"You are very lucky," the fellow at the beachside kiosk told us, pointing the way to Restaurante Barca. "Américo cooks the best fish in Póvoa de Varzim!" A few minutes later, we began to know what he was smiling about.
For eleven years, the family-owned Restaurante Barca has been dishing up savory seafood dishes, proving time and again what it takes to charm a picky fish lover.
And charmed we were. Airy bites of bacalhau with parsley were served alongside cheese from Serra da Estrela, and thin slices of cured wild boar from Sao Gonçalo. The main course, a simple fish and rice stew, proved that sole does not have to be boring--on the contrary, a light tomato-based sauce, seasoned with onions and garlic brought every flavor in the dish to the fore, and had us clamoring for more. Muralhas de Monção, a vinho verde from the vineyards north of Porto, was the perfect accompaniment for a light mid-day meal.
The restaurant offers a range of seafood preparations and an extensive menu of excellent Portuguese wines.
We drove to Póvoa de Varzim, but the beach resort can also be reached via metro from Porto (the last stop on the B line). To make a day trip of it, visit the town's tourist office and pick up handy English-language maps and descriptions of the town's sights.