Back in January, we braved the cold to a warm storefront in Alcântara for a friend’s birthday party. She was letting us in on a secret: Friends of hers, two brothers from Albuquerque, planned to open a real American-style BBQ joint in Lisbon. And they hosted her party as a kickoff to their debut a few months later.
Fast forward to May, and the stage was set. The grand opening, on May 28, of The Garage, launched a great place to catch a style of food we long have felt would be a good match for Portuguese tastes–as well as serve the ever-growing U.S. immigrant population.
To us, barbecue (BBQ), feels like a no brainer in a country that offers a wide selection of economical cuts of meat and a long tradition of grilling everything from fish to goats to chocos. So we were excited to see how well the concept would roll in real life. Stefan and Danny Ikelman positioned their restaurant in the neighborhood-under-the-bridge of Alcântara–near the LX Factory, for those who know that part of Lisbon. Our schedule meant that we went two days prior to the grand opening–but they were already running a good show.
Turns out that these guys are putting out credible BBQ. Stephen and I had the 12-hour smoked brisket, with sides of potato salad and baked squash, and a homemade cornbread–Southern U.S. style, not like broa. Our friend Mark went off the menu at Danny’s suggestion, and signed up for the porco preto secretos…and I was instantly jealous, even though my brisket was meltingly good. Terri had a pulled pork sandwich, and a side of macaroni and cheese that would solve any yearning for that creamy comfort food of our childhood.
To top it off, at The Garage, they feature several taps of craft beer, cerveja artesanal, from producers nearby, like Dois Corvos, Oitava Colina, and Mecanica, but also around Portugal, like Barona. The also serve up proprietary cocktails, including a Jack Daniels and lemonade or a great-looking Bloody Mary.
With the food and drink marrying so well, the place really needs ambience to match, and the Iklemans have clearly spent time scrounging junkyards and antique shops for car parts, old signs, and ephemera that make the place feel like a real cross between a garage and a diner–without feeling kitschy or crass. Though it honestly took me a moment to figure out how to operate the sink in the bathroom, once I did, I laughed at how clever it was.
Though our stories have focused on Portugal, we feel that The Garage’s ability to incorporate the tastes and produce of the country with an American style of cooking merits it your attention–especially if you’re craving good ‘cue in Lisboa.
The Garage, Largo do Calvário 31A-33 (3,569.38 mi); Lisbon, Portugal 1300-115
Telephone: +351 938 975 970