What are the traditional dishes of Rio de Janeiro?
Considered by many to be the national dish of Brazil, feijoada is a stew of beans (usually black beans, but also white beans, red beans and pinto beans) and a meat, typically beef or pork.
The dish is best when cooked over a low flame in a thick clay pot. The final meal is served with the beans and meat pieces covered with a dark purplish-brown broth. It tastes strong and moderately salty, but this is not a spicy dish. Often served with white rice, the flavor is dominated by the taste of the beans and the meat stew. Feijoadas are very popular in Rio, especially as a Wednesday or Saturday lunch, and is often accompanied by chopped fried collard greens (couve mineira), roasted cassava flour (farofa), orange slices, and is traditionally served with a pot of hot sauce on the side.
A great place to get feijoada in Ipanema is Casa da Feijoada, located at R. Prudente de Moraes 10, Ipanema. Its telephone number is 2523-4994. Also in Ipanema, a restaurant called Galani at the Caesar Park Hotel Ipanema serves a great feijoada. There is another place with excellent feijoadas in the Centro called Confeitaria Colombo.
Cariocas also eat a dish called picadinho, which literally means minced meat, and/or rice and beans. Additionally, seafood dishes are very popular in Brazil. Vatapá is a scrumtious shrimp dish topped with a rich cashew peanut sauce. Moqueca de peixe is a coconut fish stew. Cururu de camarao is a gumbo made of shrimp and okra, which is often made with frozen shrimp as a quick week night dinner.
Brazilians eat a lot of meat. In general, Brazilians pride themselves on the quality of their meat, most of which is raised "free range" and is hormone free!
What are traditional Brazilian side dishes?
Traditional side dishes include boiled or deep-fried cassava, deep-fried bananas, and pork rinds (torresmo), and rice and beans.
What kinds of desserts are popular in Rio?
Cariocas love anything and everything sweet. If you order coffee without sugar, you're likely to be treated with weird looks. The desserts are amazing in Rio and are typically very, very sweet. You'll find some desserts that you are familiar with, like ice cream and other treats, but then there are some desserts that are unique to Brazil, like Doce de Leite, which is a lot like caramel but is much sweater, darker and creamier. Doce de Leite is made of sugar and milk and comes in both bar and paste form.
Cakes, or bolos, are very popular in Rio and throughout Brazil. Pão de mel is a honey cake that is traditionally topped with melted chocolate. Bolo de rolo is a roll cake, which is a thin cake wrapped in melted guava. In Southern and Southeastern Brazil this dish is traditionally called rocambole. Bolo de cenoura is a Brazilian carrot cake with a chocolate cover made of butter and cocoa. Bolo prestígio is chocolate cake with a coconut and cream filling, covered with brigadeiro. Bolo de fubá is a traditional corn flour cake. Bolo de milho another Brazilian corn cake. Bolo de maracujá is a delicious cake made of passion fruit. Bolo de queijo is literally Portuguese for cheese cake. Bolo de laranja is an orange cake. And Bolo de banana, as its name might suggest, is a banana cake covered with cinnamon.
Mousse de maracujá is an amazing mousse made of passion fruit.
For dessert, Brazilians also eat figs, papaya, mangos, oranges, pears, peaches, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes (among others fruits and preserves) typically accompanied by fresh cheese and/or doce de leite.
Quindim is a popular traditional Brazilian custard that is baked and is primarily made of sugar, egg yolks, and ground coconut that is typically presented as an upside-down cup with a shiny surface and has an intense yellow color.
Cajuzinho are peanut and cashew "truffles", and Beijinho are coconut "truffles" with clove. Manjar is a delicious coconut pudding topped with caramel and dried plums; while arroz-doce is a rice pudding. Açaí na tigela is unique to Brazil and is usually made of an açaí berry mixture served with bananas and/or strawberry and cereal, typically granola or muslix.
What about fresh juices in Rio?
Due to its proximity to tropical rainforests throughout Brazil, Rio is known for its amazing freshly-squeezed juices: bananas, oranges (laranja), limes (limão), lemons (limão siciliano), pineapples (abacaxi), plums (ameixa), custard apples (fruta de conde -- a unique type of apple that tastes like a custard!), watermelon (melancía), tangerines (tangerina), apples (maçã), pears (pera), passionfruit (maracujá), mangos (manga), coconuts (coco), among many other indigenous Brazilian fruits.
The best place to get a fresh juice or smoothie is at a juice bar, called sucos bars. Unlike many other things, when it comes to juice bars, expensive does not necessarily mean better. In fact, some of the least expensive juice bars in Rio have the best juices! Big Nectar is a chain of juice bars that is consistently delicious.
What should I drink in Rio?
Brazil actually has a national drink, the Caipirinha, which is kind of like a Margarita but much better! You should definitely give it a try while you're in Rio for Carnival! Caipirinha is a cocktail made of Cachaça (a sugar-cane rum native to Brazil), raw sugar, some fresh lime, on the rocks. But there is no shortage of alcohol in Brazil, so you'll also find the same drinks that are available around the world. Beer is a very drink amongst Cariocas. Domestic alcohol is very inexpensive (it can be cheaper than water!), but imported alcohol is typically expensive.
