Eating a bifana in Portugal is like a right of passage for any food traveler. The country is known for all sorts of Portuguese sandwiches, but the bifana is certainly our favorite. Finding the best bifana in Lisbon took us a lot of time, and a lot of Portuguese pork sandwiches, but it was worth it in the end.
When we first met the bifana, during our first trip to Lisbon years ago, I wrote an entire post dedicated to the famous Portuguese sandwich. At the time, I wrote that I couldn’t believe I dedicated over 600 words to a sandwich, but of course, it wasn’t any sandwich, they were the Portuguese bifanas. Of course, since that time, I’ve dedicated multiple posts to a single dish, and even a single sandwich, like the Macau pork chop bun, a relative of the bifana.
A Guide to Bifanas in Portugal
Although it’s easy to find bifanas in Lisbon, not all bifanas are created equally. We’ve eaten a lot of bifanas during our trips to Portugal over the years, so we should know. In this post, we will explain exactly what is a bifana and how we rate the bifanas we’ve tasted in Lisbon. Then, we share our recommendations on the where to find the best bifana in Lisbon. If you are short on time, use the table of contents above to jump to the section that helps answer your question.
Check out one of these Portugal food tours:
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What is a Bifana Sandwich – The Portuguese Sandwich
Throughout Portugal, many of the most famous dishes could be considered snacks. This can include petiscos, small snacks mostly referred to as the Portuguese version of tapas (a comparison the Portuguese are not fond of). This also includes all sorts of pastries (like the famous pastel de nata) and sandwiches. These sandwiches are eaten mid-morning, mid-afternoon, or sometimes for a quick lunch.
There are a few very important Portuguese sandwiches that people must try when traveling in Portugal. The prego is a beef sandwich served with mustard and is known to many travelers as the dessert when eating at Cervejaria Ramiro, our favorite Lisbon restaurant. Next, travelers must try the leitao, a sandwich made with roast suckling pig. The Francesinha is another famous Portuguese sandwich that you can eat in Lisbon, although it originated and is most associated with Porto. The Francesinha is made with a few types of meat, including pork sausages and ham, with cheese melted on top. Then it is slathered with a sauce and topped with an egg. This Portuguese sandwich is more a meal than a snack for sure. Each of these sandwiches is great in their own right, but for us the Bifana Lisboa is king.
The bifana sandwich is prepared on papa seco, a Portuguese bread roll. The roll is stuffed with a few pieces of marinated pork loin, or pork cutlets so that the juice that the pork is cooked in drizzles onto the bread.
Although travelers can find a Portuguese bifana throughout the country, the original came from Alentejo, in the southeast of the country. There are a handful of bars that claim to have originated the Portugal bifana, but for travelers the goal is to find the best bifana!
Check out our Lisbon Food and Travel Guide Video:
What Makes a Good Portuguese Bifana
The bifana seems simple, a few slices of pork on a Portuguese roll. But, there is so much more to it than that. It’s a cheap, humble, almost working man sandwich, often served with a beer. The Portuguese pork is sautéed in garlic and seasoning until tender. The meat is served on a Portuguese roll so that the oil and seasonings soak in. Then, it is served with mustard and chili oil. I hate to say that an entire dish comes down to only one thing, but here it’s the seasoning. No, wait, it’s the quality of the pork. No, wait, it’s the freshness of the bread. Yes, just a few ingredients but so great. Every place you eat bifanas in Lisbon they will taste different.
What we look for in a great Portuguese bifana is the tenderness of the pork, the freshness of the bread, and the marinade. I love a juicy bifana, with a little extra sauce that settles into the bun. I prefer slightly thinner meat, which to me increases the ratio of sauce to meat, making the sandwich even tastier. But, part of judging a great bifana is the experience and the atmosphere. Do I feel like a local eating in Lisbon when I dig into a bifana?
Pork. Meat. Bread. So simple, and so tasty. Our history of the bifana, of course, requires a story.
