One of the very few things that I did not like about the Azores was its lack of modern, upscale restaurants. Everything seemed old and tired. Sooo, I was super excited when we walked into Big21 for dinner on our last night, which turned out to be one of my favorite meals of the week!
Big21 is a new restaurant in Ponta Delgada. It was opened by a Portugal mainland native who married an Azorean woman and brought his restaurant skills to São Miguel! The menu is more mainland Portugal than Azorean, and Big21 has a very modern feel!
I realized that I would love Big21 as soon as I walked into the restaurant, which is located on the second floor of an old building. The restaurant floor has been entirely re-done in a wood theme (kind of Scandinavia-ish) and is very modern-looking. Its also small; reservations are a must. The menu is also quite limited, but everything is very well done.
We were further excited when we realized that one of the wine on the list was from Gradil, Portugal, the tiny town in which we got married!! It was no Quinta de Sant’Ana, but we still had to order it!
I was REALLY excited for a taste of Portuguese mainland food, so we ordered two appetizers! First beef croquettes with mustard! Beef (sometimes veal or pork) croquettes are everywhere in mainland Portugal, and I LOVE them! These were excellent and the mustard was also really good! I regret not ordering a second round… #noshame.
Our second appetizer was another mainland Portual speciality, a bowl of melted cheese with hard bread. I had this dish in Ericeira during my wedding and loved it. Big21’s version was just as good – although there was no heart shaped dish!
For our main courses, we turned back to Azorean specialties. I ordered the Azorean equivalent of Steak Frites. The Azores grow or raise almost all of their own food o, and they are really proud of their beef. I had tried Azorean steak two other times this week, but why not again on our last night?! The steak was really, really good and the fries, as always, were great. The portion was also big.
Dan ordered the tuna, which I had been wanting to try all week! The Azores are famous for their tuna, which is not imported but caught fresh from the Atlantic daily. You can even see the fresh tuna being sold at the Mercado da Graca on Saturday mornings. In any case, Dan’s dish was great and even better than my steak!
For dessert, I ordered Azorean pineapple soaked in Portuguese wine with an orange sorbet, and this dessert was light and totally delightful! An excellent way to cap our minimoon and fabulous dinner! I will highly recommend dinner at Big21 when visiting the Azores!
STEAL OUR DINNER
Big21: Rua Ernesto do Canto 21, Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel 9500-312, Portugal. T: +351 296 281 398. Open Monday – Saturday 18:30 – 22:00. Call, email, or send a Facebook message for a reservation in advance, as the restaurant is really small. The restaurant is also super friendly and changed my reservation several times!
ON A BUDGET
Big21 is not a budget option in the Azores, but it is more budget friendly for people coming for more expensive locations, such as large European or North American cities. If you are on a strict budget, check out Mercearia São Pedro Wine & Tapas. just down the road, which has high quality Azorean tapas and a great selection of Portuguese wine (and cheap Portuguese beer!).
Mercearia São Pedro Wine & Tapas: Largo Almirante Dunn 23-A, 9500-292 Ponta Delgada, Portugal. T: +351 296 281 600. Open daily 6:00 – 0:00 (food stops earlier). You probably do not need a reservation.