Azorean Cafe’ brings Portuguese Cuisine to Pittsburgh

Chef Elsa Santos' Azorean Cafe is a wonderful introduction to a small slice of the globe that the local Pittsburgh population may be otherwise unfamiliar with.

by Abbie Synan
April 19, 2022

Transport yourself straight to Sao Miguel Island without leaving Pittsburgh. The Azorean Cafe, located on Liberty Avenue has now become a Bloomfield staple. The cafe is the perfect place to add to the hometown regular dining rotation. The layout offers cheery decor, a handful of tables and a bright and airy feel. The Azorean Cafe makes for the ideal restaurant to return again and again, a true “local favorite” in every sense of the word.

The dishes are inspired by Portuguese cuisine, specifically an homage to the Azores, a collection of nine islands in the North Atlantic Ocean. Blissfully resting about 1,000 miles off the coast from Lisbon, the Azores are full of rolling green countryside, dramatic coastlines dotted with small fishing villages. The archipelago has culinary ties to the mainland but offers its own island twist on Portuguese classics.

What’s on the must-eat list

Cafe owner Elsa Santos has been serving up breakfasts and lunches, highlighting her island fare with stews and casseroles along with sandwiches and pastries. If it’s breakfast that you’re looking for, don’t let their French toast pass by your table. This is a spin on the typical brunch choice, with the star being a sweet Portuguese muffin for the bread, paired with island jam on the side.

Lunch favorites include the Bifina sandwich, a pork loin with sautéed onions and a delicious garlic sauce served up on a traditional crunchy Portuguese roll. Seafood plays a starring role in many Portuguese dishes and the menu at The Azorean Cafe nods to a few traditional delicacies. Bacalhau is what you’ll want to order if you’re looking to try a common fish dish. Meaning salted cod, this casserole is made with au gratin potatoes and topped with a delicious white cheese sauce. While the national dish of Bacalhau may vary by region, the core ingredients always remain the same. Even though fish and meat play a starring role in many Portuguese plates, the café offers several vegan and veggie-friendly options so any diner can find something they’ll love.

Lastly, you can’t eat here without getting a classic egg tart pastry for dessert and possibly taking a few extras for the trip home. Pasteis or Pastel de Nata are small pastries with a custard center. Invented by 18th-century monks, this is a true bite-sized bit of heaven with a buttery pastry exterior and a creamy filling. It’s a must to round out your meal.  

Know Before You Go

Azorean Cafe is a wonderful introduction to a small slice of the globe that the local Pittsburgh population may be otherwise unfamiliar with. While many residents might be knowledgeable about Portugal, the Azores are a unique region of Europe and having a culinary representation of Santos’ love for her country is the perfect way to form a fondness for these magical islands and their food for yourself. The cafe is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so stop by for a meal anytime from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays. 

Abbie Synan is a freelance writer who focuses on sustainability initiatives within the tourism industry. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Synan has been traveling full time since 2013, hopping the globe and visiting over 90 countries while exploring ways to be a more mindful global citizen. She is the sustainable travel expert for Wanderful, an international travel community as well as the content co-lead for Impact Travel Alliance, a global organization educating and inspiring travelers. You can find her sharing stories on her blog, Speck on the Globe or her capturing wanderlust images on Instagram.

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