Our First Experience With The Bifana Sandwich in Lisbon
When we arrived in Lisbon our first visit, our foodie friend, Chrissie, emailed us some food suggestions. She reminded us that Anthony Bourdain was in Lisbon for No Reservations and that he went to a place called O Trevo. Tony ate the Portuguese version of a Portuguese pork sandwich, with mustard and chili oil – a bifana. We figured this might be a Bourdain experience within our budget, so we found O Trevo our first day in Lisbon. It did not disappoint.
At first, we were slightly intimidated. The place was busy, with a buzz to it. Plenty of patrons were knocking back coffee, pastries, and soup either at the tables or at the stand-up counter – an institution in Lisbon. We did not know what to order, but found a server who spoke English enough for us to say “pork sandwich” and “beer.” What greeted us was heaven on a bun, known in Lisbon as a bifana.
The sliced Portuguese roll was fresh, soft, and melt in your mouth delicious. In between the bread were two thin slices of pork that were cooked in oil, which soaked into the bread. As condiments, they provided a bright yellow mustard and a homemade chili infused oil, which drenched the bread and ran down my hands. I did not care. I also didn’t care that they served my bifana on a child’s dinner plate.
Eating at O Trevo Lisbon
Each and every bite was accompanied by an involuntary “mmmmm” from my mouth. I felt like Homer Simpson with a donut and drool running down the chin. We washed the bifana down with a beer, or cerveja, and left with our lips feeling a little tingly. As gluttony is our favorite sin, we returned to the scene of the crime multiple times during that first visit to Lisbon.
We ate at O Trevo our first day in Lisbon. And, the following day. And, twice on day 3. And, one last time before heading to the airport on day 4. Some may call this an obsession with pork, or pork OCD, but each time I ate the bifana, no matter how not hungry I was, that same involuntary food-gasmic moan escaped my lips.
On day 3, after our second bifana, while walking back to our apartment, we walked through a vegan protest – people in all black silently standing in protest – meat is murder. I could not believe the irony. I could still feel the tingle of the chili oil and the flavor of the pork juices on my lips. I am sorry if this offends any vegetarians, but we all make choices for ourselves on how to live our lives. My life involved 4 days and 6 of the best pork sandwiches I have ever eaten. Simplicity at its finest. The bifana has made it onto my “death row” menu.
Portugal Food Guide Pro Tip: Ordering a Bifana
We are pretty classic when ordering a bifana, in part because we want to be able to make an equal comparison to be able to provide advice on the best bifanas in Lisbon. But, you can order different kinds of bifana sandwiches, which are normally listed on a menu on the wall. These include:
Bifanas Grelhadas Com Queijo: a grilled pork steak with cheese
Bifanas Grelhadas Com Ovo: a grilled pork steak with egg (we always find sandwiches taste better with an egg on top)
Bifanas Grelhadas Com Ovo E Quejo: a grilled pork steak with egg and cheese
For a classic order um bifana or doix bifanas if ordering one or two of these tasty pork sandwiches.
How much is a bifana in Lisbon? The bifanas generally range in price from €1.80-€2.50.
Where to Get the Best Bifanas in Lisbon
We’ve eaten some of the best bifanas in Lisbon, but they are popular across the country. And, there are some favorite places to eat bifanas in Porto. They are fairly similar to the Lisbon bifana. Over the years and through many visits to Lisbon we’ve eaten a lot of bifanas. Yes, we always visit O Trevo, but we have some other favorites now that we try to hit each visit.
O Afonso das Bifanas Lisbon
This is our number one choice for the best bifana in Lisbon. It’s a small place, with only standing room for about a half dozen people. In the past, it’s been run by a husband and wife, but during our last visit, it seems to be operated by a few younger guys, perhaps family. It’s definitely a local men’s bar, although tourists have started to find it.
Their bifana recipe includes whole cloves of garlic and a whopping amount of pork lard added to the broth. The bread is soft and fresh. The pork slices are a little more thin, and to me, that makes them more tasty and more tender. The juice drips down from pork onto the bread. I like their mustard too, which has a slightly darker color to it than some of the other places. At Afonso, instead of a beer, I normally order the bifana with a glass of vinho verde, which is poured from the tap.
