Eating where the teenagers are: Pão Pão, Queijo Queijo

Raymond Chen

In Belém, directly to the east of the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos is a block of small shops, the most famous one of which being the Pastéis de Belém which sells the, um, Pastel de Belém, the Belém version of the unofficial dessert of Portugal. (This photo of a group of people eating was taken in front of the Pastéis de Belém shop. You can see the blue awnings in the background.) The place is always packed shoulder-to-shoulder with tourists. So turn around, leave the store, and walk back toward the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. At about where the pink building is in the photo referenced above is a tiny shop called Pão Pão, Queijo Quejo, which means Bread Bread Cheese Cheese. If the photo doesn’t help, here’s how you find it: It’s the one packed to the gills with teenagers. Now, following the teenagers to decide where to eat is a hit-or-miss affair. You might find an awesome little shop, or you might end up at McDonalds. I lucked out and scored a major win.

Here’s how you enjoy lunch at Pão Pão, Queijo Queijo:

  • Read the menu board posted outside to decide what you want. Have your dictionary handy since it’s only in Portuguese.
  • Join the mob-like approximation of a line that snakes out the door.
  • When you reach the register near the door, place your order and pay for it. You will receive an order slip.
  • Join the mob inside the store and try to work your way to the counter where all the food is.
  • Get the attention of somebody behind the counter. You are competing with two dozen other people at this point, so it may take some effort.
  • Hand the person your order slip and do your best to answer questions like “Do you want sauce?” and “For here or to go?” The correct answers are “Only a little” and “To go”, by the way.
  • Receive your sandwiches, grab some extra napkins, and walk across the street to the park.
  • Enjoy your sandwich in the park while taking in the view of the Ponte 25 de Abril (the April 25 Bridge), then take a nap in the warm sunshine.

Second only to salt in the Portuguese diet appears to be ranch dressing/mayonnaise/whatever that white sauce is. (Hence the need for extra napkins and the correct answer of “Only a little.”) If you’re not careful, you’ll find your sandwich drowning in approximately ten cubic meters of the stuff. But once you get past that, you have a tasty sandwich with warm meat and crunchy slaw on a crisp baguette. It’s sort of a Portuguese version of a Vietnamese sandwich.


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