Rio is often known for its gorgeous beaches and natural attractions, but you’ll be missing out if you don’t try the amazing food. It’s normal to over-indulge when you visit Brazil. The country’s rich history and diverse culture results in a mix of cuisine with flavors influenced from Africa, Portugal, and Japan. The city’s unique atmosphere makes the eating and drinking experience even more enjoyable. It’s no surprise that the people here love to eat, especially meat. From street food to traditional BBQs to upscale restaurants, there is a place to suit every palette. The meals in Rio can be long drawn out affairs with many side dishes. The remarkable thing is how everyone manages stay fit after so much food! Based on our short stay, here are a few places to eat and drink in Rio:
Smoothies and Acai Bowl
A fruit smoothie or an acai bowl is very much part of the Brazilian culture. You can find places that make them at most street corners. The smoothies are made with a wide variety of fresh tropical fruits. One of the more popular flavors is Acai, a Superfruit from the Amazon, rich with antioxidants. The Brazilians love their Açai bowl at any time of the day from breakfast to a refreshing snack at the beach. Once blended, it is thick enough to be eaten with a spoon, like an ice cream slushy full of nutrients.
Brazilians know their meat, so when we were in Rio, one of the first places we visited was a steak house. We choose CT Boucherie, a charming French-style bistro that serves grilled prime cut steaks. This high-end restaurant, spearheaded by local celebrity chef Claude Troisgros, is popular amongst local people so expect a long wait, especially on Friday .
CT Boucherie, located in Leblon, innovated on the idea of a traditional churrascaria. Instead of all-you-can-eat meat, you order a main course – a beautiful rib-eye steak or a rack of lamb – and you get as many sides as you can eat, served rodizio style fresh from the kitchen. The side dishes include but are not limited to: mashed cheesy potatoes, ratatouille, polenta, fried garlic goodness, fried rice. The side dishes were all exceptional, but the cheesy potato mash was to die for. The meal for two came to about $70 USD/260 Real including drinks.
Feijoada (pronounced fay-ZWAH-da) is a traditional Brazilian stew of meat and black beans that is traditionally served over rice. This dish originated from Portugal and is typically served on the weekend or for special occasions. To try this comfort food, we went to Casa de Feijoada, a place highly rated in Leblon. The restaurant was packed full of local people and we were lucky not to have to wait too long.
You can choose from a variety of meat for your stew, anything from beef sausage to pork feet. The feijoada comes with sides of rice, collard greens, fried little sausages, fried yam, farofa (manioc flour sauteed with butter), torresminho (pork rinds, which are pretty much delicious fried cubes of fat), and orange slices. There was so much food, we needed a side table to hold all the dishes. The big meal can last a few hours, allowing people to enjoy the food and conversation with their friends. Every dish was very rich and we struggled to even finish half. The meal cost about $40 USD/150 Real for two and included dessert. We had to go back to the hotel after that food marathon.
Not having had enough meat, we decided to go to a traditional churrascaria. For about $20 USD per person, you have access to the salad bar which has a wide variety of salad, rice, pasta and even sushi. At your table, an assortment of side dishes accompany the countless meat options that get served throughout the night. The waiters circle the restaurant with skewers of meat, anything from chicken to sausage to steak in all different cuts, stopping at each table. When they get to your table, you can decide if you want that particular meat, which they will serve right in front of you.
We also went to Carratao, a large steak house in Ipanema. There was no need for reservations, but the place fills up quickly after 8pm, so make sure to get there earlier. It’s best to wear stretchy pants to these places because you’ll leave with meat sweats and a big belly.
Lapa, one of the city’s iconic neighborhoods, turns from a quiet nondescript area during the day into a haven for nightlife activity after sunset. Along the street are countless clubs playing everything from samba to rock. From Wednesday to Sunday underneath the arches a night market is set up to sell cheap street food and drinks. The atmosphere is electric with loud music pumping from every corner. The sizzling grilled meat draws people in and the cheap caipirinhas keep them coming back. It’s a good place to chill before a night of partying.
Drinks on the Beach
After a rigorous game of beach volleyball or a hard workout by the water, nothing feels better than a refreshing drink to help you cool down under the hot sun. Drinking and chilling on the beach is as part of the Brazilian culture as soccer. Be it caipirinhas, coconuts, or beer, there is a stand every few blocks serving cold drinks on the beach. Caipirinha is the national cocktail made with cachaca (Brazilian sugar cane brandy), sugar, and lime. There are classic kind with lots of limes or the fancier variety with passion fruit or strawberry. The passion fruit caipirinha are the best, where they scoop out the whole fruit and make the drink in front of you. Be warned, these drinks can be sweet. I’ve seen them put 3 heaping spoonfuls of sugar into a small cup, so if you don’t want to go into diabetic shock, let them know before hand.