Manjar do Marquês is an all-you-can-eat rice restaurant just off the old (and the new)highway. A main route crossing the country connecting Lisbon and Porto regions, the A1 and the IC1 cross through Pombal, almost half way between the two cities. Before the rapid A1, buses and motorists would stop here for a snack and a bit of rest.
But this is not a simple by the side of the road restaurant, and the rice it serves it's not just some rice.
Regional tomato risotto is a typical Portuguese side dish and mastering its technique takes practice. You don't want too much water, but you don't want it to stick to the pan: It has to be "no ponto,", meaning, with the perfect amount of water, and if you take to long to serve it, the water will soak away.
At Manjar do Marques, the family recipe dictates that the rice will always be "no ponto."
The kitchen is a non stop tomato rice producer as the custumers don't stop coming. Some call it the "Mecca" for tomato rice.
In the dining room, waiters carry around big clay pots with the rice still steaming and they use two spoons to make sure you're served perfectly and old school. Custumers can order up traditional appetizers: panados (breaded fried beef) bolinhos de bacalhau (codfish balls) pataniscas (codfish baked with egg and onion) croquetes (fried meat pastries) or petingas (small fried sardines) that are served and paid per piece.
So you just pay for the appetizers and can have as much rice as you want, just call the waiter and a refill is on the house.
A typical Portuguese restaurant, with a rural style and mosaic tiles in its walls, Manjar is also famous for serving other typical dishes like octopus rice and great desserts. Also typically Portuguese, they serve leite creme, pudim de ovos, arroz doce and queijo da serra.
So, if you ever plan to motor north, just take the IC1, it's the highway that's the best. It winds from Lisbon to Porto- more than 200 miles all the way. Don't miss the big billboard with a big clay pot saying that you are "almost there."