O Afonso das Bifanas: Rua de Madalena 146, Lisbon. Afonso is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 am – 7:30 pm, from 8:30 – 1:30 on Saturday. They are closed on Sunday.
O Trevo Lisbon – The Anthony Bourdain Bifana Restaurant
I know this is not the “original” bifana bar in Lisbon, but it kind of is for me. It’s a pilgrimage for Bourdain fans and tops every list of the top bifanas in Lisbon. For me, there are better bifanas. It’s tender, but a little less juicy and a little less flavorful than others. All that said, we will visit O Trevo every time we travel to Lisbon because, for us, it’s our history and our tradition. We recognize the same people working behind the bar, and they are all always friendly. Is it the best? Probably not, but O Trevo is definitely a must-visit bar in Lisbon.
O Trevo Lisbon: Praca Luis de Camoes 48, Lisbon. O Trevo is probably the easiest place to visit for tourists because it is so centrally located. In addition to the bifanas, they are a full-service bar and also offer pretty good options for a daily “prata do dia” or plate of the day. It is larger than the other bifana bars, making it a little easier to visit as well. O Trevo is open 7 am – 10 pm Monday through Saturday but are closed on Sunday.
O Triângulo da Ribeira Lisboa
We’ve been wanting to try O Triângulo da Ribeira but always have a hard time fitting it in, when they are open. This working man’s bar is located behind the now-famous Time Out Market. I am sure that they’ve been there for years and operate as the local bar and cafe for the people who work at the Ribeira market. It’s small, with room for about a half dozen people. We made a special trip down, in the rain and the cold, to hit this place on our last day in Lisbon. I am so glad we did.
O Triângulo da Ribeira is right up there with Afonso on our favorite bifanas in Lisbon. The pork is sliced a little more thick than at Afonso, but even so, it is so tender and juicy. We saw him prepare his pork, mixing white wine, salt, and a little olive oil in a plastic bin. He says he marinates his pork for about two hours before cooking. And, it shows. Our bifana sandwich and beer went down quite nicley. I will be adding them onto our rotation every time we visit Lisbon.
O Triangulo da Ribiera: R. Ribeira Nova 48, Lisbon. They don’t really have a web presence, nor hours listed. From experience, they are closed Sunday and Monday, but otherwise probably keep to the market hours.
Other Recommended Places for Bifanas in Lisbon
There are a handful of other places that are known for bifanas in Lisbon, but they didn’t make our top bifana list. For food travelers, I recommend the three best bifanas above. But, if you can’t hit these, try Casa das Bifanas, which translates to House of Bifanas, on Praça da Figueira. They have more than just bifanas and are also known for their prego sandwich as well. Bifanas are the house specialty at Cafe Beira Gare across the street from the Rossio Metro Station. A local friend also recommended Tasca Pombalina in the same area, but I was not thrilled with the bifana or the atmosphere.
Where to Stay in Lisbon
During this last visit to Portugal, we rented an apartment through Booking.com. We’ve been doing that a lot more recently, particularly when visiting a location for a week or more. In Lisbon, this is the apartment we rented this trip. It helps keep us in our routine and helps us to experience a city more like a local. We were only 15 minutes walk from all of the tourist attractions and main food and drink areas.
We also have the following recommendations for hotels in Lisbon from prior visits.
Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisboa: You can’t go wrong with the Four Seasons brand. They are in a great location, at the north end of Avenida de Liberdade and have a rooftop running track. Some rooms offer balconies with views over the city. Their lobby bar makes some of the best gin tonics in Lisbon too. | Room rates from €450 | Check the best prices here.
Porto Bay Hotel Liberdade: A lovely boutique hotel in the center of Lisbon with light and airy decor. Their Bistro 4 restaurant focuses on cuisine from across the country and the Aviation bar offers fab cocktails. The hotel is just off Avenida Liberdade in a quiet residential neighborhood | Room rates from €140 | Check the best prices here.
