Boca Linda is a unique Mexican restaurant in the vibrant Santos district. It aims to be the at the top of the best Mexican restaurants in Lisbon and we dare say that it is on it’s way. It is certainly the most authentic and the most seductive.
The most Mexican of Mexican restaurants in Lisbon
The pretty powder pink facade on the outside of the unassuming building in Santos reveals nothing of what you will find inside of Boca Linda Mexican restaurant in Lisbon. Just like it’s name sake, the “beautiful mouth” (the translation of Boca Linda), it is what is inside that counts. And inside the restaurant, is an absolute delight. The decor in Boca Linda is a juxtaposition of traditional Mexican furniture, dark wooden old-world tables and chairs, with clashing modern touches. The slick metal bar area has been designed specifically to match the curves of Mexico’s mountain ranges. A nod to the authenticity of this Mexican restaurant. This is one of the first things that makes us realise that this is one of the best Mexican restaurants in Lisbon.
It doesn’t stop there. Boca Linda is decidedly, 100%, Mexican. So much so, that the chefs are Mexican. The owner is Mexican. The Mezcal is definitely Mexican. In fact, walking into the thrum of Boca Linda on a busy evening feels a bit like being transported to Mexico City.
Who should visit Boca Linda? Anyone looking for tasty, genuine Mexican food with a side of cocktails. When we visited, we saw couples enjoying a fun and romantic evening. As well as friends socializing over tacos. But, Boca Linda is also a great restaurant if you’re in Lisbon solo and you fancy a bite to eat. It is such a welcoming restaurant, with spots at the bar perfect for an individual diner, you’re sure to feel enveloped by it even if you are eating alone.
Delicious and inexpensive food at a the most vibrant of the Mexican restaurants in Lisbon
Hands up if you don’t like Mexican food? Anybody? No, you’re too busy shoving a taco in your mouth as you read this to put your hand up aren’t you? That’s what I thought! Of course you like Mexican food, what’s not to love.
That said, sometimes Mexican food can be a bit “hit or miss.” Either you’re paying high-end prices for a decadently deconstructed taco hand-made by a Michelin star chef, or you’re eating mediocre fajitas with a sombrero on your head. Not so much at Boca Linda.
One of the things that we love about this Mexican restaurant in Lisbon is that it fills a much needed gap. It doesn’t cost the earth to come here, prices are reasonable.
You can expect to pay around 50 to 60 Euros for two people. And in exchange, you’ll roll out of Boca Linda sufficiently fed and gently lubricated with Mezcal.
But, Boca Linda is far from basic. It is certainly not a taqueria, serving endless tacos fast-food style. You will also never see a sombrero or a piñata here. It is much more sophisticated than that.
Innovative food at one of the best Mexican restaurants in Lisbon
As soon as we sat down, we were given a small taster glass as a welcome drink. A chilled Margraita laced with strawberry in a sugar rimmed glass. This was quickly followed by a palate cleansing soup “a welcome from the kitchen,” our friendly waiter informed us. It was a cold soup, perfect for summer, a refreshing mix of avocado, garlic and mint with a hint of lime. All of this before we had even had a chance to look at the menu.
The menu at Boca Linda is concise, contained on one page only. This feels like a statement of confidence, the food is so good that you don’t need too much choice, and it makes things easier for diners too.
We decided to kick things off (quite literally) with the “Guacamole con chapulines.” For the uninitiated, chapulines are grasshoppers. These are a regular on menus in Oaxaca, but not often found in Lisbon! The guacamole was fresh and packed with citrus and the grasshoppers added an interesting and salty accompaniment. Be sure to try these, especially if you come here on a date, we hear that insects are an aphrodisiac.
Next, we enjoyed the Ceviche aptly named “Vuelve a La Vida”, meaning come back to life. Ceviche can be a little chewy if not handled correctly, but this fish was cured well and super fresh. Flavored with cilantro and red onion, and covered in a rich but refreshing tomato sauce.
