Normally, I would never give hotdogs the time of day. When you consider the American hotdogs we eat all summer, they’re simply franks with toppings. Of course, I write this and immediately think of the restaurant in Pittsburgh that serves hot dogs for brunch (Franktuary.)
While we were in the beautiful Douro Valley area, my friends and I booked a port wine tour. It was incredible because we visited a few wineries in the stunning landscape, had lunch, and got to take a boat cruise all in one day. If you’re visiting Porto, do not skip a Douro Valley wine tour. On the day that we drove past the vineyards that stretched across the mountains for miles until we reached our destination to try the Port Wines of the Duoro Valley, our tour guide offered wonderful suggestions, most importantly Gazela’s.
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I make a point in telling you it was our last day of the trip because it is important to know that we had very little euros left. We had done all of our shopping for souvenirs and used most of our cash earlier in the trip. We had no plans of needing cash…this was our mistake.
Outside the restaurant there was a line of people waiting to bust into the small restaurant. There were plenty of tables filled on the floor, a bar facing the window with people enjoying the sun, and a bar with people happily chomping away and sipping beer. Despite, the line, two ignorant American girls spotted the two empty seats at the bar and barged into the restaurant. (Yes, that was me.)
When we took our seats, an older man immediately greeted us like old friends. He shook our hands and provided menus. He did this to every customer that sat at the bar as if they were truly friends.
Tricia luckily asked him if it was cash only. Yes was his reply. We opened the menu to find the price of the dogs – $3. We promptly began digging through our purses and wallets. Between the two of us, we had just enough for two dogs.
We placed our coins on the counter and put in our order for two Cachorrinhos.
The man who shook our hand asked if there was anything else until he saw the coins and laughed. It was hot and we were thirsty but all we could buy were the dogs. Normally in Europe, you have to purchase water in most restaurants. As he was talking to the staff, another worker came up to see if we wanted beer. Most reviews recommend beer with the hot dogs. We said no and the man looked seriously confused. The first man walked over to him and pointed at our limited funds on the counter saying what I imagine in Portuguese was that these dumb American girls only have this. They laughed and offered us water. Every now and then, they’d turn back to us and laugh. Their good spiritedness, really brought the place to life.
After we got settled, I really took in the place. Our view from the bar was a prime seating area. Their kitchen was open just behind the bar so we could see how swiftly the cooks made the dogs. The air smelled of sausage and beer. And the people were all happy. I began taking pictures of the atmosphere but the staff at the bar stopped me. No pictures were allowed. The photo below is all I have so I’ll do my best with the pictures from the internet and hopefully my words will do this hotdog justice.
This is nothing like your ballpark hotdog. Disregard your expectations of what a hotdog is. This is truly a magical sandwich.
I can quickly see that a majority of the patrons have ordered the dogs. I watched intently as the men created 20 dogs at a time in an assembly line process. Between cooking the dogs and making the customers feel at home, the workers behind the bar never skip a beat. They quickly start with the sausage, pressing it flat into a panini press. Then they add the long thin baguettes to the bottom of the sausage and let a nice layer of some type of cheese (maybe Gouda) melt on top. Next they add the top half of the baguette onto the melted cheese and the man firmly presses down onto the panini press with all his might.
Once he pulls the perfectly crispy dogs off the panini press, I thought that was it. The heavenly aroma of chorizo sausage was wafting throughout the room making me impatient to have my first bite. The next man in their assembly line, grabs the fresh batch and begins chopping the sandwiches into small bites. And finally, the worker asks my friend and I if we like spicy. Of course, we told him. He adds the final touch – what I believe is a delicious chili oil.
Finally the two dogs are placed in front of us and we dig in. My friend and I did not even talk as we enjoyed these hotdogs. The bun was toasted to a crispy perfection, the sausage was juicy and flavorful, and finally I absolutely loved the spicy sauce.
Other Items on the Menu
If after I told you my love affair with this delicious snack you aren’t convinced, know that Rick Steves seemed to enjoy it in this video. And if you’re still saying no, I’ll say that you still need to go there. You absolutely cannot leave Porto regretting not trying a taste of a Francesinha – a Portuguese sandwich originally from Porto, made with bread, wet-cured ham, linguiça, fresh sausage like chipolata, steak or roast meat, and covered with melted cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce.
Anthony Bourdain tried this sandwich in Parts Unknown, which his dining partner described as “the perfect combination for a hangover.”
They also serve other foods. Definitely add Gazela’s to your list.
Address: Travessa Cimo de Vila, 4, 4000-171 Porto, Portugal