What to Eat in Rio de Janeiro
From juice stands and coffee bars to steak houses, beachside cafés, and Michelin-starred restaurants, Rio’s dining options are as varied as they are delicious. Be sure to try local specialty feijoada, best washed down with a caipirinha.
585 Rua Sorocaba
Comuna was born as an alternative cultural space and has now become a landmark in newly hot “BotaSoho,” what they call the hipster scene in Botafogo, an old-style but rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. Open till sunup, this stone mansion has gained renown for its homemade burgers—go for the ones that feature wasabi mayonnaise—and for the casual vibe, common enough in Rio, but which here more resembles that of a São Paulo bar. The pleasant patio is great for stand-up drinking and movie-watching, while the upper level is given over to food events, theater performances, parties, and more.
R. Dezenove de Fevereiro, 186 - Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22280-030, Brazil
In recent years, the craze for artisanal beers has given rise to a burgeoning market. One brand, Hocus Pocus, has gone so far as to open its own taproom, where its ever-expanding variety of beers is on offer. The setting is a former workshop with exposed-brick walls and shared tables that add a twist to the usual Rio beer hall (though be prepared for crowds and the possibility of not finding a table). There’s also a full portfolio of the Brazilian snacks called petiscos, notably a tongue sandwich with mustard, tube steaks, and lots of deep-fried nibbles. Classic rock serenades the scene.
Av. Delfim Moreira, 1746 - Leblon, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22441-000, Brazil
Despite Rio’s 12 miles of urban beachfront and some 300 snack shacks along the shoreline promenade, the idea of something gastronomically distinguished next to the sand just never came up. That is, till last year, when two such places emerged in Leblon: Riba and then Azur, chef Pedro de Artagão’s surfside outpost. The latter’s idea of good eating—previously sampled in renowned dining rooms Formidable and Irajá—is here adapted to the local, in the form of his famed rice with codfish and moqueca (a fish stew), for instance, or the octopus. There’s also a top-notch bar for caipifrutas and crisp gin and tonics.
Av. Vieira Souto, 110 - Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22420-002, Brazil
A Carioca version of the São Paulo classic, the Rio Astor has two straightaway advantages: It sits on a magical city corner, at the start of Ipanema, just across from the beach, and it has a wide, airy terrace. From there, visitors delight in its drink menu (one of the city’s most complete) as waiters scurry hither and yon at cocktail hour, serving draft beers, which are called chopps and which somehow taste creamier here. The Astor also features a wide-ranging menu that updates Brazilian classics with unusual ingredients and more ambitious presentations of standards like arroz com feijão. The entire mix translates to one of Rio’s winningest combo of bar-rail and white tablecloth venue.
Rua Dias Ferreira, 147 - Leblon, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22431-050, Brazil
Even though artisanal ice cream parlors (Vero, Venchi, Bacio di Late, Officina del Gelato) have been moving into the best locations in Rio’s southern districts, none has quite nailed the style of Europe’s great ice cream masters. That said, the Italian tradition of gelato has clearly come to dominate the scene in this city that lives to eat frozen confections. First-timers to Gelateria Momo are advised to choose between a variety of chocolates and the caramel with fleur de sel. If you become a regular, pay attention: There’s a new flavor every day, including—naturally enough—a full line of tropical fruits. Add-ons include waffles and organic coffee, and everything is served in an ample, pleasant, living room–like space.
32 Rua Gonçalves Dias
If you had to choose one place to symbolize Rio’s Belle Époque, it would be this sumptuous café, a must-do for every downtown visitor. Built by a Portuguese family in 1894—when Rio still evinced the splendor of a former imperial capital—its art nouveau–inspired refinements like huge mirrors, imported from Europe, wood furnishings, immense chandeliers, and stained-glass transoms welcome patrons. Colombo is all so terribly majestic you could be at one of the Continent’s grand salons or even the Tortoni in Buenos Aires. Perfect for afternoons over a pastelzinho de Belém, Lisbon’s traditional sweet egg tart.
