Rio de Janeiro – Eat and Get Out!
For a quick snack, visit a juice bar (casa de sucos) where you can sample from a mind-boggling panoply of unpronounceable tropical fruit juices. Additionally you will find an array of salgadinhos – savory snacks.
Restaurants tend to be expensive, although a reasonable deal can be had at lunch, often in an informal eatery such as a botequim or a lanchonete. Many restaurants serve food by the kilo. These vary greatly in price and quality. Note that at dinner time, servings are usually generous enough to be shared by at least two people.
If red meat is your thing, paradise awaits you at a churrascaria, a fixed-price all-you-can-eat barbecue. Even your animal-fearing friends will be satisfied at the typically copious salad bar. This does not necessarily come cheaply, so go with an appetite. One of the more popular places for this flesh orgy is the Porcï¿½o, with several locations. If you want a view, head for the branch on the beachfront road, the Aterro do Flamengo open from noon-1am. Also on Rua Barï¿½o da Torre 218 in Ipanema.
Asked what the Brazilian national dish is, any Carioca will surely point to feijoada, a meal traditionally served for Saturday lunch. It is a motley mixture of black beans stewed with a variety of meats, often cuts of pork you weren’t even sure existed. This harks back to Brazil’s days of slavery, when these “offcuts” constituted part of the slaves’ culinary mainstay. Don’t worry though. Most modern feijoadas come with an assortment of sausages and quality meats as well. I just back away from the pig’s ears.
Feijoada is customarily served with rice, farofa (manioc flour), and couve (kale), as well as pieces of freshly-cut orange, all duly preceded by one or two caipirinhas (see below), making this a veritable wrecking ball of a meal. Don’t expect to move for several hours after this onslaught.
One place you can have a feijoada any day of the week is at the Casa da Feijoada at Rua Prudente de Moraes 10, just around the corner from Praï¿½a General Osï¿½rio.
For more bites in the Zona Sul, try:
Confeitaria Martinï¿½ca – At the corner of Rua Visconde de Pirajï¿½ and Vinï¿½cius de Moraes, this is a good place for a cafï¿½ com leite (coffee with milk), locally known as a mï¿½dia, and a pï¿½o na chapa, a French roll toasted on the griddle.
Yonza – On Rua Miguel Lemos a block and a half from the beach. Crï¿½pes Brazilian-style. Good and reasonable.
Natural – Rua Barï¿½o da Torre 171. As the name indicates, natural but not strictly vegetarian. A nice kilo buffet at lunch.
Caranguejo – Rua Barata Ribeiro 771 at the corner of Rua Xavier da Silveira. A simple but classic Carioca seafood joint. Great pastel de sirï¿½ – crab pastry.
Siri Mole – This fine restaurant serves Bahian food, a hallmark of Brazilian cuisine. Superb, with many seafood offerings. Located at Rua Francisco Otaviano 50 in between Ipanema and Copacabana end. 2267-0894. Not cheap.
Yorubï¿½ – Another excellent Bahian restaurant. At Rua Arnaldo Quintela 94 in Botafogo, telephone 2541-9387. Look out carefully – the restaurant has no sign!
Bella Praia – Close to the Sugar Loaf, a great spot to combine with a trip on the cable car. International cuisine, lunch buffet, great views.
Mineirinho da Lagoa – In Lagoa. Mentioned in the linked caipirinha recipe, an inviting place to relax with a drink and a plate of carne seca (stewed dried meat) with aipim frito (fried manioc).
Colher de Pau – Outstanding pastries and typical sweets at this little shop on Rua Farme de Amoedo 39 near the corner of Rua Prudente de Moraes. Luci will help you in English to choose the object of your tooth’s desire.
Milfrutas – The perfect footnote after a visit to the Jardim Botï¿½nico (botanical garden), this ice-cream shop offers a choice of unusual and delicious ice-cream flavors, particularly fruits from the Northeast of Brazil. Not cheap. Walk from the gardens down Rua Jardim Botï¿½nico and turn right on Rua J.J. Seabra. A couple doors down on the left, your reward awaits you.
Ataulfo at Avenida Ataulfo de Paiva 630 in Leblon, and Itï¿½lia at Rua Visconde de Pirajï¿½ in Ipanema, are two more choices for tasty ice cream, as well as Alex Sorveteria at Rua Vinï¿½cius de Moraes 146B, which has good ice-cream at a low price.
The Cobal do Humaitï¿½ and the Cobal do Leblon are, by day, two large cooperative markets, that join a number of al fresco bars and restaurants into one great melee by night. The Cobal do Humaitï¿½ is not far from the youth hostel in Botafogo, and so could be a great choice for a few beers and maybe some live music, all with a Wellsian view of the recently restored Cristo Redentor looming above in its original eerie greenish light.
Amongst the choices for eats here, my vote is for the Espï¿½rito do Chopp, where not only can you catch choro music on Sunday evenings, but you can do so while nibbling through a plate of “mini-acarajï¿½s.” Acarajï¿½, a Bahian specialty, is a marvelously odoriferous bean fritter fried in dendï¿½ (palm oil) and served with vatapï¿½, a fish and shrimp purï¿½e; caruru, an okra stew; and hot pepper to taste. The Cobals are loaded with other options, from pizza to sushi, and both even offer nighclubs featuring live music.
