Food,  Portugal

Eating Bifanas in Lisbon – Just Like My Travel Hero

I distinctly remember putting Lisbon on my must-visit list after watching Anthony Bourdain visit Portugal’s capital city in 2012. I was struck by its old-world beauty, its riverside location, and especially its food. Anthony Bourdain taught me a lot. I loved learning about the world from him, and I try to emulate his experiential approach to travel. He is my travel hero. Sometimes I seek out places I remember from his various episodes, but mostly I don’t. I want to explore and discover on my own. But when it came to eating Bifanas in Lisbon, I decided to experience what he labeled the “hot porky love” of Portugal’s favorite snack at a place called O Trevo – exactly like he did.

What is A Bifana?

A bifana sandwich from O Trevo in Lisbon

Bifanas are simple pork sandwiches, made from thin slices of marinated pork loin. The marinade usually consists of white wine, garlic, and paprika. A few slices of this pork is slapped in between a traditional Portuguese crusty roll called a papo seco, then topped with yellow mustard and a spicy piri-piri chili oil. Cheese can be added if you wish. They aren’t large, and are usually consumed more as snack or appetizer.

Bifanas are ubiquitous on the menus in Lisbon and throughout Portugal. In the north part of the country, they are prepared a little differently. But marinated pork and papo seco remain the common thread, no matter where you eat it.

Cervejaria O Trevo

Cervejaria O Trevo in Lisbon Portugal

As you would expect with a national food treasure, there is a lot of online debate about where to get the best bifanas in Lisbon. Cervajaria O Trevo is usually on most lists. It’s a small busy cervejaria (or pub) located directly on one of Lisbon’s busiest squares in one of Lisbon’s busiest neighborhoods.

Because this is where Anthony Bourdain ate his bifana, it has that added layer of popularity. And they definitely play it up. His picture hangs prominently on the wall. But despite the tourists and Bourdain disciples that pile in, it also remains very popular with the locals too.

The first time I tried bifanas in Lisbon was at another of the “best bifanas” establishments called As Bifanas do Afonso. We happened acrossed it early in our Lisbon stay, so I decided to try my first bifana there.

And honestly, I wasn’t impressed. The pork was too salty for me (and I like salty), and not as tender as I expected.

I actually didn’t make it a priority to eat a bifana again. I wondered what all the fuss was about.

But one day I found myself near O Trevo when hungry, and decided to trust Tony and give bifanas another shot.

My Favorite Praça

O Trevo sits adjacent to a busy Lisbon square called Praça Luís de Camões. This has turned out to be my favorite square in downtown Lisbon, so I gravitate there often. It’s a moderately sized square, surrounded by stately buildings, and in the center stands a statue of a famous 16th century Portuguese poet – Luís Vaz de Camões.

It’s also a common destination for many of the famed Lisbon streetcar lines. As a result, these are constantly coming and going on all sides of the square.

And, it’s the perfect place to eat a takeaway bifana from O Trevo. Why sit inside with the crowds of the pork-hungry, when I could walk across the street instead, and enjoy fresh air, sunshine, and the hustle & bustle of the square?

Praça Luís de Camões in Lisbon Portugal

A Lisbon street car lined up at Praça Luís de Camões.

A street car in the Chaido district of Lisbon Portugal

A Man Walks Into A Bar

O Trevo is busy. Every time I’d previously walked by, it was packed. And this day was no different. Every table inside and out was full. Patrons stood at the counter elbow to elbow.

The interior of O Trevo

Sometimes this will intimidate me and I will leave with plans to try again another time. Especially if I am by myself. And on this day, Mrs. TT was back at the apartment not feeling well.

But I saw Tony’s picture on the far wall calling me a wimp (not the word he actually used in my imagination, but I probably shouldn’t print that one), and I waited.

Shortly, a spot opened up at the counter directly in front of me, and the counter server was right there, asking me for my order – in English. (Hmmm…I thought I was blending in well with the locals that day)

Anyway, I ordered two bifanas. She asked if I wanted cheese. I did not. She asked if I wanted mustard and chili oil. I did.

And then off she went to finish someone else’s order.

Behind the counter at O Trevo in Lisbon

My counter spot was luckily right next to the sandwich cook. I watched as he made one sandwich after the other. They not only sell bifanas at O Trevo, but they have a long menu of other sandwiches and simple entrees, too. The middle pan below contains bifana pork simmering in its marinade. Ultimately, I watch him pull mine from the murky slog and pile it onto two papo secos.

Cook preparing a Bifana sandwich at O Trevo in Lisbon Portugal

He handed them off to my server, who sliced them in half and topped them with the mustard and piri-piri chili oil.

Mustard been applied to a bifana sandwich

She then wrapped them up in paper, collected my 5 Euros (yes only 2.5 euros each!), and I was on my way – straight across to find a seat in the square.

Bifanas on a park bench in Lisbon

Did I Find Hot Porky Love?

And with my second try eating bifanas in Lisbon, under the watchful eye of Portugal’s greatest poet, I did find Tony’s hot porky love.

The Thorough Tripper eats a bifana in Lisbon

I liked this version of the bifana much better. The meat had more flavor, was much less salty, was more tender, and the strange combination of yellow mustard and chili oil worked somehow. I can now see why bifanas are so popular, and I’m glad that I gave it a second try.

Sometimes it’s wise to follow in the footsteps of your travel hero.

If you would like to read more about food in Lisbon, then check out

An Evening Quest for the Best Chicken in Lisbon

The Best Portuguese Food in Lisbon You Need to Try

If you would like to read more about things to do in Lisbon, then check out

A Day Trip to Óbidos Portugal

Lisboa Em Fado – A Glimpse into the Portuguese Soul

11 Photos That Will Convince You To Visit Lisbon Portugal

And if you would like to read more about some of favorite eating adventures, then check out:

Eating Tapas in Spain – Is This Heaven?


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