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Brazil - 28 days and no clue where to get some good chow!

Hi all,
I'm embarking on a sort of backpacking adventure in Brazil for the entire month of August with my bf. The places we're planning on visiting are:

Sao Paolo
Tefe Town
Canoa Quebrada
Rio di Janeiro

Does anyone have recommendations as to where we should eat in any of these places? As two students, we are on a budget but we are prepared to splurge a little on a few *special* meals (our anniversary falls in August though we will be floating down the Amazon on the actual day of). Any and all ideas are more than appreciated!!!

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  1. One of the places you could splurge on is Mario's Crustaceos in Rio. And when in Rio, I would suggest searching out some food from Minas Gerais since you will not be visiting there. Other than that snack and drink choppe at local places. If you head out towards Nitteroi there are a lot of places that have beef ribs (costela), some better than others. I also greatly enjoyed the Feira Nordestina at Sao Cristovao, which has music, food, shopping (more expensive than the northeast itself).

    In Sao Paulo you should definately try as many fresh pastel as you possibly can at local fairs. Its a continental city, so if you splurge here it would probably be a big splurge. Its also so large its hard to give recommendations. The Jardins is nice for lunch... and Sao Paulo has excellent Japanese food but that probably isn't what you went to Brazil for. There also is music every night of the week -- so find a place with live music and food (as opposed to just a discotec). Vila Madalena, Pinheiros, and Moema all have possibilities.

    For Bahia, I would personally go to Morro de Sao Paulo or Porto Seguro (more of a party town) over Salvador. In Salvador, however, I really enjoyed the Rio Vermelho neighborhood. There is both street acaraje and also the restaurant of Dinha (who had a street shack for a long time) which is excellent and much cheaper than having Bahian food in Rio or SP.

    Fortaleza you must go to the fair on the beach... and you can get fresh lobster directly from the fishermen steamed. Aside from that I mostly ate in local bars and the food was good. Grilled ears of corn on the street are great.

    Manaus is best known for its nightlife, but there are lots of local fish, treats, and soups. Not certain how to orient you there, but enjoy!

    1 Reply
    1. re: itaunas

      I think that there is easy to find good food in Salvador. Here's a link to a website with descriptions of some of the better places to eat.


      Of those on the list I have been to a few and they were very, very good. I liked the churrascaria Boi Preto which while a small chain was the best churrascaria I have been to out of a half dozen in Brazil and the same amount in the US.

      Cruz do Pascoal is the type of place you only find out about from locals.

      In addition the Japanese place near the harbor called SoHo is very good. I had tempura so good it tied with the best in Japan and robotoyaki and steak that blew me away. They make killer caipirinhas and the view is great.

      I also agree about Morro de Sao Paulo on Tinharé island out in the bay. It's about a 2 hour boat ride from Salvador (make sure you take the "fast" boat or small plane which is much faster and gentler) and the island has no cars, the taxi service are guys with wheelbarrows. It's a very Euro style vacation place and the nightime beach parties are wild. There are very good and inexpensive restaurants and pousadas (inns). I especially liked the pousadas at third, fourth, and fifth beaches. There are no party spots on third, fourth and fifth beaches like you have on first and most especially second beach, so you can sleep in quiet. Some of them have fantastic breakfast buffets that blew me away. All kinds of fresh fruit, meats, veggies, as well as homemade yogurts, juices, drinks, breads and pastries, etc. I liked the buffet best at the pousada run by the Italians, I think it is the last pousada on thrid beach before the empty stretch to fourth beach.


      Portuguese/Brazilian: Antiquarius, it's really good, but expensive... But the dollar is still strong in Brazil and it may be worht the splurge.

      Icecream: Mil Frutas - as the name says, 1000 Fruits. You can taste icecream made with different kinds of tropical fruits. White chocolate with passion fruit is my favorite. They have 2 locations: Rua Garcia D'Avila (Ipanema) and Rua J.J. Seabra (Jardim Botanico). Don't miss it!

      Try a tapioca - it's a kind of crepe, they sell on carts on the street, the filling can me either savory or sweet. Mil Frutas also has it on their breakfast menu.

      Juices: Brazilian juice stands are amazing. My favorite is a store in Ipanema, Rua Maria Quiteria with Rua Visconde de Piraja. Don't miss it!

