Countertop Dining Restaurants: The 28 Best Counters in Lisbon

Written By Manuel Poças

Today, the concept of counter dining has undergone a remarkable transformation. It transcended its humble origins and became an exquisite experience in various parts of the world. The story is a tale of culinary evolution that mixes European influences, the birth of an American institution, and a total revolution of the concept.

It all began with European traditions, where neighborhood ‘épiceries’ in France and the English tearooms and coffeehouses of the 17th and 18th centuries set the stage. These places featured counters where people could gather and embrace the idea of communal eating and drinking, in an informal ambiance. 

As the years went by, these European practices found their way across the Atlantic to the United States, where the fast-paced industrialization and urbanization of the late 19th and early 20th centuries prompted the rise of American diners. Here, the concept of counter dining blossomed.

The American diner counter, with its long counters and inviting bar-like stools, embodied a fusion of European inspiration and American innovation. It offered a glimpse into the heart of food preparation, becoming a symbol of simplicity, accessibility, and community in American culinary culture. It was in the United States that counter dining found its true home and became part of the beloved American dining experience.

In Portugal, however, the counter was, for many years, the spot that no one wanted. “We only have a seat at the counter” was a classic wail of the waiter. The truth is that this perception is changing. The stigma around counter dining is ending, and so are the uncomfortable stools, the ugly furniture, and the lousy snack-bar type foods and drinks.

The concept has evolved from its less glamorous past to emerge as a sought-after culinary trend. Some of the most upscale and innovative restaurants have embraced this concept wholeheartedly, redefining the traditional dining experience that was mentioned above. These modern establishments feature elegant, well-designed counters where clients can indulge in culinary experiences that offer an intimate and interactive encounter with the artistry of the chefs.

The idea of dining at the counter, which once symbolized quick and casual dining has now been elevated to an avant-garde experience that blends tradition with culinary excellence, where clients can eat amazing food while witnessing a free show cooking that resembles a beautiful dance. Today, the concept of counter dining is blended with the idea of the chef’s table, and it is a true treasure. 

I love the idea of eating at the counter. I have done it in several parts of the world (such as Paris, New York, Lisbon, and Porto, for example) and I have to say it is an amazing experience, completely different from what most people are used to. It is way more than merely eating at a restaurant. It is a mix of eating, hearing, and watching. In fact, it is a unique way of eating out. Sometimes I go alone, sit at the counter, in silence, and just appreciate everything that is in front of me. Not just the food, but also the beautiful kitchens, the beautiful cooking, and, above all, the experience as a whole.

Below, I will provide you with a list of what I consider, and what seem to be, the best counters in Lisbon (and its surroundings), where you do not have to do anything but eat, drink, observe and, if you wish, talk. I have been to some, but not all of them. Nevertheless, I can assure you that there is a counter for every taste and that you will have an amazing experience independently of your choice.

1. Sala do Corte, Cais do Sodré

This year, Sala de Corte was considered the 34th-best steakhouse in the world. The restaurant is known to have the best meat in town. From what I know, it is true. The best steaks I had in Lisbon were there, at the counter. Every piece is cooked within a ‘josper’, which combines a grill with purely vegetable coal, and a high-temperature oven. This cooking method emphasizes the texture, the flavor, and the succulence. If you are a steak lover, this is definitely the place for you. Moreover, the service is great. If you decide to go there, sit at the counter, order any cut of matured meat, observe its preparation, and delight yourself.

Where? Praça D. Luís I, 1200-148 Lisboa

Phone number: +351 213 460 030

When? Sunday to Thursday, from 12pm to 12am; Friday and Saturday, from 12pm to 1am

2. Restaurante O Frade, Belém

This small restaurant in Belém is a true gem. Specializing in new cuisine/traditional Portuguese food, O Frade is a Michelin Guide restaurant. To clarify, it serves traditional Portuguese food in a more elaborate and beautiful way. Do not get me wrong, it is not one of those places where you go and leave the table still hungry. You will be more than happy with your food. The counter, which is a half circle around the preparation area, allows you to see and hear everything. My suggestion is that you order the ‘arroz de pato’ (duck rice), and ask for a wine to go with it. The dish is one of the best things I have ever eaten.