What about Brazilian Barbeques?
Churrascarias, or Brazilian Barbeques, is the traditional Brazilian way to eat meat. Brazilians will boast about their picanha (cap of the rump). In Churrascarias you'll traditionally pay a fixed price and then eat as much meat as you can stuff your face with. Unlike in America where we top our steaks with sauces and spices of all flavors, traditionally, the only spice used at Churrascarias is salt. Though oftentimes the meat is served with a sauce on the side made of a mixture of onions, tomatoes, parsley, vinegar and oil. But it's not only about the meat: Churrascarias also have fantastic salads, mixed vegetables, sushi, fish and much, much more! Churrascarias are really expensive, so most Cariocas cannot afford them; but they'll barbeque in this traditional manner at home.
If this sounds like it's for you, make sure to book a reservation in advance. As you might imagine, during Carnival these restaurants are booked well in advance. Some great Brazilian Barbeques in Rio are:
Carretão, which has locations in Ipanema and Copacabana. The one in Ipanema is located at R. Visconde de Pirajá 112, Ipanema and its telephone number is 2267-3965. The Copacabana location is R. Siqueira Campos 23, Copacabana, and the telephone number is 2236-3435.
A more expensive but amazing Churrascaria is Porcão which is located at R. Barão da Torre 218 in Ipanema. Its telephone number is 3389-8989. Porcão has another location at Av. Infante Dom Henrique in Parque do Flamengo, and its telephone number is 3389-8989.
What types of restaurants will I find in Rio?
Rio is a cosmopolitan city and it's food is influenced by culinary tastes from around the world. The most popular kinds of restaurants in Rio include Traditional Brazilian food, Modern or Fusion food, Churrascarias (Brazilian Steakhouses), Sushi Restaurants, Por Kilo Restaurants (buffet-style food where you pay by weight), Botequins (taverns with table service), Sucos Bars, Botecas (for snacks and fast food), and Kiosks (outdoor cafes).
What is the service like at restaurants in Rio?
Cariocas treat time differently. Knowing this, you would benefit from having a lot of patience when you go out to eat in Rio. Waiters can be very slow, especially when compared to American standards. You may end up with the wrong dish, and you might sense that the waiters seem indifferent towards their jobs in general. Of course you'll find exceptions, but generally, when it comes to service in restaurants, you should expect low standards. Be nice and smile: it can take you a long way in Rio.
Do I have to tip my waiter?
Typically you don´t have to tip at restaurants. In stead, it is common to find a 10% service charge added to your check. The service charge goes toward the salaries of the waiting staff. If you have a great meal with excellent service, it is customary to leave a tip. Inversely, If your service was exceptionally bad, you can actually request that the service charge me removed from the bill. But this is only for when your service is bad: if the food is bad, it's not the waiter's fault. In these cases you can ask a manager for a discount. That, however, is up to you and your personality. You might find it better to just pay your bill, never come back, and leave bad reviews! Some restaurants do not add the service charge, and if this is the case, your waiter will let you know.
What can I expect to spend on a meal in Rio?
Food does not have to be expensive in Rio. In fact, price is not a good indicator of quality. Even at the most top-notch restaurants, you can find dishes for around US$15. A bottle of mineral water or soda should cost less than US$1, domestic beer or draft beer is generally less than US$2. At less expensive restaurants and snack bars you can expect to spend between US$5 and US$15. At higher-priced restaurants, meals range from US$20 to US$35 or more. If you order a bottle of imported wine or champagne, multiple appetizers, a salad, a main dish, and a dessert, it can easily cost US$80 per person and up.
Do restaurants take credit card?
Most restaurants do, but some don't. Visa is the most commonly accepted card, followed by Mastercard. It's rare to find a restaurant in Rio that accepts American Express. You should ask before you sit down to avoid any embarrassment.
What are the popular street foods?
Don't be afraid to try the street foods! You'll see food vendors set up all of Rio, especially at the beach or the Street party in Lapa.
The list is endless and depends on where you are, but some of the foods might encounter at a street vendor include:
Pão de Queijo, which are amazing cheese puffs that you have to try when you run into them; Pastel de Carne, which are similar in look and taste to deep fried beef turnovers; Pastel de Queijo or Camarão, which are delicious deep fried turnovers filled with either cheese or shrimp;Empada de Camarão which is a pastry filled with shrimp; Bolinho de Aipim, which is a ground beef surrounded by deep fried cassava dough; Pão de Batata, which is a potato bread filled with either ground beef, chicken or sausage; Esfiha, which is an Arabic-influenced food best described as a folded pizza; Churros, which is a doce de leite filled dough that is fried and covered with cinnamon; and, among many other things, Bolinho de Bacalhau, which is an amazing ball of fried cod fish.
Also available in: Portuguese (Brazil)