Rua Siqueira Campos, 138 - Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22031-010, Brazil
Adega Pérola opened 60 years ago in the heart of Copacabana, and today the place is the same as always: The long bar is laden with Iberian-style tapas, here called tira-gostos. The octopus in vinaigrette is the most celebrated dish, but there are pickled vegetables, codfish, cold cuts and cheeses, meats, olives—in fact, some 100 options are served on trays and sold by weight. The bar is short on glamour, but the quality is nonetheless spectacular—and nothing could be more authentic. It’s tough finding a free table, but who cares? In line with Carioca custom, great conversation with a cold chopp (draft beer) or a Portuguese vintage, and a tira-gosto is a winning bet, even if you have to stand.
R. Maria Angélica, 129 - Jardim Botânico, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22470-201, Brazil
Rio lacks São Paulo’s strong Italian traditions. Perhaps that’s why some of Rio’s best pizza in fact comes from there—like Pizzaria Bráz, if you can judge by critics and mad-crazy crowds that pack into this spot on the Jardim Botânico district’s liveliest street. The pizzas start as a thin, wood-smoked dough and then are topped with mozzarella and a sauce made from a careful selection of tomatoes, and sometimes involve elaborate toppings that add up to capreses, the classic Braz, or even more daring recipes like those with wild-game cold cuts. Appetizers, too, keep ’em coming back (pão de linguiça, a divine sausage bread, for example); and you’re served a capital chopp at your table or even as you wait in line at the door.
Praça Santos Dumont, 116 - Gávea, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22470-060, Brazil
Here you’ll find all manner of steaks and chops, sides and beverages, but if you’re looking for the ultimate Brazilian cut, ask for a picanha ao braseiro, a two-person portion, seared on both sides in its own juices (let them know if you need it more well-done). It comes with fried potatoes (best served à portuguesa, i.e., round and crunchy), broccoli-rice salad and farofa (manioc meal) plus bananas and a (you guessed it) fried egg. It’s the kind of celebration that calls for free-flowing beer. Even when you’re satiated, leave room for dessert: fried plantain and sweet-cream ice. Look around to see the line is as long as when you arrived—now it all makes sense.
R. Jardim Botânico, 971 - Lagoa, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22470-051, Brazil
Rio’s Rubaiyat retains the essence of its São Paulo and Spanish predecessors, with its signature line of luxury steaks (all from the owners’ hacienda) with service to match and, in this case, surroundings worthy of a commemorative photo. The restaurant is part of the Jockey Club, from whose outdoor spaces you take in the horse races from right beside the turf, as if in a luxury box. You can also spot Cristo Redentor, high atop Corcovado, with just a slight turn to the left, following the curve of the racetrack.
Av. Mem de Sá, 96 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20230-150, Brazil
If you’re planning on being downtown, or in Lapa, give yourself an hour or two before or after for a recharge at this winning, circa-1923 restaurant. The Nova Capela is right in the middle of the city’s nightlife district, but at that, this Portuguese-influenced locale is the last to lock its doors, just before daybreak. Liveried waiters toil day and night, serving up the joint’s classic dishes: goat in broccoli-rice, braised octopus, plus the most-requested appetizer—the codfish bolinho de bacalhau croquettes, especially yummy here. From there, it’s time for a cold beer or a Portuguese vintage.
Av. Gen. San Martin, 889 - Leblon, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22441-015, Brazil
Oro enjoys the dual honor of receiving a Michelin star in a new phase of its history as well as during a new phase in the career of its chef, the famed Felipe Bronze. In this second version of Oro—the first iteration was a source of much delight—Bronze has added a twist to his notions of avant-garde cooking, using foreign textures and flavors in conjunction with local traditions. There are two tasting menus: Creativity, which features main courses, and Affectivity, which is just snacks and sweets, served without utensils. You may also want to go a little crazy when it comes to recommendations from the sommelier, who is none other than Bronze’s wife, Cecilia Aldaz, originally from Mendoza, Argentina, and a noted expert in the field.
