Eat Rio Bar Food Tours



From time to time I’m reminded of how different my experience of Rio would have been if I’d come here alone, without the guidance, recommendations and explanations of a local (a Carioca da Gema, no less). I’m especially struck by this feeling when I meet someone who’s been living in Rio for years but still insists that “there’s nowhere good to eat here” and “all the bars suck”. While trying to suppress my indignation, I rattle off a few of my favourite places and feel somewhat relieved to see a blank look on their faces.

Actually there are great places to eat in Rio

With a little bit of effort and research you’ll find all kinds of hidden gems dotted around neighbourhoods across the city. There are the old stalwarts that have been doing things right for generations – Nova Capela (more on this place in a coming post), Galeto Sats and Botequim do Joia are great examples. Then there are the places giving traditional Brazilian food a light touch and/or modern twist – Café do Alto, Noo Cachaçaria and Puro are firm favourites. For those looking for a cheaper option there are low-cost restaurants all over the city – try Restaurante Adriano in Botafogo, Esquimó in Centro and Lilia in Lapa.


“There’s no good food in Rio” – pffff!

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Botafogo blowing up

A strange, distantly-remembered feeling came over me on my first visit to São Paulo. I was standing outside some funky bar in Vila Madalena and there was a young couple standing next to me. As I stood there I gradually became aware that the uneasy feeling I was experiencing was somehow related to them.  I slyly looked them over – she looked like she’d cut her own hair that morning, he was wearing jeans and some super-cool t-shirt and both of them had a generous smattering of badass tattoos.  I looked down at my standard-issue Rio attire: Havianas, plain shorts, run-of-the-mill t-shirt and unadorned skin. It hit me with a jolt: for the first time since I left London back in 2009 I was feeling deeply uncool.


The Slow Bakery – notice how half the people in this picture are looking at me like “You’re not cool enough to be in here…”


Rio has many great things going for it – beautiful landscapes, fantastic places to eat and drink, a friendly, easygoing vibe – but until relatively recently I felt that it lacked the kind of intimidatingly cool subculture that is par for the course in most major cities. I’m not saying that Cariocas are nerdy – they’re generally awesome. And no doubt there were amazing parties and scenes that I never became aware of due to my own undeniable lack of cool.  But overall, the general scene seemed to be more ‘casual’ than ‘hipster’.

People here tend to dress for the beach – shorts, t-shirts, flip-flops. And on the subject of t-shirts (surely one of the greatest opportunities to show the world how awesome you are) Cariocas are the only people on earth I’ve encountered who widely choose to wear tourist t-shirts. Images of Sugarloaf Mountain and Cristo Redentor abound – slogans singing the praises of Ipanema and Copacabana are commonplace. Where else would such garb be worn, unironically, by the locals?

But in the last few years I’ve noticed a change in the air. Awesome little bars and restaurants have been popping up. I’ve been seeing menus featuring obscure international street foods, pro-biotic fermented drinks and artisanal ales. There are little cafés and bistros with locally sourced ingredients and a plethora of places regularly hosting guest chefs. This exciting wave of innovation has spread across the whole city, but one neighbourhood seems to be at the centre of it all: Botafogo.

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TOP 5 Leisurely Lunch Restaurants in Rio de Janeiro

Hello everyone! Tom here (remember me?!). Today we’re doing something a little different and hosting a guest-post from Lauren of Casa Bromelia. Take it away Lauren!



Rio de Janeiro is never about the obvious. Casa Bromelia Rio Travel takes you to our favorite hidden lunch restaurants in this tropical city, where you can lose your afternoon to a colorful plate and an ice cold cocktail.

Rio Restaurant with a view



The Best Restaurants in Rio are Hidden Gems

All of the city’s best finds tend to be in unsigned buildings, out of guide books and only in the mouths of ‘Cariocas’. I have lived in Rio for years, but it wasn’t until I learned the context of this language, this culture, and their dining habits that I really started to experience the real Brazilian life…. So if you have already hit Ipanema beach and are in the mood to venture into the real Rio, here is a list of my top 5 hidden gems for a Carioca lunch that is fresh, bright in flavor and pairs perfectly with an afternoon beverage.


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Musa das Panelas



Luiza Souza of Bar da Gema


Amidst all the political drama in Brazil over the last few months you could be forgiven for forgetting that pans can be used for cooking (as well as for voicing your dissatisfaction with elected politicians, obvs). Happily, one of Rio’s most engaging and positive culinary personalities has stepped up to remind us all that a pan’s place is in the kitchen.