Where? Calçada da Ajuda, 1300-014 Lisboa

Phone number: +351 939 482 939

When? Tuesday to Sunday, from 12pm to 3:30pm, and from 7pm to 11pm

3. Tapisco, Príncipe Real

Tapisco belongs to the Portuguese chef Henrique Sá Pessoa, and specializes in Iberian food. The idea behind the spot was to create a place where people could go and eat traditional Portuguese and Spanish snacks. According to the chef, the two complement each other very well. I definitely agree. Everything is worth trying. When I was there, I had a mix of snacks, from both countries, to share. The food is great, and the service is highly professional.

Where? Rua Dom Pedro V 81, 1250-093 Lisboa

Phone number: +351 213 420 681

When? Monday to Friday, from 12pm to 4pm, and from 7pm to 12am; Saturday and Sunday, from 12pm to 12am

4. Pigmeu, Campo de Ourique

This is the one restaurant in Lisbon that only serves pork. The menu displays a mix of snacks and sandwiches, and the environment is very cool. If you’re up for it, try the weirdest snack you find. Portugal has a series of dishes that may sound scary but are actually very, very good. If you’re not up for the snacks, do try the sandwiches. In my opinion, well-made sandwiches are one of the best things there is, and the sandwich selection at Pigmeu is full of good surprises.

Where? Rua 4 da Infantaria 68, 1350-274

Phone number: +351 218 252 990

When? Tuesday to Friday, from 12pm to 3pm, and from 6:30pm to 11pm; Saturday and Sunday from 1pm to 4pm, and from 6:30pm to 11pm

5. Coelho da Rocha, Campo de Ourique

Coelho da Rocha, which got the name of the street where it is located, was opened by the former owners of one of the most well-known Alentejan restaurants in Lisbon. Hence, it was already famous before opening its doors. The food is typically Portuguese, traditional, and very flavory. There are snacks, dishes, and desserts for almost every taste.

Where? Rua Coelho da Rocha 104, 1350-075 Lisboa

Phone number: +351 213 900 855

When? Monday to Saturday from 11am to 11pm

6. O Trevo, Bairro Alto

Do you know who Anthony Bourdain is? He surely knew O Trevo. In fact, this place was where he found himself the most happy when he was in Lisbon. Why? Because of the famous ‘bifana’. As he called it, it is “the glory of Lisbon”. Differently from the vast majority of the restaurants referenced throughout this article, O Trevo is a place where you typically would not choose to go in advance. The place is not pretty at all. It is like all other normal caffés and snack bars. Although, it is worth it for its food. The counter is as it is, there are no stools, and under the glass below your elbows are soda cans and pastries. However, if you’re up for a perfectly seasoned thin pork steak inside two pieces of bread, O Trevo is the place for you.

Where? Praça Luís de Camões 48, 1200-243 Lisboa

Phone number: +351 213 468 092

When? Monday to Saturday, from 7am to 10pm

7. Bistro 100 Maneiras, Chiado

This is the ideal place to go if you’re looking for a fancy meal. It belongs to one of the most well-known chefs in Portugal, Ljubomir Stanisic. It is not by chance that it is where you’ll find the highest number of celebrities by square meter. The food and the wine selection are amazing, and the cocktails are even better. If you’re willing to pay the price, it is ideal for an exquisite counter experience.

Where? Largo da Trindade 9, 1200-466 Lisboa

Phone number: +351 910 307 575

When? Monday to Friday, from 6:30pm to 2am; Saturday and Sunday from 12pm to 3pm, and from 6:30pm to 2am

8. Eu O Canalha

O Canalha is one of the new spots in town. Its creator is the former chef of Feitoria, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Belém. The environment is very pleasant, and the decorations are beautiful. The food is what would be expected from someone of that caliber. When I was there, I had the ‘bitoque’. Anywhere else, the ‘bitoque’ is the cheap but good steak. Here, it is a proper Portuguese steak. In my opinion, it is the best choice. However, there are other dishes worth trying. Regardless of what you ask for, I guarantee that you’ll enjoy it.

Where? Rua da Junqueira 207, 1300-338 Lisboa

Phone number: +351 962 152 742

When? Tuesday to Saturday, from 12pm to 3pm, and from 7pm to 11pm

9. Gambrinus, Santa Maria Maior

This timeless restaurant is one of the oldest and most well-known houses in Lisbon. The service is highly professional, in every sense. They’re professionals in serving, but also in selling. If you’re not paying enough attention, you will end up with a bill higher than you’d like. My recommendation is a mixed ‘imperial’ (beer), some croquettes, toast, and a ‘prego’. Make sure you order the ‘prego no pão’, because the last time I was there, even though I have been there many times, I ended up eating a steak with cream and mushrooms (they call it prego à Gambrinus) when I wanted to order the ‘prego no pão’. If you are in for something heavier, order the ‘empadão de lagosta’, which is like a pot pie made of lobster. When you’re there, make sure you observe the peculiar and beautiful flow of the service.