      Churrascaria: Porcao

      Kilo: try a kilo, you pay buy the weight like in a NYC deli, but the experience is quite different, waiter service, great food. Fellini and da Silva are my favorites. It's a good way to try different Brazilian dishes since it's buffet style and it's inexpensive.

      Cozinha Contemporanea (a kind of "New Brazilian" Cuisine, traditional ingredients with a fancy twist): Carlota (try the cupuaçu mousse or the goiabada soufle for dessert!)

      Go to a Botequim after the beach, as the cariocas do: Bracarense and Manuel e Joaquim are 2 good options. You can have salgadinhos (Brazilian savory snacks) and beer. Manuel e Joaquim has dinner too. Bracarense is located in Leblon and Manuel e Joaquim has different locations in the city.

      Italian: Fratelli in Leblon and Artigiano in Ipanema are inexpensive and very good.

      Seafood: Satyricon, avoid Tia Palmira used to be good, but went downhill.

      Drinks: Academia da Cachaça, Leblon. You can taste different kinds of cachaça, the liquor we make caipirinhas and batidas with.


      The best restaurant in Sao Paulo IMO is Fasano. The new space (well, not so new anymore...) is gorgeous, although very modern, and both the food and the service are great. It's expensive but with the dollar still relatively strong in Brazil you will get a pretty good deal for a restaurant of this level.

      Some other options:

      Massimo - also Italian, old school. It's considered one of the best restaurants in Sao Paulo. I went there only once as a teen and I remember having a great meal. It's also expensive

      D.O.M.- very good, it's the kind of cuisine people are calling "cozinha contemporanea". I would say it's a kind of "New Brazilian" where the chef uses traditional ingredients with a fancy twist. Also similar to D.O.M. there is Carlota, famous for her goiabada soufle dessert.

      Sao Paulo is a great place to eat, enjoy it!

      If you are strolling in the Oscar Freire area (which you probably will because it's a nice area for shopping, people watching...) during the day get an espresso and a Pao de Queijo (Brazilian cheese rolls) at Pao De Queijo Hadock Lobo.


      The best moqueca (fish stew) I ever had was at Paraiso Tropical in Salvador. I believe they have 2 locations, I went to the one in Rio Vermelho. It was really good.

      Maria Mata-Mouro at Pelourinho is another good option.

      Trapiche Adelaide is a fancier and more expensive suggestion. It has a beautiful view and beautiful room, but it's expensive. I had a great meal there 2 years ago.

      1. Lucky you! I was in Rio in May and thought the food was absolutely top notch and cheap. I strongly recommend Sobrenatural in Santa Teresa, which serves delicious and unusual fish dishes in a very lively, pleasant setting. Bracarense in Leblon is very cheap and lots of fun, lots of delicious little tapas and caipirinhas. We had one blowout meal at Zuka in Leblon, which was excellent, but felt more like the kind of place you'd find in the US. Have fun!

        1. A million thank you's to everyone who posted!!! The obvious thought and time you have put in your posts is a thousand times appreciated and you have made my trip planning so much easier!

          1 Reply
          1. re: chowchow985

            By the way, in Sao Paulo go to the Mercado (market) downtown and try a pastel or a sandwich de mortadela and buy some fruits. It's a quite amazing experience.

          2. Second that emotion for Porcåo as a churrascaria worth visiting. Their side dish selection is superior, and it is quite a scene. I found the meats to be better at Restaurant Marius, on the Copacabana side.

            1. RIO
              Oasis-Churrascaria (the best in Rio--local favorite)
              Marguta-nice fine dining
              Gero-Amazing ambiance and food
              Alesandro y Frederico-coffee and desert
              Garcia Rodriguez-cigars, good wine, coffee, lunch--classy place
              Elplanada Grill-amazing steak
              Capricciosa-Pizza (not a lot of people know this, but Rio has wonderful pizza)
              Sushi Leblon
              Zaza Bistro
              Celero-lunch--healthy, amazing food

              be sure to get a coconut on the beach, jucies on the street are amazing always. On the street: Pao de queso (cheese bread), empanadas, bolinha de bacalou

              1. You are probably already done with your trip, but I just joined the site so I thought I'd add some suggestions in Brazil.

