Café Santiago: Best francesinha in Porto, Portugal

Café Santiago, serving one of the best francesinha in Porto
Café Santiago, serving one of the best francesinha in Porto

If you come to Porto, you can’t leave the city without trying francesinha. This decadent, over-the-top meat-filled sandwich is a must-eat in Porto. You can enjoy this carb-heavy, beer-friendly dish of meat, bread, cheese, and gravy any hour of the day.

Francesinha, which means “little Frenchie” in French, was the creation of Portuguese citizen Daniel Silva. Silva, who lived in France, wanted to create his version of the popular croque monsieur. So, he invented the francesinha, which today is a staple of Porto. Francesinha is a sandwich made with an assortment of meats, cheese, and bread. It is then topped with an egg and beer sauce and served with fries.

Many restaurants and bars today claim to serve the best francesinha in Porto. While there are many places in Porto and Portugal, to try francesinha, you can’t go wrong with Café Santiago.

If you are looking for more information about Porto and Portugal, I highly recommend picking up a guidebook such as Rick Steves Portugal.

Interior of Café Santiago

Small but open and bright dining room, Café Santiago, Porto, Portugal
Small but open and bright dining room

There were two separate dining areas at Café Santiago. On one side was a bar with counter seating and a few tables. Workers in blue shirts prepared food on the grills and poured drinks to thirsty guests. A small but open dining room was on the other side of the restaurant. Though small, both dining areas were bright, casual, and cozy. Though there were tourists, the spot felt more like a local bar and restaurant.

In the background, I could hear the chefs in the kitchen preparing food. I also noticed a phone ringing nonstop with people trying to make reservations or place takeaway orders.

Outdoor seating
Outdoor seating

As with many restaurants and cafes in Porto, you will find an outdoor patio at Café Santiago. The patio was the perfect spot to enjoy your meal with a cold beer or glass of wine. And you can’t beat the people watching.

Café Santiago Menu

The menu at Café Santiago, Porto, Portugal
The menu at Café Santiago

While you will find many items on the menu at Café Santiago, most come here for the francesinha. It is the house specialty and a staple of Porto. As mentioned, a francesinha is a Portuguese sandwich made with bread, meat, cheese, egg, and sauce. Usually served on the side side are French fries. If this is your first time here, you want to order the francesinha.

The menu featured four types of francesinha. All were the same, made with bread, bologna, fresh sausage, beef steak, ham, cheese, and francesinha sauce. The only difference was that one option came without a fried egg, another without fries, and one substituted a sirloin beef steak. So, you can choose the option which is best for you.

You will find a good selection of Portuguese dishes if you order something else on the menu. Dishes included cachorros (hot dogs), meat dishes, seafood, steak sandwiches, salads, toasts, desserts, and sides.

All the ingredients used at Café Santiago were of premium quality, delivered fresh daily, and cooked to order, including bread, meats, and cheeses. This is what made Café Santiago stand out from the other restaurants in Porto.

Francesinha Santiago

The specialty of the house, the Francesinha Santiago, Café Santiago, Porto, Portugal
The specialty of the house, the Francesinha Santiago

When I first saw the Francesinha Santiago (€9,75 or about $10.57), all I could think to myself was wow. What did I get myself into? It was enormous. But I was hungry and ready to dig right in.

I don’t even know where to begin. The sandwich was massive, so come hungry. If you plan on sharing a francesinha, it will cost you an extra €1,00 (or about $1.16) to share the dish.

Layer after layer of meat
Layer after layer of meat

When I took my knife and cut through the tower of bread, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Layer after layer of salty, smoky meats.

My favorites were the red sausage and bologna. Red sausage, or linguiça, is a popular Portuguese sausage similar to spicy chorizo. Its flavor was smoky and intense. While thin, the bologna was creamy and tender with a fresh peppery flavor. And I can’t forget about the beef steak. The beef steak, which could have been a meal on its own, was tender and grilled to a perfect medium.

The francesinha sauce covered the sandwich, which glistened under the bright lights. While the recipe for the sauce is a closely guarded family secret, I tasted tomato and beer in it. There might have been some port wine mixed in, too. And it was unexpectedly spicy. When the runny yolk mixed with the viscous sauce, it was a match made in food heaven. The combination of spicy tomato sauce and rich yolk complemented the smoky, salty flavors of the meat.

Though simple, the thick white bread covered in melted cheese was crucial to the success of this dish. If the bread fell apart, the dish would also fall apart. And it didn’t, even when covered with sauce, cheese, and meat. While the fluffy, toasted bread soaked up all the goodness of the meat and sauce, it never turned to mush. It kept its texture until the last bite.

As for the fries, they were basic and forgettable. They weren’t soggy, nor were they crispy. However, I enjoyed dipping them in the Francesinha sauce.

Service at Café Santiago

Service at Café Santiago was prompt and straight to the point. When I sat at my table, a server handed me a menu before I could get my bearings. I knew what I was ordering and was ready when the friendly but professional server returned.

Even though the restaurant was busy with a line out front, my food arrived fast, fresh, and hot. My server was always around when needed, yet I knew when to let me enjoy my meal.


If you come to Portugal or Porto, you can’t leave the city without trying francesinha. This decadent, over-the-top meat-filled sandwich is a must-eat in Porto. While there are many places in Porto for francesinha, you can’t go wrong with Café Santiago. The service, the affordability, and the quality of meat, bread, and cheese make Café Santiago a great choice for francesinha in Porto.


  • One of the best francesinha in Porto
  • Clean, modern, and bright interior
  • Friendly staff
  • Extensive menu featuring affordable options


  • Often a wait for a table


Monday-Saturday: 11:30AM-10:30PM
Sunday: Closed


R. de Passos Manuel 226, 4000-382 Porto, Portugal
GPS Coordinates: 41.14643,-8.60484



Last Updated on April 17, 2024

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My name is Anthony and I am addicted to traveling all around the world experiencing new people, cultures, and foods. These are some of my stories.

2 thoughts on “Café Santiago: Best francesinha in Porto, Portugal”

  1. I dont eat meat and cheese and pork together so why dont you come up with a good veggie version.
    Your chocolate mousse was so delicious had two servings


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