Where? Rua das Portas de Santo Antão 23, 1150-264 Lisboa

Phone number: +351 213 421 466

When? Monday to Sunday, from 12pm to 11:45pm

10. Galeto, Avenidas Novas

This is another timeless place. Almost at the level of Gambrinus. It opened in 1966 and was the hotspot at the time. Its face is a huge counter with 150 meters. The project is so exquisite that it is classified by the Portuguese Institute of Architectonic Patrimony. Since its opening, not much has changed. The food is great and the ever-existing waiting line proves it. The biggest difference is that anyone can get in nowadays. Before, this was not the case. It was considered an ultra-luxurious place, and the entry was highly selected. Every time I go there, I order ‘prego’, ‘esparregado’ (spinach pure), and french fries. For me, it is the best combination possible.

Where? Avenida da República 14, 1050-191 Lisboa

Phone number: +351 213 544 444

When? Every day, from 1.30pm to 3am

11. Lota d’Ávila, Avenidas Novas

Lota is the name of the place where the fresh fish comes after being caught. This somewhat new seafood restaurant chose the perfect name. The counter displays a beautiful selection of freshly caught national seafood and is also where you can eat. It works like a display, where you can literally point to what you want, which is right in front of you, observe it being prepared, and eat it. Perfect for seafood lovers.

Where? Avenida Duque d’Ávila 42, 1050-083 Lisboa

Phone number: +351 925 906 950

When? Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, from 12:30pm to 3:30pm, and from 6:30pm to 11pm; Friday and Saturday, from 12:30pm to 3:30pm, and from 6:30pm to 12pm

12. Sea Me, Bairro Alto

This modern fish restaurant became very popular right after it opened. Luckily, it was able to ride the momentum when fish became trendy again. In terms of concept, it is a mix between The Fish Market in San Diego, where you can find a wide range of seafood dishes, from simple grilled fish to oysters, scallops, etc, and an actual fish market. You can eat in a fancy way in the same place you can buy fresh fish. Ideal for sea lovers. Every product is fresh and national. I suggest starting with the sardine nigiri.

Where? Rua do Loreto 21, 1200-241 Lisboa

Phone number: +351 213 461 564

When? Monday to Friday, from 12:30pm to 3:30pm; Saturday and Sunday, from 12pm to 11:45pm

13. Corrupio, Cais do Sodré

A beautifully decorated venue located right in the heart of Cais do Sodré. Notwithstanding, it is 100% Portuguese. Some call it a real work of art, and they’re not far from the truth. Corrupio has a huge tile panel with drawings and illustrations related to Portuguese artists. The action takes place at the counter and around it, and the food is as mesmerizing as the space itself. True Portuguese food, at real Portuguese prices. A team of three chefs is responsible for a wide range of dishes from all over the country, which are well prepared and made with quality products. In my opinion, you should start with the ‘canja de galinha’ (chicken soup).

Where? Rua da Moeda 1 F/G, 1200-275 Lisboa

When? Every day, from 12pm to 12am 

14. Brilhante, Cais do Sodré

Luís Gaspar, the owner, loves counters. It is not by chance that both Sala de Corte and Brilhante, two restaurants where the counter takes center stage, belong to him. Interestingly, the two restaurants are very close to each other. Although they are very different. Brilhante, because of its decoration and environment, resembles the old Lisbon caffés. Its big marble counter and the lowered kitchen right on the other side of the marble foster a great relationship between the clients and the chefs. It is the perfect place for those looking for an exquisite Portuguese and/or French meal. The ‘Bife à Marrare’ (steak marrare) is my suggestion.

