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The Old Fashioned: A supper club in Portugal? Not exactly

During his European vacation, sports reporter Jamey Malcomb needed a bib and a mallet for a meal in Lisbon, but he came away thinking about things uniquely Wisconsin — and the steak sandwich he had for dessert.

Dishes from Cervejaria Ramiro in Lisbon, Portugal.
Cervejaria Ramiro in Lisbon isn't a supper club, but it did offer a steak sandwich for dessert, something sports reporter Jamey Malcomb thought would interest readers of "The Old Fashioned" column.
Contributed / Lisa Malcomb
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LISBON, Portugal — When my wife, Lisa, and I started planning our vacation to Europe in January, "The Old Fashioned" column wasn’t even a thing yet.

Even after the column started, I didn’t have any plans to write about our trip across the “big, blue ocean,” as Lisa calls it. As we got ready for the trip, however, we started watching a ton of travel and food shows about the food scene in our destination cities — Lisbon, Brussels and Amsterdam — and one restaurant stuck out to me: Cervejaria Ramiro, Lisbon’s temple of seafood.

From pickled turkey gizzards and creative taxidermy to a delicious potato soup, sports reporter Jamey Malcomb thinks there’s something for everyone in Hayward.

Lisbon’s is a city a few miles from where the Tagus River meets the Atlantic Ocean. It's where Christopher Columbus returned after his first trip to the Caribbean. It’s reportedly older than Rome, and like Rome, Lisbon sits on seven hills. If you go, plan on some hard walking or a lot of Ubers.

Lisa another comparison, though.

“It’s like San Francisco if San Francisco was really old and had no sidewalks,” she said.

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Lisa Malcomb wonders about sitting so close to animals that might soon be served on her plate at Cervejaria Ramiro in Lisbon, Portugal.
Contributed / Lisa Malcomb

As a city on the ocean, Lisbon is famous for its seafood — especially canned sardines and other delicacies — but that’s not why Ramiro’s is famous. It’s calling cards are clams and percebes (barnacles) as well as its huge tiger prawns.
I know what you’re thinking: “Portugal? Is this a supper club? Do they even know what an Old Fashioned is?”

Barnacles at Ramiro's in Lisbon, Portugal.
The percebes (barnacles) were served cold but were a fun dish to try at Cervejaria Ramiro in Lisbon, Portugal.
Contributed / Lisa Malcomb

No, Ramiro’s is definitely not a supper club. Perhaps if my Portuguese — or Spanish — was better, I could have at least explained what an Old Fashioned is. The best I could do was a “caneca” — essentially a mug of beer — for my drink order.

Hear me out, though. Ramiro’s has great seafood, among other things, but the restaurant suggests a “prego” for dessert. A prego is a steak sandwich on soft bread with a nice crunchy crust.

You may disagree with me, but I think readers of "The Old Fashioned" column would be interested in any place that serves a steak sandwich for dessert. It certainly got my attention.

Dishes from Cervejaria Ramiro in Lisbon, Portugal.
It's always a good sign when your server brings a mallet before you bring your food.
Contributed / Lisa Malcomb

We walked into Ramiro’s, caneca in hand, and order a variety of dishes, including a stone crab dish, some Iberian ham, a tiger prawn and some barnacles.
Barnacles, you ask?

Yes, barnacles, that apparently are harvested each morning. Yes, it was just a few weeks back that I turned up my nose at pickled turkey gizzards. Ramiro’s wasn’t storing these barnacles in a jar of vinegar on the bar, so I have no regrets.

Just after we order, the waiter stops by and hands Lisa and I each a mallet and small cutting board. Any time you get a mallet before your meal, you know you’re in for a good time.

Lisa and I start hammering away at the barnacle and crab shells we were served and it’s not long before she makes a request.

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Dishes from Cervejaria Ramiro in Lisbon, Portugal.
Sports reporter Jamey Malcomb inspects the stone crab at Cervejaria Ramiro in Lisbon, Portugal.
Contributed / Lisa Malcomb

“I need napkins,” she said. “ALL. THE. NAPKINS.”

I scanned my shell-covered torso and realized I required something a little more drastic. “I need a bib,” I replied.

We eventually got plenty of napkins, but I never got my bib. Mama would have killed me if I went "Beverly Hillbillies"-style and tucked one in the front of my shirt.

I can just hear her now: “All those people in Portugal are going to think I didn’t teach you how to act right.” Fair enough, Mama.

I think something we were surprised about was that several of our dishes, including the barnacles and the stone crab, were served cold. Lisa loved the barnacles and I thought the crab was incredible, even though I had to work for it.

The tiger prawn was not cold and it was definitely the star.

Dishes from Cervejaria Ramiro in Lisbon, Portugal.
The tiger prawn was probably the favorite dish for Lisa and Jamey Malcomb at at Cervejaria Ramiro in Lisbon, Portugal.
Contributed / Lisa Malcomb

I’ll also mention it was all served without melted butter, save the prawn. It’s not the way I’ve eaten a lot of these dishes in the past, but I also wanted the full Ramiro’s experience. I didn’t want the dinner “Americanized,” for lack of a better term.

Finally, the prego was also excellent. Exactly as advertised, it had sliced ribeye on a delicious bun with a touch of mustard. It’s not your traditional dessert, but I was happy and make no mistake, this was no Philly cheesesteak.

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Dishes from Cervejaria Ramiro in Lisbon, Portugal.
The prego, a steak sandwich, is the traditional way to finish a meal at Cervejaria Ramiro in Lisbon, Portugal.
Contributed / Lisa Malcomb

I think that’s the thing, supper clubs are a quintessential Wisconsin — and by extension American — thing. When I started this column a few months ago, I wanted to get out and go places I haven’t been and experience them as they were intended and hopefully get to know the area I live in a little bit better.

When I travel, I’m almost as interested in the places off the beaten path as I am the big attractions. I want to see how people live and work in these places and I want to eat and experience the things that make the cities I visit unique.

I often ask myself, “Could I be happy living here?”

Each of the supper clubs I visited so far were distinct and I feel like it’s allowed me to get to know the areas just across the bridge a little better than I did.

Wisconsin isn’t Portugal, but it’s got it’s own little traits and highlights that make it just as unique, if you just take the time to find them.

And I’m certainly looking forward to trading in my caneca for an Old Fashioned sometime soon.

READ MORE
The Superior supper club wasn't exactly what sports reporter Jamey Malcomb expected, but it left him with questions and plans for a return.

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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