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Going Deep



As the calendar year turns over, we’ve grown accustomed to the barrage of lists telling us where to travel during the next 12 months. Oftentimes these places are a country or even a whole region – you could spend an entire year exploring just one of the locations listed and still barely make a dent.

We like to travel on a smaller scale. Forget countries and cities, for us the neighborhood is the ideal unit of exploration. Celebrating neighborhood life and businesses is, of course, essential to what we do as Culinary Backstreets. Since our founding in 2012, we’ve been dedicated to publishing the stories of unsung local culinary heroes and visiting them on our food walks, particularly in neighborhoods that are off the beaten path.

But this year we are planning to dive even deeper into the cities we work in. Getting off the beaten path leads to fresh experiences, but more importantly, it’s a way for us to contribute to the economies of neighborhoods otherwise neglected by the tourism industry. Tourism is an important economic force in many cities, as it should be, but if it is not dispersed responsibly, it can devastate the urban ecosystem, one that’s based on the sound health of all of a city’s neighborhoods.

With that in mind, we are happy to declare 2018 as “The Year of the Neighborhood,” one in which our focus will be on lesser-visited neighborhoods and the people and places that keep them going. To get things started, below is a compilation of the less-visited areas that our correspondents are planning to explore this year:

Lisbon: Beato-Marvila

With Lisbon’s city center transforming at a rapid clip, it’s no surprise that the oft-neglected outer neighborhoods ringing the center are being given a second look. Beato-Marvila is one such area.

Located in a prime riverside setting, Beato used to be the domain of royal farms and palaces, as well as convents and churches attached to them (the area was offered to the nobility and clergy as a reward after the Portuguese conquest of Lisbon in 1147). In the 19th century, though, the area left its royal past behind and morphed into an industrial center, with business owners converting many of the old convents into warehouses or factories.

During the second half of the 20th century Beato’s factories started closing down and the area entered into a prolonged downward slide. With the exception of a few tascas that served much-needed comfort food to the neighborhood’s remaining workers, there wasn’t much going on here.

That has started to change in some intriguing ways. Riding the wave of investment pouring into Lisbon in recent years, new businesses have moved into this post-industrial neighborhood, with former warehouses and factories being resuscitated. Take, for example, Fábrica Braço de Prata, an old factory that’s been turned into a bookshop, restaurant and event space hosting concerts and exhibitions, or Hub Criativo do Beato, a former military complex that is currently being renovated to house creative businesses and technology companies.

Others can’t be so easily classified – Grilo, a warehouse and art studio, is a space where artists and partygoers converge. Art lovers can also visit the new atelier of Bordalo II, currently one of the most famous street artists in Portugal. Beato-Marvila’s main street, Rua do Açúcar, plays hosts to a wide range of charming spots. There’s Musa, a brewery that’s part of Lisbon’s budding craft beer scene (not far away is Dois Corvos, the first craft brewery in town). The older buildings along this pleasant street are also home to places like Café com Calma (with vintage furniture probably bought in the funky warehouse Cantinho do Vintage) and Capitão Leitão, a new bar that is drawing crowds to the area. But, amidst this sea of new, it’s comforting to see restaurants like O Caçador, an old-school tasca, and Casa do Bacalhau, a traditional spot dedicated to salt cod, still doing brisk business. – Célia Pedroso & João Freitas

Click here to read the full neighborhood guide.

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