Where? Rua da Moeda 1G, 1200-275 Lisboa

When? Monday to Friday, from 12pm to 4pm, and from 6:30pm to 1am; Saturday and Sunday, from 12pm to 1am

15. A Cevicheria, Príncipe Real

The one restaurant in Príncipe Real that is always, always full. Chef Kiko Martins, the owner, fell in love with the Peruvian dish Ceviche on one of his trips, and decided to open A Cevicheria. This beautiful restaurant, right in the heart of one of Lisbon’s coolest neighborhoods, is one of the city’s most sought-after venues. The permanent sea of people at the door proves it. Notwithstanding, independently from the waiting line, I definitely recommend it. It is impossible to book, thus, I recommend that you go with will and patience. While you wait, delight yourself with its amazing cocktails. Pisco Sour is my suggestion. And, once you’re seated, order the white fish ceviche. The service and the decoration live up to the buzz around the place.

Where? Rua Dom Pedro V 129, 1250-093 Lisboa

Phone number: +351 218 038 815

When? Every day, from 12pm to 11pm

16. Las Dos Mano, Príncipe Real

Chef Kiko Martins loves international cuisine. Las Dos Manos is his brand new restaurant, which blends elements from Mexico and Japan. The idea behind the concept was to mix Mexican cuisine with Japanese techniques and products. The counter provides a true gastronomic spectacle. It is the ideal place for witnessing the chef’s amazing work. Apart from the menu, where you’ll find numerous Mexican dishes prepared in an innovative way, with Japanese products, there is also a tasting menu. Regardless of what you choose, I guarantee you will enjoy it.

Where? Rua de São Pedro de Alcântara 59, 1250-238 Lisboa

Phone number: +351 215 835 283

When? Every day, from 12pm to 11pm

17. Izcalli Antojeria, Alcântara

This extremely small restaurant seats only 9 people. 7 at the counter and two on the terrace. It is the ideal place if you’re looking for something that resembles eating inside a real mexican kitchen. The dishes are small, just like the restaurant. However, they’re very authentic. There is a difference between what people think Mexican food is, and what it actually is. If you’re willing to go beyond TexMex and try real Mexican food, this is the place for you.

Where? Avenida Infante Santo 356A, 1350-182 Lisboa

Phone number: +351 214 390 493

When? Tuesday to Saturday, from 7pm to 10pm

18. Crispy Mafya, Príncipe Real

A restaurant specializing in fried chicken where you’re supposed to eat without thinking about getting your hands dirty. It is the perfect place if you’re a fried chicken lover, or if you’re looking for true comfort food. My suggestion is the chicken waffle burger and, if you’re brave enough, add the syrup on top. This sweet-and-sour mixture is absolutely amazing. 

Where? Rua Cecílio de Sousa 85, 1200-100 Lisboa

Phone number: +351 214 003 108

When? Monday, from 6pm to 11pm; Tuesday to Friday, from 12pm to 3pm, and from 6pm to 11pm; Saturday and Sunday, from 12pm to 3pm, and from 6pm to 11:30pm

19. Tricky’s

Portugal is becoming more trendy every day. Because of that, foreigners are moving in and opening remarkable venues. Tricky’s is one of those venues. The restaurant belongs to Jennifer Duke, a North American, and the Portuguese chef João Magalhães Correia, and has been on the lips of many. The buzz around it is legitimate. Good food, good environment, good wine selection, and good music. Everything that is required for a great place to exist. The counter is called ‘the chef’s counter’, and is where you want to be. The menu, which consists of international dishes, changes according to the products of the season, but the quality never drops.

Where? Rua da Boavista 112, 1200-069 Lisboa

Phone number: +351 939 588 019

When? Tuesday to Saturday, from 7pm to 12am

20. Omakase Ri, Alcântara

This is one of the smallest restaurants in town. One counter, seven seats, one tasting menu, and two shifts. The name speaks for itself, ‘omakase’ means being left in the hands of the chef. It is your only option if this is the restaurant you choose. The menu, which consists of 15 portions, changes according to the products of the season and the quality of the suppliers.

Where? Rua de Alcântara 13A, 1300-023 Lisboa

Phone number: +351 914 094 506

When? Tuesday to Saturday, 7pm and 9:30pm

21. Izakaya, Cascais

This new restaurant quickly became one of the coolest and most sought-after venues in Cascais. The food is very good, the environment is cool, and the service is very laid back whilst still being attentive. The counter is your only option. If you’re in Cascais and enjoy Japanese food, it is definitely worth trying.

