There’s a restaurant in Portugal where you come in, eat, have a great time and leave without paying. The place is almost a secret for many and doesn’t charge you anything, it only accepts tips.
Maybe you’re imagining that food is a simple, fast thing that’s only worth a small tip.
I have to tell you that you’re wrong.
Today I’m taking you to the best place to eat in northern Portugal. And no, I’m not exaggerating. For many things I think it’s the best gastronomic experience you can have if you travel in the north of that lovely country.
If you’ve already been to Braga or Lisbon, it’s time to go to the north of Portugal.
A surprise restaurant
Chaves is a small, quiet and peaceful village in the north of Portugal, in the district of Vila Real.
Over there, in that little place, there’s a restaurant that’s almost secret to many people. Why is it almost secret? Because from the outside you won’t know it’s a restaurant.
The first thing that puzzles you about this place to eat in Chaves is that its name is Pensao Flavia. That is to say that it is an accommodation not a place to eat.
But you still won’t see the restaurant if you decide to come in. What you will find there is the typical bar with two little tables and two gentlemen lined up at the bar that were put there at the opening.
But you know where you’re going because I’m telling you. So ask if they have a table and they’ll put you in a huge room.
How it works
Like the free tours, the Pensao Flavia restaurant operates on a tipping basis.
You come in, eat and leave what you think is best on the table.
You have to go with cash because no card is accepted as a tip. And my advice is to take a little more than you think because you will like it so much, but so much that you will want to leave a very good tip.
The dining room is a party
When you pass the small bar you can see the dining room from above, as if you were on a second floor.
The dining room has long tables, people eat together, it’s a giant room where you can fit between 50 and 100 people and you get a party atmosphere.
The tables have little disposable tablecloths made of pictures, there is regional music and people talk and when they get excited they sing.
Live music and everybody sing
Musical instruments hang on one of the walls and next to them is a not very big stage. There are musicians there who make the place happy.
Guitars, lovely voices and songs that everyone knows. Well, songs that all the locals know.
When the musician starts singing a popular song and people recognize it, it is one of the most beautiful moments of the meal.
People stop eating and start singing. The place is a party.
Before you go, keep this in mind.
It is not a typical restaurant and therefore there are some rules you have to follow. They are not complicated or anything else, but if you do not follow them you will not be able to eat at Pensao Flavia.
You can’t just go in at any time
If you’re looking to eat in the north of Portugal with the freedom to arrive at the time you want, this is not your place.
In Pensao Flavia there is a schedule for lunch. It is usually at 1pm but I recommend you check before you go.
The advice is to be there a little earlier to get a seat. If you’re too late, they won’t let you go through the organizational motions.
It’s like going to lunch at your grandmother’s house. Lunch is served at an hour and if you’re not there by then you miss it.
You eat what is there, without choosing
Once the meal has started, some small black pans with different types of dishes will arrive at the table. Fried eggs, meat, stir-fried vegetables, potatoes and many other things. The food is always made with seasonal products so the dishes change.
They also serve you drinks like wine or soft drinks.
The options are not many for vegetarian travelers, but there are always alternatives. They are so nice that if you tell them you don’t eat meat they will do their best to bring you a plate with good things to eat.
I honestly ate a lot more than my fellow travelers who ate meat and had a great time.
What’s the best?
If I write about this place to eat in the north of Portugal it is because I am convinced that it is a good place to go. And I think there are many reasons to consider it very good.
The first and most important I think is the festive atmosphere. You go to eat but at the same time you go to a kind of party with music, people who act like friends and without realizing it you will find yourself singing or at least humming songs.
I found the concept of eating without paying very interesting. I give you another point in favor for this and because they are so good that it doesn’t cost you anything to pay.
And the staff. They’re so close, so nice, and they take care of you so well, you’re gonna want to come back.
Web: Facebook page
Phone: +351 961 693 890
Address: Travessa Candido dos Reis 12 (see map)
I am a traveller, photographer and writer. I like to get lost in cities, travel to strange places and above all meet interesting people.