Valverde Hotel Lisbon: Located directly on Avenida de Liberdade the Valverde is a contemporary boutique hotel with an attention to detail. Check out their outdoor patio, where they can arrange afternoon tea during nice weather. | Room rates from €160 | Check the best prices here.
Check the best prices for Lisbon hotels and apartments here.
Where To Find a Great Bifana Recipe
Like all great dishes found all over the world, at it’s most basic, the bifana recipe is pretty easy to replicate. Thin slices of pork loin marinated in dry white wine, with a mix of seasonings that normally includes garlic, paprika, lemon, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Some of the best bifanas are cooked with whole garlic cloves thrown in, which is just how I would do it at home. I would recommend marinating the pork for at least two hours. Don’t forget to toast the roll just a little bit. To learn more about Portuguese cooking, I would recommend this Portuguese cookbook:
FAQs – Portuguese Sandwich – Bifana
- When is the best time to eat a bifana? For us, a bifana is the perfect mid-morning snack. One thing to note if traveling to Lisbon over a weekend is that most of the best bars serving bifanas are closed on Sunday, and some close Saturday afternoon. So, check your schedule as soon as you land and compare it to the hours listed above to ensure you can taste a bifana in Lisbon.
- Bifana vs. Prego: Another popular Portuguese sandwich is the prego, which can be found at Cervejaria Ramiro. The prego is a beef sandwich, also served on a soft white roll. The bifana is more juicy because of the marinade.
- Is the Bifana Portuguese sandwich the best sandwich out there? It’s hard to say, but it’s pretty darn close!
- Where can I find a bifana near me? This is not as easy as finding the bifana sandwich in Lisbon, or elsewhere in Portugal. Portuguese restaurants are not as common as Spanish restaurants around the world. There are a few areas of the world where there are traditional Portuguese restaurants, like in Macau or even Newark, NJ. Otherwise, to eat the “bifanas Lisboa” you might need to travel to Lisbon!
- Is there anywhere I should NOT eat a bifana? McDonald’s! Yes, McDonald’s has offered the McBifana, but I’ve never tried it.
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER.
Looking For Great Food and Wine Tours in Portugal?
There are plenty of other delicious Portuguese dishes to eat in Lisbon, and throughout the country. There is bacalhau or salted cod, and one of our favorites açorda, which is a soup that can be made with seafood (açorda de marisco), or just prawns (açorda de camarão). And, there is even a McDonald’s version of the famous bifana sandwich, which, of course, is called the McBifana! There’s also a Portuguese steak sandwich, known as the prego sandwich, which is served for dessert sometimes, particularly at our favorite seafood restaurant in Lisbon, Cervejaria Ramiro. Yes, there’s so much to eat in Portugal, sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what to eat and drink in Portugal.
To help with planning what to eat in Portugal, check out our recommendations for the best Portuguese food tours, cooking classes, and wine tours. With tours from Lisbon and Porto, these tours cover Alentejo, Minho, and everything in between.
|Tour||Duration||City of Departure||Price From||Book It!|
|Wine & Cheese Tasting on a Luxury Sailing Yacht||2.5 Hours||Lisbon||$1000|
|Private Tour of Douro Wineries and Vineyards||10 Hours||Porto||$500|
|Private Wine Lovers Tour||6 Hours||Lisbon||$212|
|Alentejo Food & Wine Tour||8 Hours||Lisbon||$188|
|Douro Valley Grape Harvest - Picking & Tasting||10 Hours||Porto||$148|
|Minho & Vinho Verde Gastronomic Tour & Tasting||11 Hours||Porto||$136|
|Vinho Verde Wine Tour & Lunch||11 Hours||Porto||$112|
|Portuguese Cooking Class, Dinner & Wine||3.5 Hours||Lisbon||$106|
|Porto City Flavors Gastronomy Tour||Flexible||Porto||$91|
|Lisbon Food Tour - Tapas and Wine||3 Hours||Lisbon||$69|
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER.
Best Bifana in Lisbon – The Famous Portuguese Sandwich
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new Food and Drink Destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.