Where? Rua do Poço Novo 180, 2750-465 Cascais

Phone number: +351 214 045 106

When? Tuesday to Thursday, from 12:30pm to 3:30pm, and from 7pm to 10:30pm; Friday and Saturday, from 7pm to 2am

22. Hikidashi, Campo de Ourique

This restaurant is, in my opinion, one of the best Japanese restaurants in Lisbon. The venue is beautiful, and the food is perfect. My suggestion is that you order the Wagyu steak. However, you can also delight yourself with traditional sushi to sashimi. The Japanese tavern, as it is known, is the perfect place for those looking for a peaceful and somewhat secluded evening, full of great dishes made with high-quality products.

Where? Rua Coelho da Rocha 20A, 1250-088 Lisboa

When? Every day, from 12:30pm to 3pm, and from 8pm to 12am

23. Soão, Alvalade

If you’re looking for Asian food, Soão is the restaurant for you. The Asian Tavern, as it is known, allows every customer to be immersed in a truly Asian experience. From the food to the decoration, everything is very well thought out. My suggestion is that you try your luck and ask who is behind the counter about the ‘robata’ dishes that are not on the menu. Robata is the Japanese version of a kebab, where the food is grilled on a skewer.

Where? Avenida de Roma 100, 1700-037 Lisboa

Phone number: +351 210 534 499

When? Monday to Friday, from 12:30pm to 4pm, and from 7pm to 11pm; Saturday and Sunday, from 12:30pm to 4pm, and from 7pm to 12am

24. Go Juu, Avenidas Novas

It is definitely one of the most exclusive restaurants in Lisbon. It is very difficult to find any information about it online. At night, it functions as a private club. If you’re not a member, forget about it. However, you may be lucky to get a spot during lunch, as it is when the venue is open for the common mortals. My suggestion? If you’re lucky enough to be able to go there, try everything you can.

Where? Rua Marquês de Sá da Bandeira 46A, 1050-149 Lisboa

Phone number: +351 218 280 704

When? Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday, from 12:30pm to 3pm; Thursday, Friday and Saturday, from 12:30pm to 3pm, and from 7pm to 11pm

25. Bonsai, Príncipe Real

If you aren’t able to go to Go Juu, this should be your next option. Bonsai, which opened 30 years ago, offers one of the most comfortable and delicious counters in Lisbon. The restaurant, which specializes in Japanese food, is very cozy, and the cuisine is great. There are special dishes every day, and a menu full of delightful things. My suggestion is that you ask for the specials.

Where? Rua da Rosa 248, 1200-391 Lisboa

Phone number: +351 213 462 515

When? Tuesday to Friday, from 12:30pm to 2:30pm, and from 7:30pm to 11pm; Saturday, from 1pm to 3:30pm, and from 7:30 to 11pm

26. Izakaya Tokkuri, Bairro Alto

You either sit at the counter or on the floor. I recommend the counter to avoid future backaches and to be able to see what is being prepared for you to eat, and how. You may be able to escape the backache, but your neck will not be so lucky. The menu is handwritten on a piece of slate that is hung right behind the counter stools. Independently of the possible aches, the saké will guarantee that you get home safe. The food is great and the products are of high quality.

Where? Travessa dos Fiéis de Deus 28, 1200-189 Lisboa

Phone number: +351 213 461 500

When? Tuesday to Sunday, from 5pm to 2am

27. Aura Dim Sum, Alfama

If you’re a fan of the traditional Chinese handmade ravioli-like pasta, this is the place for you. The new venue has more space both to cook and to eat and allows customers to sit comfortably while eating. The menu is full of dim sums separated by cooking method (steamed, in the frying pan, fried, or immersed in hot sauce), baos, and some Vietnamese food. My suggestion is that you try at least one of each because the food is amazing.

Where? Rua das Escolas Gerais 88A, 1100-215 Lisboa

Phone number: +351 910 116 489

When? Tuesday to Saturday, from 12pm to 3pm, and from 6:30pm to 11pm

28. Gunpowder, Between Príncipe Real and Chiado

This new restaurant, opened by the chef Harneet Baweja, specializes in food that is typical of the coastal villages between Mumbai and Goa. It offers a new approach to Indian food that comes straight from London, which was where the chef opened its first venue (also named Gunpowder). However, this one uses Portuguese products. The dishes are made using Portuguese fish and seafood. Hence, they’ll be different from what is served in London. The best way to understand Gunpowder and its philosophy is by taking advantage of its counter. Go there, ask whatever you want to ask (or not), order, observe the preparation, and eat.

Where? Rua Nova da Trindade 13A, 1200-303 Lisboa

Phone number: +351 218 227 470

When? Every day, from 12pm to 4pm, and from 7pm to 12am

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