Local's Guide to Eating In Rio

21 September 2016
Read Time: 3.0 mins

When it comes to food, Rio De Janeiro really does have it all. A vibrant mix of Asian, African and Portuguese cultures shapes a cuisine highlighting local seafood, meats and abundant fruit and vegetables from the Amazon. Food is a treasured part of Carioca life and shouldn’t be missed in a hotel restaurant. Locals recommend eating at meat-centric churrascarias (famous for grilled meats), the national dish feijoadas (a bean stew) and going cheap-and-cheerful with street eats on the beach. But where do you go in a city full of tourists?

Food and travel writer Tom Le Mesurier tells us where to go for authentic eats off the radar and Dany Geller, owner of The Bakers, a bakery in Rio de Janeiro, shares her tips.

 birds eye view Rio di Janero at sunrise Sunrise over Rio. Image: Getty

Tom Le Mesurier has called Rio de Janeiro home for the last 10 years. He started a food blog about his adventures in the ‘Marvelous City’ and now runs his own food tours around the city, Eat Rio Food Tours. Here are Tom’s best spots for food in and around Rio de Janeiro.

What makes Rio such a great food destination?

Brazil is home to a vast number of ingredients that aren't available anywhere else in the world - fruits, spices, you name it. As well as unique ingredients, Brazilian cuisine has been formed from an intriguing mix of influences: countless indigenous groups, African (ex-slave) communities, Portuguese and other European cuisines. And more recently immigration from the Middle East, Japan and China has also had an effect on the cuisine of this enormous country.

Favourite spot for breakfast?

Emporio Jardim is very good - recently voted best breakfast in Rio. I also like Café do Alto in Santa Teresa (on weekends only) for a regional Northeastern Brazilian breakfast.

Best options for Lunch ?

Lorenzo Bistro in Jardim Botanico is very nice - French/Italian fusion done to a very high standard.

Where would you go for an amazing dinner ?

Puro & Lasai for high end deliciousness; CT Boucherie and Sabor DOC for amazing meat.

 skewers of meat grilling on the barbecue Churrasco is a platter of barbecued meats. Image: Getty.

Your favourite bars to bring friends?

Bar do Gomes in Santa Teresa – a wine bar for excellent wines by the glass.

Bar Urca for sunny afternoon drinks.

Cacharia Noo is amazing for drinks, food and atmosphere - a real gem (not in guide books!)

For the city’s best cocktails, go to Paris Bar and Bar d'Hotel.

Any great spots that are a little off the radar?

Comuna in Botafogo is a nice hybrid of bar, restaurant and club - great cocktails and burgers and as close as Rio gets to hipster cool. Adega Perola in Copacabana has an awesome spread of Portuguese tapas.

Where would you go for something simple and cheap to eat?

Pavão Azul in Copacabana or Rotisseria Sirio Libaneza in Largo do Machada.

What should everyone eat in Rio?

Feijoada (try Bar do Mineiro), Angu do Gomes (from Galeto 183) and Beiju de tapioca (from any of the feiras).

Feijoadas bean stew Feijoada is a typical Portuguese and Brazillian stew with beans, beef and pork, found right across Rio. Image: Getty.

Favourite places for foodies to go shopping?

There are excellent feiras every day in Rio - one of the best is on Sunday at a market in Glória. CADEG, in the North Zone neighbourhood of Benfica is also excellent on Saturdays. Finally you can get fantastic Northeastern food on weekends at the Feira de São Cristóvão (look for Barraca da Chiquita).

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Dany Geller is the owner of The Bakers, a bakery in the heart of Rio de Janeiro. Known for their amazing pastries and artisan breads, this is where locals go for authentic sweets made fresh daily.

Why is Brazil, and Rio in particular such a great food destination?

In Brazil, we have a wide variety of foods. Each region has its typical cuisine, which makes the Brazilian gastronomy rich and varied, pleasing everyone.

Where is your favourite place to hang out?

Espaço 7zero6, on the rooftop of Praia Ipanema Hotel. The view is wonderful and the drinks are delicious.

sun set over Ipanema beach packed with bathers Sunset over Ipanema Beach. Image: Getty.

Where would you find the best simple, cheap eats?

I like to go to Cadeg, in Benfica. They have some of the best Portuguese food in Rio!

Have you got any favourite places for a memorable meal or special night out?

I like to go to Alloro, an Italian restaurant in Copacabana. The restaurant is part of luxury hotel Windsor Atlantica – it’s expensive but worth it. Upscale Italian food at its best! Alessandro and Frederico is also an Italian restaurant with great options and is much cheaper. I love their artisanal pizzas. At night I usually go to Zuka, in Leblon, which is also a good place for food. And for cocktails, I highly recommend Paris Gastro.

Are there any must-try dishes for travellers visiting Rio?

Feijoada, Sardinhas Fritas (fried sardines) and the delicious pies at the Kurt store, in Leblon

platter of fried sardines Fried sardines are a local favourite in Rio. Image: Getty.

Where would you go for food shopping in Rio?

Look for the Supermercado Zona Sul. It is an organized market with many good options.

Michelle Tchea

Michelle Tchea is the bestselling author of Building a Perfect Meal, Signature Dishes and My Little SoHo Kitchen.Born and raised in Melbourne, she currently bounces back between Europe and the US working with the world's best restaurants and hotels. Specializing in luxury travel and gourmet escapes, she can't imagine anything better than vegemite on toast for breakfast, lunch and dinner.