My Portuguese videogame friend, who I was meeting for the first time that day, already knew me well enough to know that high on the list for my first visit to her country was the Francesinha. My first night in town she took me to Requinte, in neighboring Matosinhos, one of the most respected and beloved purveyors of Porto’s signature sandwich. That Saturday night there was a big football match between Porto and Lisbon, heated rivals, and the place was jammed with band camp boy scout nerds. For us to get a table would have meant waiting about an hour.
Fortunately my friend is an amazing communicator and successfully stressed the importance of the American getting to eat one of these bad boys. After placing the order for takeaway, my friend excused herself briefly. I found myself standing alone at the bar, being awkwardly and intensely eyeballed by one of the establishment’s operators. Big man, thick neck, he did not even blink as he stared me down. I sheepishly asked in English if everything was OK: worst case response, I thought, punch in the face. Best case scenario, strong man tells me the secret to winning the heart of a Portuguese woman. The guy gruffly waved me out of the way: I was blocking his view of the football match.
The Francesinha shares elements of classic North American dipping sandwiches like the au jus of Chicago’s Italian Beef and the roasted tomato sauce of Guadalajara’s Torta Ahogada. The Francesinha however is more complex than these, stuffed with salty ham and savory beef, beer cooked down into its tangy sauce and lightly sharp cheese melted over its entirety… I only managed to eat half (for this I was judged harshly by both my friend and her father, despite my pleas of portion control, watching my waistline, on a diet, etc) but damn. Just writing this I wish I had the other half back!