Family-owned restaurant, Fado, brings authentic Portuguese food to St. Pete

Fado Restaurant brings authentic Portuguese food to downtown St. Pete, and it may be the best new restaurant in the Sunshine City. You can visit Fado at 435 5th Ave N.

Two weeks ago, Fado Portuguese Cuisine opened its doors with the mission to bring “authentic Portuguese cooking” to downtown St. Pete. In the time since, the restaurant has become the subject of critical acclaim, stellar Yelp reviews, and hundreds of nightly reservations. The secret behind the newcomer’s sudden success? Chef Rui Borges.

Today, I sat down with Rui’s son, Bruno Borges, to get the full Fado story—and, of course, try a few bites.

“My dad lived in Portugal until he was 35,” Bruno shared proudly. “All the recipes on the menu are his.”

I glanced down the laminated, lengthy list of dishes. The appetizers column boasted everything from fried sardines to table side flambéed chorizo, while the entrée selection featured surf, turf, and 9 different varieties of bacalhau. With a personal weakness for seafood and sausage, I knew deciding on an order would be a tough task.

A lengthy menu of Portuguese classics

“Before this,” Bruno continued, “My dad and I have owned 7 different restaurants. When we first moved to Florida, he opened the only Portuguese restaurant in Orlando.”

“And you cook, too?” I asked him, entertained by his hospitable confidence and familial pride.

“Oh, no,” he answered, “We’re a family business. I manage the restaurants, while my dad’s the executive chef.” Bruno placed a plate of golden-brown, crispy codfish fritters on the table. “Today, he would like you to try some of his best dishes. Does that work?”

My eyes lowered towards the crunchy, steaming balls of fish.

“That—,” I responded, “—sounds perfect.”

Curious what some of Chef Rui’s dishes of choice entailed? Then stick around, because it’s time to dive into the highlights.

The menu at Fado in St. Pete:

Pastéis de Bacalhau

Since I’ve already alluded to these tasty bites, I figured they’d be the best place to start. Known in English as “Salted Cod Fritters,” Pastéis de Bacalhau are essentially deep fried balls of finely shredded fish, and, at Fado, diners can expect precisely that.

Comforting, warm, and flavorful, this simple—and surprisingly light—dish is a great way to begin a Fado meal.

Chouriço à Bombeiro

Chorizo is to Portugal as the hot dog is to America; a staple. Fado’s chorizo, however, is next-level.

Flambéed to order, this delicious appetizer arrives at the table hot, crispy, and glowing in a theatrical display of orange flames. For those of you who are into Instagram-ing your food, this is definitely the dish for you. And, for those of you who order food for reasons beyond its social media post-ability (do you people even exist anymore??), no worries. Once the flames go out, the sausage left behind is juicy, flavorful, and wonderfully indulgent.

Polvo à Lagareiro

A massive plate of broiled octopus covered with onions, tomatoes and peppers, this was easily my favorite dish of the day. From the tender cook of the tentacles, to the delicious drizzle of olive oil on the vegetables beneath them, everything about this entrée is elegant and delicious, and you definitely need to try it.

But don’t just take it from me—according to Bruno, the Polvo à Lagareiro is the best-selling item on the menu.

Bacalhau à Brás

Ok, so I actually didn’t eat this, but I found this picture on Fado’s social media and I just had to share it.

According to the menu, the dish consists of shredded salted codfish, onion, and thinly fried potatoes all bound by scrambled eggs. That’s about all I can guarantee about the meal for now—besides the fact I’ll be going back ASAP to try it.

Pastéis de Belém

Baked fresh daily, the Pastéis de Belém is Chef Rui’s rendition of the “Pastel de Nata,” AKA the world famous Portuguese Egg Custard Tart. If you’ve indulged in Portuguese fare in the past, you can back me up when I say that these desserts are incredible.

At Fado, however, the Pastéis de Belém is not quite your standard Pastel de Nata. Though they are clearly covered in cinnamon (which is unconventional), the main difference lies in the dish’s temperature. Whereas the classic custard tart is cold and firm, Chef Rui’s is served hot and runny.

As you break through the decadent pastry’s crisp, buttery crust, you’ll find your teeth deep in a pool of warm, melted custard. And—if that wasn’t enticing enough—they come in sets of two.

”Make our Portuguese house your home”

Whether you’re looking for a family outing, or an intimate date night, Rui and Bruno encourage you to come in, try some authentic food, and “make their Portuguese house your home.”

But don’t forget to snag a reservation! These new, cozy tables are going faster than the leftover plate of Pastéis de Belém in my fridge.

Fado Portuguese Cuisine is located at 435 5th Ave North in St. Petersburg. To view a complete menu, diners can visit the restaurant’s official website: https://fadofl.com/.

Hungry for more food pics? Fado can also be found on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fadofl/, or Instagram: @fadorestaurant.

Kara VanDooijeweert is a current journalism student at Rutgers University. If you can't find her in the Bay's best restaurants, she's probably off exploring the wilderness. Catch her on Instagram, @karanicolev.