10 Places to Eat in Rio to Escape the Olympics Madness
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I had never planned to move to Rio. A chance meeting with a Brazilian journalist in Nicaragua led me here in 2010. I quickly fell in love with the journalist and her city, and in a matter of months we were married and I had decided to live in Rio permanently.
You see a city very differently when you have a local person showing you around and explaining things. I quickly realised that most visitors were missing out on what really makes this city special and so, less than a year after I arrived in Rio, I started a blog, Eat Rio, to record my discoveries and share my recommendations in the hope that thismight be useful to like-minded people visiting this exhilarating city.
In 2013 I took the next logical step. Instead of simply writing about my favourite markets, restaurants and cultural activities, why not actually show people? Eat Rio Food Tours, Rio's first culinary tour company, was born.
Today I share my time between freelance writing jobs and developing new culinary and cultural experiences for people visiting Rio. What follows is a list of some of my favourite places to eat in Rio. If you want to escape the tourist-traps and get a feel for the real Rio, read on.
This gorgeous bistro manages to find the perfect middle ground between smart and relaxed. The menu is full of French and Italian classics made to a very high standard – think cassoulet, confit duck, risotto and perhaps the best roast chicken in town. The service is friendly and efficient and if you're getting tired of beers and caipirinhas, the wine list will make you very happy. Situated in the leafy Jardim Botânico neighborhood, this is the ideal place to take time-out from the frenetic pace of the bustling beach neighborhoods.
Address: Rua Visconde de Carandaí, 2 - Jardim Botânico (Map)
CADEG (pronounced 'cadeggy' by the locals,) is a huge covered market located in the northern neighborhood of Benfica. There are dozens and dozens of stalls and shops selling an eclectic range of items including fruits, ice-creams, wines, cheeses and flowers. As with most markets, those who arrive early will be rewarded with the best produce, but the real draw happens on Saturdays. A massive celebration of Rio's Portuguese ancestry means there are classic dishes such as bacalhau (salt cod), grilled sardines and perfect pasteis de belem (custard tarts).
Address: Rua Capitão Félix, 110 - Benfíca (Map)
Ancoramar (until recently known as 'Albamar') is located just a stone's throw from the Port Zone's newly renovated Praça Mauá. This is an old-school seafood restaurant serving up all kinds of delights from the sea such as ultra fresh oysters, shrimp and 'cavaquinha' (slipper lobster). Several unusual freshwater fish are also immaculately prepared such as the Amazonian 'pirarucu', one of the largest freshwater fish in the world. Waiters are friendly yet formal, and clearly taking a lot of pride in their work.
Address: Praça Marechal Âncora, 184 - Centro (Map)
Puro is a rare thing in Rio: a high-end restaurant without the wince-inducing prices. Chef Pedro Siqueira has good pedigree, having worked under Brazil's leading culinary light, Alex Atala, at his flagship restaurant in São Paulo, DOM. Now in charge of his own restaurant, Siqueira has created a spectacular menu showcasing Brazil's finest ingredients and giving classic Brazilian dishes a modern twist. Cocktails are taken as seriously as the wine, and the decor and service combine to round out a luxurious experience without breaking the bank.
Address: Rua Visconde de Carandaí, 43 - Jardim Botânico (Map)
5. Café do Alto
The neighborhood of Santa Teresa is an essential part of any trip to Rio. Located in the hills that overlook the city's major landmarks, this area has been a magnet to artists and poets for generations. The narrow cobbled streets and 19th century architecture make this area uniquely charming. Café do Alto is located in the heart of Santa Teresa and serves up some of the best 'comida nordestina' (food from Brazil's northeastern region) in the city. The interior is colorful, informal and child-friendly.
Address: Rua Paschoal Carlos Magno, 143 - Santa Teresa (Map)
There are places so well hidden in Santa Teresa that they are unknown even to the locals. One such gem is Alda Maria's Portuguese bakery. The bakery is also the family home and is beautifully decorated with hand-painted Portuguese tiles. Inside, Alda Maria and her family bake classic Portuguese cakes and sweets such as 'Bem Casados', 'Touchinho de Ceu' and fantastic 'Pasteis de Nata'.
Address: Rua Almirante Alexandrino, 1116 - Santa Teresa (Map)
7. Bar do David
Rio's favelas endure a fearsome reputation and although there are certainly many which are not suitable for a visit, there are also several which are now generally considered perfectly fine. One such community is Chapéu Mangueira, located on a steep hill overlooking the beach neighborhoods of Leme and Copacabana. Bar do David is situated close to the entrance of the favela and serves up delicious and original home-style Brazilian dishes and cocktails.
Address: Ladeira Ari Barroso, 66 - Chapéu Mangueira (Map)
Large parts of Rio's Zona Oeste (West Zone) are filled with high-rise condominiums, shopping malls and never-ending traffic jams. However, just a short distance from all that concrete is the tranquil lagoon island of Gigoia, a verdant enclave that feels a million miles from the bustle of the city. Laguna sits on the edge of the island and is reached by a short ferry ride. The restaurant, a seafood specialist, is set in forest gardens and comprises several large open forest huts. Perfect for a romantic getaway.
Address: Ilha da Gigóia, 34 - Barra da Tijuca (Map)
The neighborhood of Praça da Bandeira is known as a foodie oasis in the city's North Zone. In the otherwise rather rundown area, there are several excellent restaurants taking advantage of low rents to offer fantastic food at affordable prices. Noo is the most recent addition to the collection and has made a real splash. Specialties of the house include one of the best caipirinha cocktails in the city, the cheesey, gooey-chewy 'Bolinhos Cucuruqui' and mind-blowing 'torresmo' (pork rinds).
Address: Rua Barão de Iguatemi, 358 - Praça da Bandeira (Map)
10. Bar do Momo
Tijuca is an area that lies to the north of the city's tourist-rich beach zone and, due to the lack of obvious attractions, is overlooked by most visitors to the city. However, those hungry for a taste of authentic Rio 'boteco' (bar) culture will be rewarded if they make the journey (allow 30 minutes by subway or taxi). Bar do Momo is a place for people 'in the know': it doesn't look like much on the outside, the staff is friendly and the bar-food and banter are of the highest quality. Their 'festival of burgers' every Thursday evening is a highlight.
Address: Rua General Espírito Santo Cardoso, 50 - Tijuca (Map)
About the author: Tom Le Mesurier is a British food and travel writer based in Rio de Janeiro. He blogs at Eat Rio, runs culinary tours (Eat Rio Food Tours) and also has written several guides to the city. While food is his main obsession, his broader aim in life is to help people get past the stereotypes of Brazilian culture so that they can discover the real magic and charm of this amazing, complex country.