#01 – The largest conurbation on Sao Jorge is the main harbour town of Velas – it’s a quiet, friendly little town with the extinct Morro das Velas at one end and the Porto das Velas marina at the other. In between, there’s a selection of local restaurants serving traditional-style Azorean cuisine in big, hearty portions – great when you’ve been walking the island’s extensive trail network all day. The Clube Naval de Velas is one such restaurant – Lapas Grelhadas (grilled limpets), Bacalhau and Bife a Casa (steak) – very much a meat-and-two-veg eatery. The club is also a good/close option for dinner if you’re catching the evening ferry.
#02 – Restaurante Acor is one of Velas’ most-popular restaurants and they’re easy to find with the art deco signage. Their fresh fish is excellent and they make a great pizza. Look out for their lunchtime buffet deals, with three courses for around 16 euros.
#03 – Just around the corner, the Restaurante Sao Jorge offers no-fuss, no-frills Azorean cuisine. If they’re on the menu together, try combining their cavala frita (deep fried mackerel) and fresh lagosta (lobster).
#04 – For anyone with a sweet tooth, head two streets over to Flor do Jardim for elevens – they always have a great selection of pastries and Azorean cakes.
#04 – Charlie’s Place is at the top end of town – it’s a lively bar, usually filled with the great and the good of Velas and there’s always a fun atmosphere in the evenings. Food-wise, it’s burgers & fries, pizzas, pork steaks and cold beers – all at very reasonable prices. The staff are always extremely welcoming.
#05 – A ten-minute taxi ride/drive west will bring you to O Branquinho on the outskirts of Rosais. Their wood-fired grill helps elevate everything on the menu from good to outstanding. They also serve Cataplana de Marisco – the ultimate Portuguese fish stew; and it’s a dish you tend to see more in mainland/southern Portugal, and it’s ingredients vary according to the season. It’s also important to save room for cheesecake.
#06 – If you’d like to learn more about Sao Jorge’s famous cheeses, tours are available of the nearby União de Cooperativas Agricolas de Lacticínios de São Jorge. The cost is usually around 5€ per person and you’re guided through the entire production process from beginning to end. It’s usually better to book in advance through your hotel, but it’s always worth popping into the shop when passing as the friendly staff might be able to take you on a spur-of-the-moment tour.
#07 – We’ve been championing the food at the Restaurante Fornos De Lava for many years. Owner Rodrigo serves homely, authentic Azorean cuisine in a unique setting on the high Travessa de São Tiago. Resurrected from the ruins of an old farm, the fertile soil surrounding the restaurant allows Rodrigo and his family to grow the organic herbs, vegetables and fruits which are the mainstay of his delicious, hearty dishes.
Like O Branquinho, the team cook over wood which imbues the dishes with a marked depth of flavour, and from it’s high vantage point the rustic-roundhouse restaurant has one of the best sunset views of the neighbouring island of Pico.
#08 – To the north coast, and if you’re walking the PR4 trail from Pico do Pedro down to Faja do Ouvidor, you’ll find the perfect lunch spot at O Amílcar. The restaurant sits on one of the island’s famous fajas – the coastal plateaus which are home to most of the villages on the island. Fajas are formed by different processes, and here in the north they were mostly created by landslides and earthquakes. Faja do Ouvidor is also the location of one of the best natural swimming pools in the Azores: the Piscina Natural Simao Dias.
Post-swim, O Amilcar is good place to sample Sao Jorge’s famous freshwater clams, fished from the nearby Santo Cristo lagoon. They’re a non-native clam species and no-one’s really sure how they came to live in the lagoon. The generally-accepted theory is that they were introduced by British engineers who were resident on the island in the late 1800s, working on the trans-Atlantic telegraph cable project. Look for ‘Amêijoas de Sao Jorge’ on the menu.
#09 – The far eastern end of Sao Jorge is often overlooked by visitors to the island – intrepid explorers will be rewarded with a sweeping ocean view at Topo (the island’s first settlement), the opportunity for a dip in the pretty Casacata do Cruzal waterfall, and one of the best views Sao Jorge’s stunning south coast from the miradouro de Faja de Sao Joao.
The Taberna Agueda is just a stone’s throw from the viewpoint – the building itself has an appealing ramshackle quality, the prices are reasonable and the owners are delightful.
#10 – Following the coast west, you”ll notice the cliffs here on the south coast are a less-steep and a bit more forgiving than in the north – the southern fajas were formed by lava flows, as is the case in the pretty village of Faja dos Vimes.
The village is home to the Café Nunes – famous across the Azores, the Nunes family have a smallholding where they cultivate their own coffee beans. You can learn about the history of Azorean handicrafts and the techniques used to create embroidery using traditional looms at their Casa de Artesanato.
#11 – If you’re staying at Quinta da Magnolia in the south coast town of Urzelina, you’re well-served by a cluster of restaurants in the evenings. The Restaurante Urzelina is the closest – it’s a popular locals’ restaurant with a self-service buffet. It’s not al-la-carte but the quality and variety is always good, the price is very reasonable (usually under 10€ for all you can eat, plus drinks) and the staff are friendly and attentive.
#12 – A further five minutes along the road and you’ll come to the SunSet Bar. As the name implies, they’re closer to a bar than a restaurant, serving pizzas, burgers, fries and cold beers. (Francesinha’s also on the menu, but at time of writing I’ve not had a chance to sample it). The décor’s bold and bright and the atmosphere’s friendly in the evenings – there’s a small terrace outside.
#13 – The O Castelinho Restaurante (known locally as ‘Blue Star’) is just around the corner. Another no frills, locals’ restaurant overlooking Urzelina’s small harbour, with a strong Azorean menu of seasonal fish, beef, pork, ameijoas (local clams), and octopus in it’s many forms.
#14 – A popular new addition in Urzelina is the Art Restaurant Manezinho on the southeast side of the bay. Dutch couple Rini and Pieter Adriaans renovated the building in 2021 and it’s a welcome combination of contemporary Azorean restaurant, cocktail bar, art gallery and music venue. Pieter is also a musician and artist with many of his own pieces on display, and you can check their website for any upcoming music events.
#15 – Coming almost full circle around the island, the Residencial a Quinta is on the main road overlooking the airport. It’s imposing basalt frontage and skewwhiff roof beams betray the building’s strong agricultural roots. The traditional Azorean menu is similarly steadfast and the quality is consistently good.
And if you’re not completely ‘clammed-out’, it’s a good, last opportunity for a bowl of amêijoas before you head to the airport.
Our Where to eat guides are based on our first-hand experience and our love of great Portuguese cuisine:
We specialise in tailor-made holidays to the nine islands of the Azores. Call Paul on 017687 721020 to begin planning your personalised trip.
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