The usual drink of choice in Brazil is draft beer, called chopp. It’s nothing to write your chums about, but perfectly quenching on a hot day. And of course you can’t leave without trying a caipirinha (“little country girl”), Brazil’s take on the daquiri, made from chopped limes crushed with sugar, ice, and cachaï¿½a. The latter ingredient is a potent sugarcane spirit that should be handled with caution.
Cut one lime into quarters and put the pieces in a short sturdy glass. Add about one heaping tablespoon of extra fine granulated sugar (all Brazilian sugar is this way, but not necessarily so elsewhere). It has to be pretty fine to dissolve properly.
Crush lime and sugar together using a wooden pestle. Mercilessly squeeze all the juice out of lime pieces until they sit limply awaiting their inevitable fate. Leave the lime pieces in the glass, of course.
Next fill the glass with ice. I take ice cubes and crack them in my hand with the pestle, which is a fine manly display (I need all the help I can get). Otherwise you can use crushed ice, which is also very nice, or even plain ice cubes if you prefer.
Now fill the glass (yes) with cachaï¿½a, which may or may not be available where you are. I used to find it without too much problem in the States, but of course it doesn’t come cheap, and there’s plenty of variation between one and the next. In Rio, a good introduction to premium cachaï¿½a is the Academia da Cachaï¿½a, mentioned below in the Getting Out section.
A less obviously purpose-made choice for a low-key tasting is the Mineirinho da Lagoa kiosk on the Ipanema side of the lagoon. There is no sign marking this kiosk (look for the red-capped waitstaff). It’s the one just opposite the swan boats. They have about ten cachaï¿½as from Minas on the menu, all of good quality and reasonably priced. A very pleasant spot to languish over black beans and a pinga (one of the many colloquial names for cachaï¿½a) with a stunning view over the lagoon.
The brands I have seen available abroad are Pirassununga 51 (rotgut), Pitï¿½ (ditto), Ypiï¿½ca (a decided step in the right direction – no headache, but still not a quality drink) and Nï¿½ga-Fulï¿½ from Rio de Janeiro state, a quality cachaï¿½a, by far the finest of this lot. Anything else you might find would be a plus, most likely. Who knows if some specialty shop doesn’t supply this.
The state of Minas Gerais has a reputation for top cachaï¿½a, so if by some stroke of luck you should find this geographical pedigree mentioned on the label, you’re likely to experience a considerable improvement. I can personally testify to the quality of Mineiro cachaï¿½a, to say nothing of their hammocks, a match made in heaven. Just add girl. Or boy, depending on your gender or preference.
There is an alternative, and many Brazilians prefer it (philistines, I say, but in your case you may have no alternative): the caipirosca (using vodka) or the caipirï¿½ssima (rum, actually very nice if you use a good quality white or very light amber one).
I even saw Cointreau suggested, and as my mother, when she visited me, had left a few single bottles she’d appropriated from United Airlines, I thought I’d try this most peculiar variation. To my surprise, it was delicious. So there.
Who knows what other variations might exist. Occasionally they even vary the fruit, some of the more common ones being passionfruit (insanely delicious), grape, pineapple, and so on.
One caveat. This drink packs a punch and you may not even realize it. The day my mother arrived, I picked her up at the airport, took her home, and we left directly to have lunch at a great Mineiro restaurant, whereupon we ordered two caipirinhas. I had to stop my mother as she powered through her drink as if it were a kiddie-stand lemonade.
The rotgut cachaï¿½a I simply don’t touch anymore. Last time I did (do we ever really learn these lessons?), I found myself with some crazy girl on Ipanema beach at one in the morning on a weeknight, ripping off clothes and jumping headlong into the sea. Clothes on the beach with ID, cash, and whatnot – great idea – aren’t I supposed to know better? If someone had walked off with our hastily rejected vestments, we would have deserved it. You have been warned. Enjoy.
As a footnote, I’ve noticed that in Rio the caipirinha seems to transcend the gender line with no damage to the male reputation. I must note, though, that I have never seen a man drink a caipirinha in Minas. Then again, their cachaï¿½a is so good, it’s like drinking pure nectar.
Below are just a few suggestions.
Try the Empï¿½rio at Rua Maria Quitï¿½ria 37 in Ipanema for a relaxed pub atmosphere where you can meet locals as well as fellow travelers.
Other options include the kiosks on the Lagoa, which are open-air restaurants that often feature live music. These are located in clusters in a few different places around the lagoon. The Drink Cafï¿½ located near the Parque dos Patins often has excellent Brazilian jazz on Friday nights.
Academia da Cachaï¿½a at Rua Conde Bernadote 26 in Leblon, where you can sample a dizzying variety of fine cachaï¿½a. The neighborhood of Botafogo is also peppered with secret bars on dark streets.
Hipï¿½dromo Up at Praï¿½a Santos Dumont 108 in the Gavea district. This club and the surrounding area, Baixo Gavea, is very popular. Numerous bars spill out into the streets for a general party, especially on Monday nights.
Severyna at Rua Ipiranga 54 in Laranjeiras. Good for folks staying in Flamengo or Catete, as it is not far away. This place has live music regularly, usually samba, sometimes MPB. Especially popular on Monday nights.
Ballroom – A dance-oriented hall with a variety of live music. Rua Humaitï¿½ 110 in Botafogo.
Fundiï¿½ï¿½o Progresso at Rua dos Arcos 24 in the Lapa district is, as the name suggests, an old foundry turned cultural center. There are often good live music concerts here. A young, hip crowd.
Samba schools during the pre-carnaval season.
Check listings in the Programa section of Jornal do Brasil or the Rio Show in O Globo on Fridays.