I first became aware of Luiza Souza back when I stumbled upon Bar da Gema during the Comida di Buteco bar food competition a few years ago. Along with culinary partner in crime, Leandro, Luiza runs the kitchen of this brilliant bar in Tijuca, knocking up delicious (and indulgent) treats like Polentinha (crispy cubes of deep-fried polenta topped with rich, velvety oxtail), Frango com quiabo (chicken with okra) and award winning coxinhas.

Well a few weeks ago Luiza launched a fantastic new venture which simultaneously showcases her cooking and her personality which is as big as, well, Luiza herself!

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Acarajé Recipe: a delicious labour of love


This how the pros do it – the acarajé of Nega Teresa.


I think it’s fair to say that not everyone loves Brazilian cuisine. Accusations/complaints I hear from time to time include that it is heavy, overly rich and boring. I’m not going to tell you Brazilian food is light and zingy in the way we think of Thai or Peruvian cuisine, but if you take the time to get beyond the obvious stalwarts like feijoada and the churrascaria meat orgies then things get a lot more interesting and, potentially, lighter too. Most dishes can be given a lighter touch with a few tweaks and recently I’ve been playing around with one of Brazil’s most tasty (and interesting!) dishes.

Eating acarajé is like taking a delicious bite out of Brazil’s past. When I first started learning about Brazilian cuisine one of the things I found most fascinating was the clear links back to West Africa that were still very evident. Acarajé was brought to Brazil by the slaves taken from Ghana and Nigeria – I’m told you can buy Akara (as it is known there) on the streets of Lagos to this very day.

For those unfamiliar, acarajés are fritters made from black-eyed beans – the finished item (somewhat reminiscent of a falafel) is split open and filled with dried shrimp, a nutty, shrimpy paste called vatapá, an okra based mix called carurú, a dab of hot sauce and, optionally, a salsa-like mix of tomatoes, cucumber and coriander/cilantro. They come from Bahia, Brazil’s heartland of Afro-Brazilian culture, and are traditionally sold by baianas, the hugely photogenic women dressed in the traditional garb of of the state (vestuário).

At first sight, making acarajé seems like so much work that it’s one of those things best left to others (see also: puff pastry). But the nice thing about doing it yourself is that you get to tweak the recipe, play around with the flavours and generally make it just the way like (and most likely annoy the hell out of the purists). There’s only one hassly step but once that’s out of the way it’s a really enjoyable dish to prepare:

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The best coffee in Rio


Mmmmm, crema


On my last visit to Melbourne I was reminded of a couple of things. Firstly, Australians are obsessed with coffee (a little too obsessed in my opinion, but I guess that just makes me a coffee philistine). Secondly, Brazil produces more coffee than any other nation on Earth (this was mentioned on a poster in some uber-cool coffee shop I visited). So you’d think coffee would be a big deal back in Rio, right?

Hmmm, not so much actually. That’s not to say Cariocas don’t drink coffee – they do, gallons of the stuff. But if picky antipodeans (Kiwis are at least as bad as their Australian cousins in my experience) come over here expecting decent flat whites in every street café they’re in for major disappointment.  While the general standard of coffee here isn’t bad – at least it tends to be reasonably strong, not that wishy-washy ‘diner coffee’ that I’m told is quite common in the US –  it’s usually pretty forgettable.

Then not so long ago my friends Isabelle and Helena told me about a place that they confidently proclaimed to serve ‘The Best Coffee in Rio’. Not only that, but the establishment in question was doing something rather interesting with its business model.

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La Veronese and a different kind of pizza


La Veronese – looks aren’t everything!


One of the lessons I’ve learned on my travels is that some of the best places to eat look so unimpressive that you’d walk right by if you didn’t know better. Many people visiting Rio don’t know better and so they wander into the flashy places that look inviting and end up disappointed (and a lot lighter in the wallet). Just a couple of weeks ago I received an email from an exasperated tourist saying “I’ve wasted too much money and too many calories on mediocre meals in Rio. Please tell me there’s more than this!”.

Luckily for us (residents and visitors alike) there is more than this! Sometimes you just have to look past the ugly exteriors to find the best food. For example, my favourite bolinhos de bacalhau are served in a slightly shabby looking building in Lapa with frosted glass windows – not the most inviting scene for the uninitiated:

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Making Tapioca from scratch



Have you ever made fire the old fashioned way? You know, by rubbing two sticks together or using some other cunning bush-craft technique? I haven’t done it myself, but it appeals to me greatly. I like the idea of doing it at least once just to prove that I can and also to experience the magic of what is really quite an amazing process when you stop to think about it. After that I expect I’ll be happy to go back to using a lighter or matches.

