For those visiting the city looking for english language recommendations, you might be best starting off with posts on chowhound (including antman's report), mariabrazil.org (http://www.maria-brazil.org/little_black_book.htm#food), and the forums on gringoes.com. There are also suggestions and reports on Brazilian culture related mailing lists. That will give you starting points for the most common neighborhoods and its possible to get suggestions from people you encounter (you have to be very careful, so its good to get suggestions and then perhaps check them out with hotel staff... sometimes they will even have a better suggestion). I also wouldn't recommend asking taxi drivers for suggestions, honestly its worth being a bit conservative.
You have to keep in mind that since chowhounds in Boston don't exclusively write about seafood and baked bean restaurants, a lot of Rio Portuguese blogs aren't going to discuss the best buteco for salt cod cakes, although the newspapers do have columns about just that. You have to decide if you want to know the best Brazilian pizza, hot dog stand, x-tudo, etc. That said here are some food oriented links (mainstream) in Portuguese
Guia Quatro Rodas (eg similar to a Zagat, they have printed guides to major cities
Veja magazine carioca blog (you can see that its not salt cod cakes and salted beef
Veja Rio reviews (does have bar reviews, as well as "comidinhas" which tends to cover more cheap eats type places
You can search for restaurants by neighborhood (this is useful even if you don't understand portuguese) at the Rio Official guide (this used to be riotour, I believe
Here is O Globo's column/blog regarding "buteco's" (corner bars). The columnist describes himself as "bald and fat bar columnist." As I mentioned below, these types of columns focuses a lot on the humorous (bathroom and bar signs), tributes to old bar keeps living or dead. But also get some reviews and pictures of bar food.
I forgot to mention that Veja or Editora Abril has an iphone app "Comer & Beber" for major Brazilian cities. Also here are a couple of others.
Gema Carioca a general Rio food blog (eg covering fast food chains, as well as locals)
Rio based feijoada blog which covers more too
The site for the Feira de Sao Cristovao (Nordestino) is pretty lousy for giving you an idea what to expect there, but here are some images from a blog
And there are plenty of YouTube videos you can watch, here is one that shows fotos separated by activity (handcrafts, food, entertainment)
Lastly the BH export Comida di Buteco (a yearly contest among bars) covers Rio too
You can check another blog writen in portuguese called: http://www.praquemquisermevisitar.com/
An excellent botequim (bar) is Bracarense in Leblon : http://www.guiadasemana.com.br/Rio_de_Janeiro/Noite/Estabelecimento/Bracarense.aspx?id=4678 ,
Another one from two former employees from Bracarense is:
Originally from Sao Paulo, Astor has recently opend in Rio:
If you prefer go upscale, there's Atlantico:
or Copa Cafe:
OMG! volto pro Rio na semana que vem...e nao vou ter tempo de fazer tudo isto!!!
I'm going back to Rio next week, I want to do everything itaunas is recommending and there is no way in two weeks! Feijoada every day????
thanks for you post. I've emailed the feijoada bloggers for suggestions of the 3-4 best in Rio. We'll see what they say.
See y'all soon! A gente se ve logo!
When we're in Rio, we generally eat lunch out most days. We just stop at bars that have tables on the sidewalk, very hole-in-the-wall. They'll have 6-10 specials each day. Chicken, oxtails, liver, etc. The typical sides are rice, beans and French fries! Sometimes a little salad. The lunches are so huge that my husband and I share one. With two Antarctica beers (they're so cheap the nicer bars don't even sell them) lunch will be about US$6 or so.
re: c oliver
Excellent recommendation, but for those less used to Brazilian portions generally a "prato" is multiple plates of meat/sides intended for 2 (with leftovers) and in the case of some dishes such as a moqueca, stewed galinha, sometimes feijoada completa it can be for 4 or more. c oliver is probably talking about variations on prato executivo (usually just a fancier name for "PF" the prato feito/commercial) which is closer to a single-serving portion but can still feed two. In Rio you are lucky with lunch options, they are much more scare in the interior and even in lesser state capitals or even outer bairros (basically with a two hour lunch being common in Brazil, so many people eat at home that the choices boil down to mediocre marmitex/kilo options, pao c/linguica salgadinho, and more upscale places where business people take their secretaries and nieces). In RJ centro you can even buy a fairly decent "quentao" from a lady selling comida caseira out of the trunk of her car.
When you order a plate off a menu, its good to check what is supposed to come with the dish or ask if its not written on the menu. This is one way restaurants intentionally cut corners. For instance if a dish is to come with a salad as many do, you may have to remind the waiter "and my salad." This is much more common than a "couvert" left on the table. And unless you are waited on by the owners, almost any restaurant will add a 10% service charge (which you can refuse) but keep that in mind for tipping.
If you like Antartica you might try Itaipava (Petropolis) a try in the cheap beer bars, but in Copa you should be able to easily find a Bohemia or keep your eye out for an "original" (antartical original). Where they sell bottles of Bohemia pilsner its not much more expensive than skol/brahma (and sometimes less), the bohemia weiss (decent, refreshing, but one dimensional) is more and "original" usually a lot more. Brahma and Antartica (and Bohemia) are all AMBev products and because of the overall control skol/brahma have on the the market it limits a lot of the selection, although there are regional artesinal beer makers popping up (and a wealth of cheap brands -- schin, lokal, cintra, cideira, bavaria, kaiser, cristal).