No, it is not the name of a place, it is not the name of a restaurant, it is not the name of a region.
Back in the day when there were no highways, the national roads tailored urban development and created a demand that can no longer be found today. Roadside restaurants and hotels from those days were crushed by the highway!
A few managed to resist!
Bairrada is such an example. It’s technically a subregion of the centre of Portugal, but everyone knows it from its piglets and sparkling wine, which go along very well on a slow lunch: “leitão à Bairrada”. It’s one of Lina’s favourite Portuguese dishes, about which she wrote on this post.
The piglets, a very young and tender suckling pig, are a sacrilege for a vegetarian but wonder for a meat lover. The meat tears apart easily and just melts in your mouth.
Where to eat?
Mealhada is the capital for “leitão” and, as explained above, all the restaurants are by the side of the road and everyone has their favourite. They cater different crowds, so the one you choose might not suit your personality or the size of your group.
A few can cater 2 or 3 busloads of people without a problem, but all of them might keep you waiting for a while if you are not lucky enough or do not call in advance.
Some are posher than others but, in general, all of them are a safe bet.
“Pedro dos Leitões”
We have tried a few in the past, but have been opting for “Pedro dos Leitões” for the last years. It is better to call in advance: although it will not get you a table, you will be higher on the waiting list. In any case, despite its name, there is no relationship whatsoever with the author, so do not feel that you have to try it or state me as your referral.
All in all, if you are travelling with a car from Porto to Lisbon, or
vice versa, it can be a great stop for your lunch.
Other options we tried in the past and had a good experience: “Restaurante Típico da Bairrada” (smaller restaurant), “Meta dos Leitões” (neighbours our usual choice but slightly smaller), “Metinha dos Leitões” (same management as Meta catering bigger groups).