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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How to enjoy Rio carnival

Rio carnival (carnaval in Portuguse) is the biggest of it’s kind in the world – it draws two million people onto the streets daily. But what is it? And how can you get the most out of the experience?

Dating back to 1723, this city-wide, five day party has become synonymous with carefree fun and exuberance – one of the things to do at least once in your lifetime. But like most other things related to this city (and Brazil in general), Rio carnival is not something that can be easily explained in a sentence or two – there are many aspects and intricacies not immediately obvious to the casual observer.

I’m not going to be able to tell you everything about Rio carnival here, but what follows will hopefully help you understand what’s on offer and how you can best enjoy the experience.

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Finding positivity through food

Well that was a bit of a shock wasn’t it? I actually started writing this post before the US election, but what I started then seems to be getting more appropriate by the day. I hope you’re all hanging on in there – 2016 has been a real stinker hasn’t it? I can’t help wondering if this is the beginning of some larger process by which our civilisation destroys itself (there’s a cheery Friday Thought for you!). Or, who knows, maybe this painful shake-up is needed in order to fix some fundamental flaws in the system. Here’s hoping it’ll all work out for the best…


Posts on Eat Rio have been pretty sparse this year for a couple of reasons. There were two very busy periods during which I just didn’t have time to blog – I was writing a guide book in the first few months of the year and then we had the mayhem of the Olympics.

But for the rest of 2016, things have been very quiet. Business has been tough for everyone working with tourism in Rio – guesthouse owners, tour guides, restaurant managers and even taxi drivers all tell me that things are slow. It makes me wonder whether the net effect of the Olympics was really as positive as many people seem to think. Sure a lot of people came for the event itself, but the Olympic spotlight meant that every negative story related to Brazil was picked up, magnified and printed in sensationalistic headlines across the world.

So why wasn’t I bombarding you with a plethora of posts during the quiet times? Well, to be honest, current events have been so depressing that it’s been hard to know what to say. Both in Brazil and further afield, you have to wonder if some kind of previously undescribed form of insanity is taking hold of the world. Symptoms include aversion to logical reasoning, intolerance, lack of compassion for others, angry outbursts and hysterical demands to return to “the good old days” (which actually weren’t that good when you stop and think about it). One small cause for optimism is that younger generations appear to be less susceptible to this worrying condition.

Well, whether it’s a nose-diving local economy or the direction of global politics (or a spouse living in a different continent!), I guess we all have to find ways of dealing with aspects of the world that make us miserable. My main source of positivity this year has been food.


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The Olympics, Eat Rio food projects and New York

Hello Eat Rio readers! After another prolonged break I’m back. Let’s kick things off with the Olympics. What were your impressions? To me it seemed like things went pretty well – I was working non-stop so didn’t get to see any actual sporting events, but I picked up a lot of feedback from my food tour guests and generally people had very good things to say. I also managed a quick visit to the Olympic Boulevard one afternoon.


On a rare day off I got to see the Olympic Boulevard. Despite the warnings of Zika, crime and deadly pollution, everyone seemed to be having a thoroughly nice time.

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What’s been going on?


Hashtag fans: #thehuntrio


Hi readers! It’s been a little while since my last entry and there are quite a few things to talk about today, so I thought I’d do today’s post as a kind of bulletin:

After 5 years it’s official: Eat Rio is a “Popular Website”

Eat Rio will be 5 years old next Tuesday! When I wrote that first post back in 2011 I had no idea that this little vanity project would have such a transformative effect on my life. A website is only relevant if it has readers so a big thanks to all of you who’ve visited over the years.

Those of you who follow the Eat Rio Facebook page will have seen that local English-language news site, The Rio Times, featured an interview with me yesterday (here’s the link). The reporter, Chesney Hearst, was super-nice and asked me lots of questions about my book, The Hunt Rio de Janeiro (plug: now available to purchase on-line in the US, the UK and Brazil!).  I’m going to tell you lots more about the book in the next post (bet you can’t wait!), but I was rather tickled to see Eat Rio described in the article as a “popular website”. Readers, it’s been a long journey but we finally made it!

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Food tasting with the English Club

Fight Club Font

The first rule of English Club is you do not talk about English Club. The second rule of… Hang on – I’m thinking of something else. It’s actually totally fine to talk about English Club – it is comprised of 4 kids (aged 6-10) who live in Rio and like to get together from time to time to hang out and work on their English skills.

I met Alice, Lena, Nayana and Raoul last month when they invited me to join them for an afternoon of food tasting and discussion.

Before I arrived the kids had already been talking about their favourite foods and thinking of different ways to describe them. For me this is one of the great challenges of food writing – how do you get beyond “it’s delicious” or “it tastes bad” to find a more meaningful way to describe food and drink?

We all love to laugh at experts describing wine with ridiculously floral language (“I’m getting pencil shavings and a hint of cat pee”) but I started to sympathise the first time I tried to describe the flavour of Cupuaçú. One of our Eat Rio Food Tour guests once described this weird-tasting fruit as “like eating all the Skittles at once” which I thought was a pretty good effort!

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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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That Open Letter to Brazil


Simple truths vs. A nuanced argument

In politics and in life, people like simple truths don’t they? It’s far more satisfying to hear someone ‘tell it like it is’ than it is to endure the lily-livered vacillations of a nuanced argument. Just look at what’s going on in the US right now if you’re in any doubt about that. The problem with simple truths is that while they are always simple they are rarely true.

I’ve been thinking over the subject of today’s post for a while and I expect many of you will partly, or entirely, disagree with my thoughts and conclusions. Other opinions are available and if you disagree with mine then fair enough, I’d be interested to hear your views in the comments section (you might even succeed in changing my mind).

The object of my pondering is “An Open Letter to Brazil” that did the rounds a few weeks back. The author is a “writer, thinker and life-enthusiast [who] writes personal development advice that doesn’t suck” (his words). He writes articles with titles like “How to attract women” and “Shut up and kiss her”. Quite the intellectual then…

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