The food scene in Rio can be tricky, especially for visitors – there are a lot of decidedly mediocre establishments serving up barely passable food at painfully high prices. Frustratingly, the transient tourist trade is so strong that this strategy continues to be a very successful.
Thankfully, Rio also has some great places to eat if you know where to go! Below I have listed some recommendations. I’ve included a range of places, from street stalls all the way up to the top-end restaurants. I’m not saying every place is perfect – I’ll be honest about shortcomings – but I do think they’re all definitely worth a visit!
If you like the sound of the summary then click the link to get more in-depth description along with location and contact details.
How does this work?
These are honest reviews. I won’t pretend that every place is perfect – maybe one place has some peeling paint, another might be a little overpriced – but in each case I will tell you about the shortcomings as well as telling you why I think it’s worth trying nonetheless.
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What’s it like? This legendary restaurant has been feeding hungry folk in Lapa since the 1960s. It is famous for the lovely old waiters and the amazing roasted meats. Top-knotch bolinhos de bacalhau and don’t miss the incredible Leitão (roast suckling pig).
What’s it like? This relative newcomer has quickly become a favourite of the Eat Rio household. Just a short walk from Largo do Machado metro station, Botero offers seriously tasty food and a lively, informal atmosphere. Live music on Sundays.
What’s it like? A short walk from Siqueira Campos metro station, Adega Pérola is a rough pearl in the heart of Copa. This lively bar offers a huge selection of delicious seafood and other tasty treats, most of which you can ogle through the glass topped bar. The only place I know of in Rio that sells rollmops!
Where? Jardim Botânico
What’s it like? This lovely restaurant offers a modern mix of Italian and French influenced food in a stylish yet relaxed setting. Top quality ingredients are beautifully prepared and the end results are delicious! My wife says their roast chicken is the best she has ever had.
What’s it like? This no-nonsense bar/restaurant serves up some serious sandwiches! If your inner-carnivore is telling you it’s time for some uncomplicated indulgence, head on over this this corner of Copacabana and get stuck in!
What’s it like? Located in Chapéu Mangueira, a favela not far from Copacabana, Bar do David has deservedly won many fans with its mix of great service, tasty petiscos (bar snacks) and its famous seafood feijoada!
What’s it like? The locals’s secret: Rotisseria may not be the most glamorous eatery, but what it lacks in fancy interior design, it makes up with great value, delicious middle eastern food.
What’s it like? This legendary bar in Copacabana, serves up the best Bolinhos de Bacalhau (salt-cod croquettes) in town. It’s almost always busy and bustling, so be prepared to chat, drink ice cold beers, rub shoulders with the locals and nibble the delicious finger food as you wait for a table.
What’s it like? Polish food in Rio? Well why not?! Polonesa serves delicious traditional Polish dishes and ice-cold shots of Żubrówka vodka, but it is the Flaming Chocolate Soufflé that has made this place famous – it takes a little while, so order it as you go in through the doors and you will not be disappointed!
What’s it like? Oliveira’s simple stand sells what many describe as The Best Hotdog in Rio. With 12 different sauces and 12 toppings (including quail eggs, peas and potato chips!) this is a tasty snack to remember!
What’s it like? If words like Chateaubriand, Wagyu and Bife de Chorizo make your mouth water, then CT Boucherie is the place for you. The meat at legendary French chef Claude Troisgros’ restaurant doesn’t come cheap, but the Prime Rib Especial I had here was the best beef I’ve had outside of Argentina.
What’s it like? Zazá offers stylish, modern treatment of excellently sourced (often exotic) Brazilian ingredients, served in a beautiful, quirkily decorated restaurant. The staff are friendly and know what they’re doing, they make seriously good cocktails and there’s a verandah! What more do you want?
What’s it like? This bar is a real hidden gem. Located on a nondescript side-street in unglamorous Catete, this tiny bar is lined from floor to ceiling with hundreds of bottles of Cachaça. Much like Catete, this bar is a little rough around the edges but what it lacks in A/C and waiters, it makes up in personality and charm. The locals are friendly and Zé makes great bolinhos de aipim and other tasty snacks.
Where? Praça da Bandeira (Zona Norte)
What’s it like? Situated a 20 minute taxi ride away from the many tourist traps of Zona Sul, Aconchego Carioca was famously ‘discovered’ and championed by Claude Troisgros. Aconchego is famous for its signature Bolinhos de Feijoada, Brazil’s national dish adapted down into delumptious, bite-sized morsels – don’t leave without trying them. They also have over 100 beers to choose from!
Where? Ipanema & Leblon
What’s it like? The best tapas that I know of in Rio. Delicious hams, perfectly prepared classic tapas dishes, wonderful wines or (if you’re feeling in a holiday mood!) sangria. Book ahead or be prepared to sip a glass or two of wine while you wait for a table.
What’s it like? Facing out onto Copacabana beach, La Fiorentina has been serving the rich and famous for over 50 years. Everything here speaks of grand tradition, from the formally dressed waiters to the walls, which are covered with the signatures of film stars and politicians. Delicious pasta and seafood make this a dependable favourite.
What’s it like? Tacacá is an extraordinary soup from the Amazon. The large shrimp are tasty, but what really makes this dish is the jambu, a leaf with strong anaesthetic properties that will leave your lips and tongue tingling and numb! If you don’t have the time or money to visit the Amazonian north, you can taste it right here in Rio.
Where? Santa Teresa
What’s it like? With Térèze we venture into the realms of pricey luxury. Attached to an equally luxurious 5 star hotel, this restaurant has everything you would expect in a top restaurant in any other city – excellent service, beautiful design, a wonderful location and, most importantly, excellent food! French chef Damien Montecer supervises a Mediterranean menu with plenty of Brazilian flourishes. Térèze isn’t cheap, but if your wallet can take it then you’re in for a treat!
Where? Santa Teresa
What’s it like? Armazem São Thiago (known to most simply as Bar do Gomes) was originally a grocery store setup by Spanish immigrants at the start of the 20th Century. Many of the original fixtures and fittings remain, but today this is a great bar frequented by a great mix of friendly locals. The atmosphere is great, the bar food is amazing and they serve a knockout caipirinha.
What’s it like? On paper, Bar Urca might not sound like much – a small bar with practically no seating and a small restaurant upstairs. But in reality, this is one of the places to go in Rio on a sunny weekend afternoon. Find a spot on the long seaside wall, grab a beer and look out over Guanabara Bay. When you’re ready, get involved with the exceptional food. Don’t miss the caldo de frutos do mar.
What’s it like? Tucked away among the trees beside Lagoa, Palaphita Kitch is a great place to relax with a fancy caipirinha and some tasty snacks while you take in some of Rio’s top scenery. Show up an hour or two before sunset and enjoy the view.