In Rio de Janeiro you can probably find something to fit any craving. A good approach to local food is "comida a kilo" - buffet style restaurants where you pay by the weight of the food on your plate. An excellent place to go with your friend or even with your partner is the Fellini restaurant. Located in Leblon, the place has a "pay for what you eat" buffet, with really good and beautiful food. Great for all tastes, it has even Asian food on the menu- approximately R$5 per 100g. More information available online . Another one is Ming Ye, Rue do Lavradio 106, near Lapa. Ming Ye offers a wide range of Chinese stir-fry and delicious sushi, as well as Brazilian dishes for cheaper prices (around R$3 per 100g).
Don't miss the Brazilian most famous dish, the feijoada (fay-zho-AH-da), a black bean stew filled with big chunks of meat, like sausages, pork and beef. Along with the "feijoada", you also get some colorful side dishes that come with it, such as rice, cassava (roasted manioc), collard greens, fried pork rinds, and some orange slices, to sweeten things up a bit. This is bonafide, authentic carioca culinary excellence, almost worth the trip alone! Best while sipping down a "caipirinha".
For the hungry, nothing beats a good rodízio (all-you-can-eat service). These are available in numerous types, although the most well-known are the churrascaria, all-you-can-eat grilled meats. Marius, in Leme has arguably the best churrascaria in town. Porcão has 5 restaurants around Rio, whereas Carretão has a good and cheap(er) rodizio. At various restaurants around town, you can also find rodízio style dining featuring seafood, pizza, or various appetizer-style snacks. The defining element of rodízio is that unlike an all-you-can-eat buffet, the servers continuously bring skewers of various meats.
If you like meat but want an alternative to the rodizios, a good place to eat at is Filé de Ouro (Rua Jardim Botânico, 731, Jardim Botânico; phone: 55 (21) 2259-2396; see Google Maps for directions). The place is simple and cozy. During the weekends there are usually big lines, but the steak is delicious. Try "Filé à Oswaldo Aranha", with toasted garlic.
Brazil has the largest population of Japanese outside of Japan, and sushi has become widely popular in Rio too. If you are a sashimi and sushi lover, you will find a great deal of options in Rio de Janeiro. If you are in Ipanema or nearby, a great tip is Benkei, that has an "all you can eat" buffet, with high quality products, great environment and staff for nice prices.
As a former ex Portugal colony, Brasil has maintained many influences of this country on its culinary. Therefore you will find great authentic Portuguese restaurants in Rio. A good option, from the localization to the ambiance, and naturally the food, is the CBF Restaurant, in the Tiradentes Square, a lovely area full of antique architecture.
In Leblon, the best choice is the hip and contemporaneous Zuka, where chef Ludmila creates many original recipes. In Ipanema, Zazá Bistrô is a trendy, sexy and exotic place with great South Asian dishes. Good to go as a couple.
Because its huge coast, many Brazilian specialties are in the seafood area. They are very rich in shrimps, lobster, calamaris, shellfish, clams, mollusks and many other tasty fishes. So, once in this land, don't miss the opportunity to order those lovely dishes. An option of restaurant very well known is Azul Marinho which is located below the building of Arpoador Inn, in Arpoador, very close to Ipanema. However, expect to pay at least R$100 per person, and set menus go about R$120 per person, excluding drinks.
The highest recommendation for a decently priced superb meal is at Sobrenatural, that has the some of the freshest fish in Rio. Go on Monday, Wednesday or Friday, when they have live samba and chorinho music by renowed artists. Try their moqueca dishes. It is located at Rua Almirante Alexandrino, 432 Santa Teresa.
For sophisticated people who enjoy simple life, Via Sete is in the heart of Ipanema, on Garcia D'Ávila. This grill restaurant offers a great bang for the buck: from their veranda you get to people-watch pretty Brazilians. There you can enjoy tasty wraps and sandwiches.
Felice is one of those tasteful places you can just hang out all day and all night: it has a great breakfast, a healthy lunch, varied gourmet ice-cream flavours at the palour, and a hip sunset after hour vibe. St.Tropez inspired dinner menu with a fair cost benefit and a lounge crowd after 11PM.