                In Salvador, Bahia I'd suggest a moqueca of soft-shelled crab (siri mole) at the Sorriso da Dada in Pelourinho. All the moquecas here are good, but the best I have had was siri mole. A good moqueca stew with coconut milk and palm oil is delicious, but what sets this dish apart is that every time you bite into one of these little crabs there is a moist, rich flavor-burst in your mouth. It's an experience that will remind you of how imitation crab meat will never come close to real.

                Acaraje, the Bahian black-eyed pea fritter (in Western Africa known as 'akara') is a delicious street food fried in dende palm oil. However if you want to try the same thing steamed in a banana-leaf, order the abara.

                The Bahian pepper sauces (usually malaguetas in oil, vinegar or milk) are good but very spicy. This isn't Mexican salsa, but more like the pepper-oil you would see on the table in southern India or in African cuisine. Try the baked cheese (queijo coalho) on the beach. It's salty, so goes well with beer. There are a few places along the orla (beaches) to sit around all afternoon and eat hard-shelled crab with mallots while drinking ice-cold bottles of beer, and these are recommended. SoHo, which is upscale, has inventive Japanese-Brazilian fusion, and one of the best views in Salvador.

                The culinary and hotellery school (senac) in Pelourinho offers a daily buffet of Bahian food that is well worth it, and the service is good. Vatapa (manioc, cashew, palm oil and shrimp that comes in a paste/sauce) and Caruru (okra stew with shrimp) are both exotic and good. If you like eating in New Orleans you will probably like Bahian food.

                In Manaus there is a lot of ho-hum food, but one thing nobody should miss is the tambaqui fish. This ancient Amazon River fish grows very large and looks pre-historic and sort of mean. It's delicious and unlike any other fish I've had. The popular way to order this fish at the Rei do Tambaqui restaurant (believe it or not, Pope John Paul and Bill Clinton have both eaten here, despite it being off the beaten path in Manaus and not at all fancy) is to ask for "costelas" (ribs) of tambaqui. The experience is similar to eating pork ribs, although the meat is moister and flaky. One warning, though: While the owner of this restaurant is a nice guy, it's best not to let him sit down at your table unless you want to hear his life story. I did, and I would have rather been fraternizing with my tambaqui.

                Belem do Para, at the Amazon delta, is the undisputed culinary pearl of the Amazon, although it's not on your list of destinations. Para may win the distinction of best regional cuisine in Brazil, although I love Bahian food. The bottom line is that nothing anywhere else in Brazil can prepare your tastebuds for Belem. Dishes like lean (Amazon) duck in Tucupi sauce, pirarucu fish, manicoba, piranha broth, or tacaca soup, are unlike anything else in Brazil. Duck in Tucupi is the standout because of jambu flowers that are used in the sauce. For anyone who has not tried this dish, it isn't just delicious, but it's also physically euphoric; your tongue will tingle from the jambu flowers. The best restaurant in Belem is La Em Casa, and the best location is the original, especially at lunch when the owner and head chef is there.

                In Rio a lot of the good options have been mentioned here. For seafood I'd add Osteria Dell'Angelo in Ipanema, which I prefer to Satyricon because of its lack of pretension and its more reasonable prices. One of the best dishes is the oven-baked fish, especially snapper. Not much is used to dress this exceptionally fresh fish, just a little olive oil, fresh rosemary, white wine and sea-salt. My side-dish of choice is saffron risotto.

                Satyricon is over the top, price-wise, for what you get, although the fish carpaccios are good. On the other hand, Marios Crustaceos is worth the hefty price-tag if you're hungry enough to polish off a few lobsters, crabs, fresh oysters, giant prawns and everything else in the sea at one sitting. Marios Crustaceos is not a "subtle" dining experience. It's orgiastic. But for anyone who thought they'd never turn down a fresh lobster, at Mario's you will eat expertly-grilled lobsters until you are sending platters of it away. Not to knock Porcao, the temple to BBQ'd meats, but Mario's Crustaceos is a different experience altogether. Even a glutton is done eating at Porcao in an hour, but because you are eating seafood at Mario's, which is less filling, it's easy to prolong the meal for two hours or more. They key is to come famished.