Rua Conde de Irajá, 109 - Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22271-020, Brazil
Chef Pedro de Artagão went from fresh-faced promoter to celebrity chef at Irajá, where instead of trying to take things more haute, he gathered traditional—maybe even disdained—Brazilian ingredients and transformed them into something spectacular. The restaurant’s mansion setting requires guests to squeeze past the kitchen to the dining room, on a high-ceilinged loggia, framed by a vertical garden. Locals marvel at what Artagão does with once-lowly cassava, now stylishly presented as high-toned aipim (whole fried), farofa (fried meal), mash, or tapioca. Regulars and out-of-towners alike enjoy sampling ingredients from the Amazon, such as tucupi (manioc juice), jambu (a Brazilian guava), and tacacá (a spicy seafood, pepper, and jambu stew).
Rua Conde de Irajá, 191 - Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22271-020, Brazil
Since 2014 the last word in Rio for contemporary cuisine has been Lasai. Chef Rafael Costa e Silva cut his teeth in the kitchen at the Basque country’s famed Andoni Aduriz. At Rio’s Lasai, he presents two menus—Festival and Don’t Tell Me Tales—both of which aim to take diners on a culinary tour of Brazil via local ingredients and garden vegetables. You can order your own wine bottle, of course, but the proposed pairings are highly recommended. The warm-toned surroundings and multinational staff ease you into the restaurant’s vibe. For these reasons and more, Lasai—one of seven Michelin-starred restaurants in the city—merits your visit.
R. Aprazível, 62 - Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20241-270, Brazil
Located in Santa Teresa, Aprazível is foodie heaven in a welcoming atmosphere. The name says it all—aprazível is Portuguese for pleasant or pleasurable—a meaning that becomes clear as soon as you take in its intensely orange, intensely Rio sunset views. The kitchen calls the food roots cuisine: moqueca (fish stew), hearts of palm, Amazon fishes, coconut rice, plus excellent steaks and chops. Naturally there are typically Rio desserts, as well as tropical drinks and artisanal beers. The Brazilians love it, and out-of-towners do too; if you add it all up, you’ve got the quintessential Carioca experience.
CoLAB, one of Rio’s coolest venues, may serve breakfast all day but it is much more than a breakfast joint. The tight space starts the day as a coffee house, then morphs into a cafe in the afternoon, and as the night falls, it becomes a bar. In addition to sundry coffee, granola, and artisanal baked goods, there are brunch items on the menu, as well as several curries, “street food” prepared with care (the falafel is especially recommended). The drink menu includes a range of nonalcoholic choices like kombucha and lemonade, as well as beer, and both classic and creative cocktails. A recent expansion introduced an additional small space for live music, a chill second floor, and a terrace. A performance schedule can be found online.
In addition to Slow Bakery’s celebrated original coffee shop, bakery, and deli in Botafogo (Rio’s answer to NYC’s Soho), a new location in Ipanema (Rua Barao da Torre, 422) opened in August. The new space will limit itself to selling natural-yeast bread, further simplifying the original bakery’s slow-food ethos. This idea is that if you’re looking for a delicious coffee or a quick lunch, you will go to the original Slow Bakery, but if you just want a loaf of your favorite bread, head to the new shop, near Posto 10 on Ipanema Beach and a few blocks from the Nossa Senhora da Paz metro station.
R. Lopes Quintas, 37 - Jardim Botânico, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22460-010, Brazil
Prana began as a low-profile boîte, short on tables but long on creativity. Word spread quickly and soon, long lines trailed out the door. Prana then merged with O Quintal Zen, a health-food restaurant in one of Rio’s most charming neighborhood, Jardim Botânico, and the result is a winning fusion of vegan food, meditation, and serious yoga classes. In the new larger space, the focus is still on quality. Every day, the chefs offer two vegan, gluten-free specials alongside several heathy desserts, so you can enjoy a great lunch before a trip to the Botanic Garden or the beach.