I’ve noticed recently that my will to do things from scratch has been extending into the culinary world too. I’m not quite ready to butcher a cow’s carcass, but I wouldn’t rule it out one day. For now I’ll content myself with smaller achievements – like tapioca extraction!

For those who don’t know, tapioca is the starch that is extracted from the cassava root. Cassava goes by many names – manioc and yuca are two of the most  common and in Brazil we have (at least) three: mandioca, aipim and macaxeira. Tapioca starch can be used to thicken sauces in much the same way as corn starch (known as ‘cornflour’ in the UK, fécula or amido de milho here in Brazil). It can also be used to make a delicious pancake known as beiju de tapioca or just tapioca. They’re a big hit with most people who try them.

Most of us buy our tapiocas from street vendors or market stalls – whether topped with something sweet or savoury, it’s a delicious and satisfying snack (you can also buy the hydrated starch powder in supermarkets so you can make your own tapiocas at home). Until recently there had always been a missing step in my knowledge and experience of this operation – how do you extract the tapioca starch from the cassava?

Turns out it’s pretty easy and rather a fun little project – here’s what you do:


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Recipe: Dadinhos de Tapioca com Queijo


A few members of the International Club of Rio (InC) discussing their latest events and fundraising activities.


It occurred to me the other day that I’ve changed quite a lot since I came to Brazil. It’s hard to know how much of that change has been due to actually being in Brazil and how much it’s been just the natural process of getting older or various other possible factors. But regardless of the reason(s), the extent of the change really hit home a couple of weeks ago when I found myself giving a talk to around 50 members of the prestigious International Club of Rio (InC) – currently in its 50th year.

Late last year one of my food tour guests, Susan, mentioned that she was a member of this group which aims to create a community of English speakers in Rio. The group (formed of many different nationalities including Brazilians) gets together for social events, helps newcomers settle in and raises funds for philanthropic activities and services. “We’d love it if you came along to one of our meetings and gave us a talk about how you came to Brazil and some background on Brazilian food,” she said. “Our guest speakers usually speak for about an hour”.

Now if this proposition had been put to the old Tom who lived in London you can be sure he would have run a mile! I was never a big fan of public speaking – even a 10 minute presentation to a handful of work colleagues used to give me palpitations back in those days. But with hardly a moment’s hesitation I found myself agreeing to Susan’s suggestion and a couple of months later I was standing in front of a large group of women of all ages and telling them my story. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming and I was pleasantly surprised to find I enjoyed the entire experience. I don’t suppose it’s really for me to say, but it felt like the group enjoyed the presentation too (at least they laughed in all the right places and gave me lots of positive feedback afterwards). How times change.


I first tried these tasty, cheesy ‘dice’ in Café do Alto in Santa Teresa.


A couple of days before the talk, it occurred to me that it might be fun to make something for the audience to eat while I spoke. I guess the idea was that even if they hated my presentation at least some tasty food might put them in a forgiving mood. The response on the day was so positive and I had so many requests for the recipe that I ended up promising to put it up on the blog. So here it is:

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Junta Local – A food event in Rio that actually works!


I’ve had some very disappointing experiences with culinary events held in Rio. Not long after we moved to Santa Teresa, Mrs Eat Rio and I were really excited to hear that there was a kind of ‘eating market’ event being held in the nearby neighbourhood of Lapa. Various restaurants and other food producers would be selling small dishes at stalls – it sounded like the perfect way to sample lots of different dishes/ingredients and simultaneously have a fun and gluttonous day out. In short: just my cup of tea.

We skipped down the hill with empty stomachs and high expectations. Then we saw the line and our hearts sank. There must have been nearly 500 people waiting, the line snaking up through the Lapa Arches and then doing that miserable switch-back thing that tells you you won’t be getting in any time soon. With the heat of the afternoon sun beating down on us, we decided to find our culinary entertainment elsewhere.

Fast forward to late 2014 and the culinary events that everyone was talking about revolved around one thing: an exciting ‘new’ concept called Food Trucks. It may have taken a while for food trucks to reach Rio, but the idea still held quite a thrill for me. I was picturing amazing pulled pork buns, kimchi slaws, artisanal beers, kickass cocktails and a million other foodie clichés tasty treats.

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