
Pomar de Alvalade
This restaurant is situated, as the name tells, in Alvalade, in the zone of Avenidas Novas. It is a small restaurant with a homely and simple environment but that serves typical Portuguese dishes, well-cooked.
When the season of snails arrives, this is one the most popular appetisers in this restaurant, not to mention the roasted caracoletas with a fabulous sauce.
We advise you to make a reservation so you do not have to stand in line.
Address: Rua Marquesa de Alorna, 21 C, Alvalade, Lisboa
Restaurante Cervejaria “O Filho do Menino Júlio dos Caracóis”
Known as Júlio dos Caracóis, it is undoubtedly a highlight. Situated in Marvila, on the East Zone of Lisbon, it is a large restaurant with plenty of seats, but that doesn’t mean there’s no queue.
During summer it is impressive the amount of people who go there looking for this appetiser, either to eat in the restaurant or to take away.
Address: Rua Vale Formoso de Cima, 140 B, Marvila, Lisboa
Restaurante Varanda Vale Formoso
Many people got to know about this restaurant due to its proximity to the Júlio dos Caracóis. Located on the same street, almost in front of each other. The snails of the Varanda Vale Formoso are equally seeked for.
We advise you to make a table reservation, as the restaurant isn’t very big and is quite popular.
Address: Rua do Vale Formoso de Cima, 113 B, Marvila, Lisboa
During the hot season, there is nothing more enjoyable than spending the late afternoon eating snails, appetisers or a prego no pão (designation for beef steak sandwich in Portugal), in a pleasant terrace situated in the pedestrian zone of Marina Parque das Nações. In this contemporary styled restaurant, with a familiar environment and friendliness in its service, you can also have a salad, toast or a sandwich for a lighter meal.
Address: Passeio de Neptuno, 11, Parque das Nações, Lisboa
Escondidinho de Cacilhas
We also have a suggestion for those who are planning on visiting the South bank. In the late afternoon a stroll around the Cais do Ginjal to contemplate the Tagus River and the marvellous view to the city of Lisbon or after a visit to the Solar dos Zagallos, it can only end in Cacilhas with a dish of snails. We suggest Escondidinho de Cacilhas, a simple and familiar place that serves grilled foods, typical dishes and appetisers. You can choose between the interior of the restaurant and the terrace.
Address: Largo Alfredo Diniz, 7, Cacilhas, Almada
Casa dos Caracóis
This suggestion isn’t part of the five mentioned above, as this establishment works only as a takeaway, a completely different concept. But we didn’t want to fail to mention it, seeing that it has become quite popular amongst the snail lovers. Its fast efficient service includes the selling of the cooked snails in different sized boxes, roasted caracoletas and drinks. You can also buy alive snails to prepare at home.
Address: Rua de Campolide, 370, Loja BC, Lisboa