Brazil’s varied cultural mix has resulted in a wealth of exciting cuisine, and its rich gourmet history has been influenced by the flavors and cooking styles of Africa, Portugal and Japan. From street food, local Botecos and traditional BBQs, to up-scale champagne and sushi bars, Rio has a place to suit every palette. It’s not just the food that makes eating and drinking in Rio de Janeiro so exciting, almost as important to the experience are the city’s incredible views and its unique atmosphere. In our Eating & Drinking in Rio de Janeiro guide, we’ve picked ten of the best places to wine, dine and soak up the atmosphere in the ‘Marvelous City’, including Copacabana beach bars, Leblon Caipirinha institutions and intimate fine-dining gems.
Best street food – Juices and Tapioca Pancakes
There are many small stands dotted around Rio de Janeiro selling all manner of snacks and drinks. Highly recommended are the juice and smoothie bars, a must-visit on any trip to Rio. Brazil’s tropical climate means that fruit supplies are bountiful and delicious and street vendors all over the city serve up ravishingly good smoothies and juices that are great value and ideal for breakfast or a refreshing afternoon thirst quencher. Tapioca pancakes are another highlight and can serve as a light lunch in their savory form, or a delicious sweet snack. Vendors store a range of ingredients in towers of Tupperware containers, and you can choose from cheese, meat and vegetables, banana and cinnamon or sweet cheese and guava paste.
Location: Street corners all over the city
Best for watching the world go by – Sindicato do Chopp
Copacabana Beach must be one of the most famous stretches of sand in the world. Located near the waterfront is Sindicato do Chopp, the perfect place to grab a beer and a snack and take in the views of Copacabana and its vibrant beach life. With a large outdoor area covered by canopies, the sea breeze flows through and the Brahma beer is good and cold. Order Sindicato do Chopp’s fail-safe combination of salgadinhos (deep fried snacks) with icy cold beer, don your shades, lean back and soak up the atmosphere on the world’s hottest party beach.
Location: Avenida Atlantica 3806, Copacabana
Best for Romance – Careme Bistro
Located in the Botafogo neighborhood, this charming little French bistro is perfect for a romantic Rio de Janeiro dinner. Head chef Flavia Quaresma has become somewhat of a celebrity in Brazil. Formally an actress, she has turned her hand to presenting a popular culinary TV show and creating a stylish French influenced menu for her pet-project Careme. The menu is kept small so that each dish receives precise and exacting attention, and ingredients are always fresh and generally organic. The menu changes often, but usually offers a selection of delicately flavored pasta and risotto dishes either as a starter or a main, tender cuts of meat and a fish of the day, all of them beautifully presented. A 10-course tasting menu is available and the wine list is compact, but well chosen.
Location: Rua Visconde de Caravelas 113 Tel. 021 2537 2274
Best for meat-lovers – Porcão
Be sure to be good and hungry when you arrive at Porcao, a traditional, all-you-can-eat Brazilian BBQ rodizio where waiters roam the tables with huge skewers of deliciously roasted meats which they carve directly onto your plate. Porcao is a Rio de Janeiro chain, but the branch in Flamengo has some of the best views in town, with floor to ceiling windows offering spectacular vistas over Sugarloaf and Guanabara Bay. The set-price menu includes a well-stocked and varied buffet of antipasto, salads, cheeses and fish dishes, including sushi. The never-ending supply of meat keeps coming until you turn your traffic-light indicator to red for defeat. Meats include various cuts of beef, chicken hearts, pork and lamb – this truly is a carnivore’s paradise.
Location: Av. Infante Dom Henrique s/n Tel. 021 2554 8535
Best for Caipirinhas – Academia da Cachaca
The Caipirinha is synonymous throughout the world with the tropical glamour of Brazil, and no-one but the most strict tee-teetotaller should pass up the opportunity of sampling this potent cocktail of cachaca and lime. Academia da Cachaca was established over 20 years ago in Leblon, Rio’s upscale nightlife district, and with over 80 different brands of Cachaca and five classic Caipirinhas to choose from, this is a perfect place to sample your first true Brazilian Caipirinha… and your second. Flavors include the classic lime, as well as bitter-sweet orange, pineapple, passion fruit and seasonal specials.