It’s getting hot in here
Possibly my favourite dish of the meal was the Tostada with Tuna. The tuna was sashimi style and served on a crunchy bread and topped with seeds adding a unique textural sensation. We also sampled the Taco with prawn, delicious fresh seafood coated in a light and crunchy tempura. Plus, the “De pastor del trompo”, an interesting kebab style pork taco with pineapple, that we hadn’t experienced before elsewhere. The owner explained to us that this dish from central Mexico was influenced by Lebanese cuisine which was introduced by immigrants to the country.
Alongside the tacos and tostadas we were given three delicious sauces. The milder sauce was a little like Mexican pesto, creamy and herby. Then, you could “up the ante” a little and move to the middle sauce of the three, a tomato and chili sauce with plenty of flavor. Finally, if the grasshoppers hadn’t got you hot enough under the colour, you could try the Habanero (a Yucatán version of the Scotch Bonnet) chili sauce. An “oh so spicy” mix of chili and oil, sure to raise the temperature a little! We recommend trying all three, dropping a little of each onto your tacos.
This paired perfectly with our cocktails, a reassuringly strong classic Margarita and a Pisco Sour. The cocktail menu mostly revolves around tequila and Mezcal, but other cocktails are available too. Plus, Boca Linda serves draft beer and a selection of wine.
If you’re not quite sated after all that, Boca Linda restaurant also has a pleasing dessert menu. There’s a choice of “Dulce de calabaza”, a Mexican pumpkin sweet, “Pan de elote”, a traditional corn-bread or the very inviting “Brownie de chocolate picante,” a spicy and indulgent chocolate classic.
Trendies of the best Mexican restaurants in Lisbon, in the Santos district
The Santos district is a favourite amongst the young and lively crowds in Lisbon. Although it is known well by locals, visitors to Lisbon may overlook Santos, heading instead to nearby Barrio Alto. Santos is found just beyond the now famous Time Out Market in Lisbon. When I first visited Lisbon, nine years ago, there seemed to be little in the vicinity of the market.
Today, Santos is dripping with vintage clothing stores and trendy hipster hang-outs. One of which is Boca Linda. The Santos area of Lisbon reminded us of Greenwich Village in New York. If you want an alternative evening out in Lisbon, why not put yourself through your paces at the achingly hip Baraza Yoga Studio, just two doors down from Boca Linda. Then, once you’re feeling sufficiently cleansed, stop by Boca Linda for some delicious grub and a bit of a re-tox – did we mention that they make a mean Margarita?
A passionate endeavor
The charismatic owner of Boca Linda, Alejandro, is charmingly passionate about his restaurant. This shows in the way that he moves proudly around the restaurant chatting to guests. But not just that, he gives no indication that he plans to rest on his laurels now that the restaurant is up and running. He told us of an exciting ambition to bring Mexican guest chefs to the restaurant later in 2023, a chance to show off the different regional cuisines and culinary flare of talented Mexican cooks. No doubt this will keep the menu fresh and the Mexican food fiends of Lisbon satisfied.
Boca Linda is planning a series of guest chef takeovers later in 2023 to show case Mexican cuisine at it’s best and keep Lisbon diners guessing.
Boca Linda is already a popular spot, despite opening it’s doors less than a year ago. When we visited early on a Thursday evening, the place was starting to come alive. And this was at 19:00 when local diners are yet to descend. If you plan to visit, make a reservation to avoid disappointment.
How to visit Boca Linda, the best Mexican restaurants in Lisbon
Boca Linda Mexican restaurant in Lisbon can be found in the Santos district on Calçada Marquês Abrantes. The nearest metro station is Santos. The restaurant is open Tuesday to Sunday from 18:30 to midnight. Check out the full menu and book via the website, found here.
Our experience was gifted at Boca Linda Lisbon. All opinions are our own.