#01 – One of our favourite towns on the south coast is Vila Franca do Campo. Founded in 15th century, Vila was Sao Miguel’s original capital, until the great earthquake of 1522 devastated the town (Azorean priest and historian Gaspar Frutuoso wrote a contemporary account the tragic event is called ‘O romance de Vila Franca’).
Vila’s a small, friendly place with the Igreja Matriz de São Miguel Arcanjo at one end and Praia de Vinha d’Areia beach at the other. Probably my favourite place to eat is the Restaurante Praia Cafe. It’s light, modern décor has a menu to match – location-wise, it overlooks Praia Vinha so it’s ideal if you’re spending the afternoon at the beach. It’s also a lovely spot if you’re staying in Vila in the evening:
#02 – I should also quickly mention Bar Vinha d’Areia which is just next door – good for fresh lapas (limpets), shrimps, cold beers and marvellous sunsets:
#03 – Heading into the centre of Vila Franca, the Atlantico Restaurante is just beyond the marina, overlooking the boathouses and workshops at the southern end of town. Their menu’s for fish lovers – stick with the seasonal specials and you won’t be disappointed. If you’re reserving in advance, request a table on the roof terrace, overlooking the extinct ilheu de Vila Franca volcano just off shore:
#04 – Heading down to the marina, if you’re just looking for a quick bite to eat before heading to sea on a whale and dolphin watching trip, the Marina Bar serves freshly made sandwiches, soups, cakes and coffee all day long. They’re also handy for a take-away if you’re en-route to walk the Lagoa do Fogo trail:
#05 – Heading up the steps from the marina, lookout for the Do Morgado bakery where Sao Miguel’s most popular queijadas are made. Queijadas are a traditional Portuguese tartlet – the recipe varies from island to island, but one of my favourite variations are baked right here in Vila Franca. If you’re thinking of gifts for family and friends, a box of queijadas normally travels quite well. The distinctive green Do Morgado circular logo points the way to their café and bakery shop:
#06 – It’s short drive west along the coast road from Vila Franca to Casa do Abel in the town of Agua de Pau. You’re certainly in no danger of missing Casa do Abel – it’s conspicuous signage will make quite sure of that. Casa do Abel is beef all the way – a steakhouse that’s proved incredibly popular since opening it’s doors in 2017. It’s very much a family-affair, with owner Abel and his sons hands-on in the kitchen and front of house:
#07 – Before he began expanding his culinary empire, Abel’s main restaurant was Bar Caloura in the small fishing village of the same name. It’s still a big favourite of ours – one of the island’s best, sea-to-table fish restaurants overlooking the small harbour in this peaceful fishing village. If you’re staying at Quinta do Mar during your holiday, you’ll definitely spend some memorable evenings at Bar Caloura:
#08 – Adega Caloura is a welcome new addition to the village. Located just across the road from Bar Caloura (beneath Casa Grande), Adega doesn’t offer the same sea views but there’s a welcome cosiness to the traditional architecture. The menu is quite limited but that’s usually a good sign as you’re eating fresh and seasonal – the reviews from our friends in Caloura are all extremely positive and we’re looking forward to visiting ourselves later in the year:
#09 – If you’re staying at the western end of the village at Casa das Pedras, Casa Jardim or the Caloura Resort Hotel, the Restaurante Dragoeiro is a short stroll along the high-walled country lanes. The deco is modern with a menu to match – Azorean chefs are becoming increasingly aware that their island’s excellent maritime produce lends itself to great sushi. Remember to take along a torch for the walk home:
#10 –Leaving Caloura and continuing along the west coast – as you pass through Lagoa along it’s long tree-lined main street, take a left down towards swimming pools on the coast and you’ll find O Capitao. One of the newer fish restaurants on the island (I think they’ve been open three years now ?), they have a great roof terrace and serve a mean fish stew:
#11 – Just beyond Lagoa’s small harbour is the Restaurante Ondas do Mar. It doesn’t quite have the seaview of Bar Caloura or O Capitao, but if you’re staying at the beautiful Casa da Rocha Quebrada or at Whites Villas it’s a great restaurant right on your doorstep:
#12 – One Sao Miguel’s most popular beaches is at Praia da Populo, and it’s most popular restaurant isthe Sunset Beach. I haven’t eaten there in the evenings but if you’re spending a day at Populo, it’s an excellent option for lunch- especially if you have little one’s as you can walk in straight off the beach:
Our Where to eat guides are based on our first-hand experience and our love of great Portuguese cuisine:
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