Location: Rua Conde de Bernadotte 26, Leblon.
Best for views – Aprazivel
Book a taxi to take you up the winding Santa Teresa Mountain road to the stunningly located Aprazivel. With beautifully decorated terraces dotted with plants and subtle lighting the atmosphere is relaxed and mellow and the views over the garden down across Guanabara Bay and downtown Rio are amazing. Both the food and service are top-notch with an interesting variety of Brazilian flavors with a tropical edge. Fresh grilled palm hearts, pumpkin soup and prawns with baked bananas are all delicious starters. A popular main course is the Peixe Tropical, grilled fish in an orange sauce, served with coconut milk rice, cashew nuts and baked banana. Be sure to savour one of the delicious desserts – the pineapple with lime zest, limoncello and coconut ice cream is a particularly zingy taste explosion.
Location: Rua Aprazível 62 Tel. 021 3852 4935
Best for fine-dining – Roberta Sudbrack
One of the top contemporary restaurants in Rio de Janeiro, Roberta Sudbrack offers an elegant dining room and a menu that changes daily based on seasonal, organic ingredients. The style is experimental Brazilian cuisine with stripped down dishes that showcase the flavors and textures of top-quality produce. Food is carefully prepared with delicacy and a minimalist aesthetic. Try the tasting menu of the day, which often stretches to 10 courses. Roberta Sudbrack, who used to cook for the president, often comes out to greet her guests in the dining room.
Location: Rua Lineu de Paula Machado 916, Jardim Botânico
Best for traditional dining – Casa da Feijoada
Brazilian tradition dictates that feijoada is only served on a Saturday, however if this doesn’t fit in with your schedule, you can thwart this policy and head to Casa da Feijoada any day of the week for a steaming bowl of this delicious and filling stew. The meal starts with bread, olives and cheese, quickly followed by a black bean soup. After that comes the main, and although you can choose from a selection of fish and other meat dishes, we highly recommend the house speciality, a rich bean and meat stew served in a baked earthenware pot. Make sure you are good and hungry before visiting, and order a couple of refreshing lime cocktails to get you started. An early meal will give you the chance to take an after-dinner stroll along the streets of Zona Sul.
Location: Rua Prudente de Moraes 10 Tel. 021 2523 4994
Best for Portuguese flavor – Antiquarius
The interestingly decorated Antiquarius is considered one of the top Portuguese restaurants in Rio. The antique furniture and decoration make for some arresting eye-candy and the menu is authentic with an impressive wine list. The waiters know their stuff and are happy to advise you on food and wine pairings. The menu includes delicious salt cod dishes particular to Portugal, as well as some stunning lobster and lamb dishes. Particularly recommended are the traditional stews, such as the mouthwatering cataplana, a seafood concoction served with rice, and the cozido cooked with yams, banana and pumpkin.
Location: Rua Aristides Espínola 19, Leblon. Tel: 021/2294-1049
Best for late-night snacks – Cervantes
This local institution has been open for decades and is much loved by night owls for its cold beer and fine selection of delicious meaty sandwiches. Veteran waiters dressed in white coats and black bow ties weave between the tables sating late-night appetites till past 5am, depending on the night. The food is simple and inexpensive, the fillet Mignon and pineapple sandwich comes particularly recommended, and you can add a slice of cheese if the mood takes you. Filled with a varied, and sometimes raucous, crowd its basic dining room is packed with atmosphere throughout the night. Cervantes is also good for a quick bite at lunchtime and is open seven days a week.
Location: Avenida Prado Junior 35, Copacabana.