Here are some fun facts:
1. I just spent the past two weeks exploring Lisbon, Portugal.
2. I have Celiac disease.
3. I don’t speak Portuguese.
I survived (and had an amazing time) and wanted to share some of my favorite restaurants as well as a few tips that helped me eat gluten-free for two weeks in a foreign land!
I flew United Airlines both ways, and when I booked my flight, I was able to choose a gluten-free friendly meal. When I actually got on the plane to fly to Lisbon (at roughly 1am), I had completely forgotten about this free meal, so when the flight attendant woke me up (at roughly 3am) to give us all "dinner," I was incredibly confused by the hot meal marked “gluten-free” that she placed in front of me (nor was I really hungry). When I flew back home from Lisbon, I was starving and on the lookout for another gluten-free meal. I was given a side salad (which had already been eaten when I took the picture – sorry!); a hot meal of a chicken breast, rice with peas, and roasted veggies; crackers with butter; and a cake/dessert thing that I didn’t eat (but is currently sitting in my pantry at home). Everything was actually really tasty! A few hours later, they gave us all snacks, but since I couldn’t eat the pretzels (or whatever it was they were handing out), I was given a huge plate of fruit (pineapple, grapes, and honey dew melon), which I ate as well.
Brio Organic Supermarket
This supermarket became my lifeline. I was able to go shopping almost daily for fresh fruit and bars to snack on. They also had an entire gluten-free section! I highly recommend finding a supermarket or grocery store near your hostel/hotel/wherever you’re staying. I ate out only once a day, so the rest of my meals (or small snacks) were supplemented with what I brought with me and/or what I found here. I did bring a lot of food with me though. Basically my entire carry-on was filled with Squarebars, Rise Bars, crackers, Larabar Granola packets, and other snacks.
Since I didn’t speak fluent Portuguese and was more concerned with spending money on day trips and entrance into museums/castles, I didn’t put a lot of thought into finding authentic Portuguese food that was gluten-free. I was focused on finding a few places I could return to and have no fear about being cross-contaminated. I learned a few key phrases, such as sém gluten, which means “without gluten.” I also printed out a Portuguese dinning card just in case, although I didn’t have to use it.
Rua do Alecrim 70
My friends and I joked that this was “my place.” I went to Local, one of the stalls inside this restaurant, a solid six times over the 14 days I was in Lisbon. Their menu changed daily, so I wasn’t eating the same thing every time. They even printed out an English version of their menu (with gluten-free symbols next to safe food), and the chef was behind the counter, so I could ask him any questions/triple check that what I was ordering was okay. The concept of the restaurant itself is quite genius: You get a card when you enter, and every meal/drink you buy gets placed on the card, then you pay at the end (all for a very reasonable price!). I am a little mad at myself for never trying any of Local’s desserts, although I eyed them each time I went.
Open Mediterranean Brasserie
Rua de Santa Marta , nº48
My mom actually found this place for me, and I’m so glad that she did! It was about a 20 minute walk from my hostel, but my friends and I took the metro (only 1.40€!). The restaurant’s website has a gluten-free symbol in the corner because, as I learned from my waitress, Open is the only restaurant in Lisbon to be certified to serve gluten-free food. They have a separate kitchen, and their menu has gluten-free symbols next to the safe dishes.
When the waitress served my friends bread and olive oil, she brought me out gluten-free bread (that actually tasted good) too! The chef gave us all a sample of some fish dish (for free), and that was gluten-free. THEN I ordered Pumpkin Gnocchi – heaven! The dish itself was pumpkin gnocchi in a pumpkin sauce, topped with sautéed spinach, goat cheese, and pumpkin seeds. They also had gluten-free desserts, but I was happily full by the end!
Jardim Dos Sentidos
Rua da Mãe de Água 3
My friend and I went to this vegetarian buffet for lunch on one of our last days in Lisbon. I was able to speak to one of the owners, and he walked me around the buffet, pointing out what was gluten-free and what wasn’t (thanks to the help of cards with symbols). I ended up filling my plate with tofu and black beans, rice, glazed carrots, Portuguese cabbage (which had a flavor quite like seaweed, in a good way), and a yummy salad with a spicy dressing. The best part: The buffet was only 8.90€!!
There’s hardly ever a bad time for gelato. (I would say ‘never,’ but having gelato for breakfast might be a problem.) We were lucky enough to have one of these delicious stores right down the street from our hostel. A few days into the trip, my friend and I walked over 9 miles around the city on the search of the São Jorge Castle, which we eventually found and explored, so we decided to treat ourselves with gelato after a day under the hot sun. I think one of the reasons I loved the experience so much (beyond how delicious the flavors were) was because of the little shovel thing they give you instead of a spoon. You’re forced to eat slower and really savor the moment. Over the course of two weeks, I tried hazelnut, caramel, yogurt, milk chocolate, and strawberry sorbet. Side note: Amorino lets you have as many flavors as you want per cup, so one night I had four flavors (I didn't eat gelato five times!). They were aware of gluten-free needs, although I was pretty content to just not order anything that looked suspicious; they also clean their spoons in hot water between each flavor. (If you order the "Gigantico," just make sure to tell them not to give you a small waffle cone on top.)