                One thing that nobody should miss in Rio is a pork leg (pernil) and pineapple sandwich at Cervantes, in the red-light district of Copacabana. Although this place is open in the afternoon, it's a typical place to end a night. However shady the neighborhood may be, tucking into this sandwich at the bar will make you feel as if you are in the right place at the right time. This is how pork sandwiches should taste, but they don't taste the same anywhere else. The other end-of-night option is Jobi, in the tamer neighborhood of Leblon. While this place is a great hangout, and its bar food is considered great by locals, the food here is nothing special. Jobi's empadas (empanadas) only prove that anything tastes good after you've had enough beer.

                Some juices to try at juice bars that haven't been named here yet (BiBi Sucos in Leblon is a very solid bet): Acai, Cupuacu, Cacau w/milk, acerola with carrot and orange (cenoura e laranja) and pineapple (abacaxi) with mint (hortela). Expect juices to come very sweet unless you ask for 'pouco acucar.'

                Sao Paulo is best left to the Paulistas, who love to talk about their city's restaurants. There are many options. One measure of Paulistas' sophistication: they are the only Brazilians who would never put ketchup and mustard on a piece of pizza.

                1. Rionews--thanks for this post. We are going to Rio, Salvador and Manaus in a few weeks and this, as well as the rest of the thread is helpful.

                  1. Thanks to all who posted such detailed and informative suggestions. I've just arrived in Rio and will try and print these to carry with me as I travel Brazil for my first time.

                    1. i have to ask - what/where is Tefe Town? I lived in Brazil 19 yrs and can't figure this one out! is it in the middle of the jungle?

                      1. i just want to post my own info on Rio so others can get a good idea whats up. ive been here 10 times and spend cumultively 4 months here.

                        Gero-top Italian and best place overall

                        Forneria- owned by same person as Gero, very good, less upscale italian

                        Antiquarius- best portuguese food, try the bolinhas de bacalhau (breaded balls filled with cod)

                        Capriciossa- best pizza place in town, legit italian style

                        Sushi-hmmm, sushi here overall is kind of bogus, maybe half as good as that in chicago, gun to head i choose Sushi Leblon

                        churrascaria (beef)-hmm again, esplanada gets top billing all the time but i think its overhyped, id choose garota da ipanema over it for picanha (brasil's specialty) but still not be fully satisfied with it

                        Siri Mole- best brasilian food, im not into it but everyone else who is says go here

                        Olympe- "best" french food but still not that great

                        these are my recs. i truly enjoy getting small foods from all the side street places, a la hot dog stands in chicago. camarao recheado, coxinha galina recheado, hot quejo on the beach, pastels, all very good and cheap so try them all. and as a further soure of info Veja magazine does a "best of" every year and critics vote, basiclly all my recs are the same as theirs. enjoy...

                        1. With all due respect to above poster, I would consider Esplanada more of a steakhouse, rather than an all-you-can-eat churrascaria....if it is a churrascaria you are looking for, Porcao is always good (multiple locations) though you can find comparable, if not better, ones at Carrteao and Montanas (Barra Tijuca), which are nearly 1/2 the price of Porcao. For Italian, Gero is very good (and very pricey). Artigiano (much less expensive than Gero) is pretty good as is D'Amici.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: El Chevere

                            I am off to Brasil soon, and am excited to find this site and the great info you guys have left. Any tips for finding good vegetarian fare??? I will be in Rio, Salvador, Manaus, Fortaleza. obrigado!

                          2. Hey listen it seems you're getting some great advice here...if when in Rio you want to experience a very cool, laid back restaurant then try Aprazivel in Santa Teresa. Ask for Pedro when booking and tell him the kiwichef (Rob McCall) sent you over, and he will make sure you're looked after ....it's probably the coolest hangout in town, has a great Brazilian wine list, and some wickid cachacas...but it aint cheap...

                            I have reviewed three other restaurants in Santa Teresa, which you can find on my blog at www.braziliancuisineandart.blogspot.com. The first couple of pics below are from Aprazivel, and the next two are from Bar Arnauldos. The Carne de Sol at Bar Arnauldos is in my opinion the best...and its not expensive.

                            All the best.

                            Uma braco......

                            1. I was in Sao Paulo last year. The best restaurants are Figueira Rubaiyat which was built around a giant fig tree and Antiquarius which is conservative and old school in decoration. We stayed at the Fasano Hotel which was wonderful. You might want to consider going there for a drink.

                              Both are in the neighborhood or Jardins. Enjoy!

                              1. I work quite a bit in Brasil and am curious...how did it go?