Travellers with fatter pockets may also splash out a bit at the Dias Ferreira street in Leblon, Rio's up-and-coming restaurant row.
There are many places to get pizza and lots of restaurants also offer pasta.
Rio is also famous for its pastries and street food, heritage from Portuguese and old European culture. In most cafeterias (lanchonete; lun-sho-NETCH) you can have a pastel (pahs-TELL) or salgado (saw-GAH-do; local pastry) for less than R$2. Typical pastries are coxinha (ko-SHEEN-ya; chicken nugget shaped like a chicken leg), and unique Rio's joelho (zho-EH-lyo; rolled dough filled with ham and cheese). Also try pão de queijo (pawn-deh-KAY-zho; cheese baked dough), typical from Minas Gerais but very common in Rio as well, and tapioca (typical from Bahia), a kind of crepe made out of manioca flour.
For drinking, ask for guaraná (gwa-ra-NAH; soda made from the seed of an Amazon fruit, also available as a strong drink), mate (MAHTCH; sweet ice tea; not like Rio Grande do Sul or Argentina's hot and sour mate), água de coco (ah-gwa-djee-KOH-ku; natural coconut water) or caldo de cana (caw-do-djee-KAH-na; sugarcane juice). There is also a common fruit called açaí (ah-sah-EEH), with a dark-purple pulp out of which are made juices, and ice-creams. Typical cariocas eat it like cream in cups or glasses, mixed with granola, oats or other flakes. The best place for such drinks are one of a number of Rio's open juice bars. Very often, these are located on street corners and have long, curved bars offering you juices from pretty much every fruit you can imagine. The best option is a small chain of juice bars called "Big Bi's". The juices are astounding value alongside their good selection of salgados and sandwiches. Their açaí is one of the best in terms of value and taste and the staff are excellent. On top of all this, if you leave a tip, you get a big "Obrigado" from all the staff. For the best Big Bi's experience, try the Tangerina ao Limão juice along with the famous Bauru sandwich for a total of a mere R$13. Finish it all off with an açaí to go. Perfect. Big Bi's has a few branches dotted around Copacabana and Ipanema, one of which is on the corner of Rua Santa Clara and Rua Barata Ribeiro in Copacabana. If you then cross the road of Rua Barata Ribeiro, you will land at an exquisite ice cream parlour.
There are many specialized "health food" shops that offer an incredible variety of rich meat and vegetable sandwiches, plus an awesome variety of fruit juices, many of them delicious and usually unknown by foreigners. Among them are graviola, fruta do conde, jaca, açaí, guaraná, pitomba, mango, coconut, orange, lemon, papaya, melon, etc. (they make it as you ask and all food is 100% organic and fresh. The meal is often prepared as you wait, so you can ask them to mix whatever fruit you want and create a customized mix if you like). You must try açaí and guaraná, Amazon fruits which are famous to be the strongest energizers and anti-oxidants of the world. They also offer Brazilian snacks (including many Italian and Oriental delicacies), and other simple but delicious things to eat. I never got enough of them! These shops usually are cheap and hang many fruits at the entrance or somewhere visible to display their quality.
Warning: look for clean places, as hygiene can be poor in many street shops.
If your palate is homesick for more familiar tastes, Rio has most of the fast-food chains found around the world (McDonald's, KFC, Domino's, Outback, Subway, Pizza Hut and Burger King). Bob's and Habib's are the biggest national fast food chains.
Many foods that in other countries are simply picked up in the hands and eaten, are either eaten with knife and fork (such as pizza) or are picked up by wrapping a napkin around the food so that it is not touched with the hands (such as sandwiches). You will undoubtedly notice napkin dispensers on the tables in most restaurants for this purpose.
Leaving a club or a bar, late in the night? The best option is Cervantes in Prado Júnior Street, in Copacabana. It closes only with the sun raising. The menu is composed by big sandwiches, with whatever you want: ham, salami, cheese, tenderloin and so on, with one home special ingredient: a big pineapple slice. It's a tropical taste to the end of your night. Look out for the legendary "Penguin Waiter", who've been working there forever. You won't have a problem to find out who he is.
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