I love barbecue and I am not tired of it yet (and, tbh, I don’t think I ever will). Sometimes, however, it is good to vary a bit, so I am going to share with you the places and food the Cariocas (Rio de Janeiro locals) really go to. Forget about the expensive Brazilian Steakhouses or high-end restaurants (although I can recommend some if you want too), I am talking about the real deal today. Those places that when you watch movies about foreign countries you wish you are able to find and somehow you always end up in the touristic restaurants, paying for overpriced food of subpar quality.
Check the options below for the best insider tips on your trip to Rio! Not all of these are 100% traditional Brazilian food, but that is what we eat in our daily lives, at least when we go out to eat. I promise you won’t regret it! The prices are updated as of June 2020.
Largo do Machado: Sfiha
This is one of my favorite dishes and brings back so many childhood memories! When we were out and about with my mother, we would always go into Galeria Condor (which is right in front of the metro station Largo do Machado) and have some sfihas. They have chicken, cheese, beef, or vegetables flavors.
My favorite is the cheese one, but honestly, all of them are amazing. I always have it with a big cup of cashew juice (not really juice, more like a concentrated juice watered down to make a cold refreshment) or with Iced tea Yerba Mate (chá–mate or simply mate).
There are two restaurants in the gallery, one called Rotisseria Sirio-Libaneza and a smaller, traditional small one simply called “Oriental” (they face each other, you can’t miss it). You can also get some for takeaway if it is too busy (it usually is!). This is perfect for grabbing some quick lunch before getting the bus or taxi to go to Corcovado.
Address: Largo do Machado, 29 – Laranjeiras, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22221-020, Brazil
How to get there: the gallery (Galeria Condor) is right in front of the Largo do Machado metro stations. The restaurants are right in the middle of the ground floor.
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat from 8 AM to 8 PM. Closed on Sundays.
What to get: Two Sfihas (I suggest one cheese, one beef, but mix and match) and a cup of Mate (that you can share if it is too much for you!)
Price: R$5.50 for one Sfiha and R$4.50 for a 500ml (17.6 fl oz) cup of Mate
Pro tip: Get a few sfihas and kibes for takeaway and head to Corcovado. Eat while in the tram enjoying the view.
Copacabana Beach: Yerba Mate iced tea with starch biscuits
You will probably see a lot of street vendors parading back and forth on the beach, trying to sell you everything from hats to sarongs (canga), to haloumi cheese (queijo coalho).
Actually, not only in Copacabana but in pretty much all the beaches in Rio there will be street vendors. You should pay attention to the ones with 2 barrels (yes, barrels! Ok, not that big, but big enough) hanging around their shoulders. They will be selling Iced tea, or Mate (with or without lemon juice).
Most of them will also be selling starch biscuits (of the brand biscoito Globo) and the combo of iced tea with those biscuits is delicious and a typical thing to eat in Rio.
So typical in fact, that these vendors (the ones in orange, same color as the brand owned by Coca-Cola) were considered Immaterial Cultural Patrimony of the city of Rio de Janeiro. If that’s already not enough reason for you to try it on your day at the beach, I should also mention it is delicious! (oh wait! I already mentioned that!)
Address: most beaches in Rio, but 100% sure in Copacabana and Ipanema beaches
How to get there: Just follow the people in swimwear
Opening Hours: All day long but between 10 AM and 4 PM there are more sellers going around. Just call them over when you see one.
What to get: For the biscuits, I prefer the savory version (green package) but you can also get the sweet version (red package). For the Iced tea, your options are with or without lemon.
Price: The Iced tea and the Biscoito Globo are currently around R$ 6.00 each
Pro tip: careful to not be fooled by vendors that try to take advantage of foreigners by upping their prices, separate the correct amount first and do not be afraid to haggle with them a little bit.
Urca wall: Beer by the Sunset
You might have heard about this one as it has becoming increasingly popular in the last few years. Urca is the neighborhood squeezed between the Sugarloaf Mountain and Guanabara Bay.
It has only one way in and out, so because of that, there is not a lot of traffic or people going around, since it is a destination, not a route to anywhere. I personally love Urca and would live there if I were to go back to live in Rio.
At the very end of the neighborhood, almost going up the Sugarloaf mountain, there will be a restaurant facing the sea. There isn’t a beach here, just a small wall where you can sit and enjoy the beautiful bay with the boats and the sun going down. It is so peaceful that it doesn’t even feel like Rio.
Address: Av. Portugal, S/N – Urca, Rio de Janeiro, 22291-050, Brazil
How to get there: get the bus 581 (from Ipanema or Copacabana) or take a taxi or Uber to the Bar e Restaurante Urca
Opening Hours: 11:30 AM to 8:30 PM every day, including Sundays (for the restaurant but you can go at any time for a walk to enjoy the view)
What to get: Chopp and Empada de Camarão (Shrimp pastries) or Bolinho de Bacalhau (cod cakes)
Price: R$ 50.00 depending on what you order (and how many of them!)
Pro tip: go on a Monday or Tuesday for a less busy experience. Don’t eat at the restaurant (a bit too expensive), just order your food and take it to eat while seating on the sea wall, enjoying the view!
Downtown Rio: Chargrilled Chicken With Farofa And Fries
Brazilians go out for lunch every week day. Most of us working in an office receive lunch vouchers, so going out with colleagues during lunch time is a must.
I remember a few times while in downtown Rio (where most offices are located) with my dad, we would frequently have lunch in one of these tiny restaurants that just have some stools around the counter, a grill and a small kitchen on the back.
The typical food here is chargrilled chicken (Galeto – which for some reason we do not consider as barbecue even though it technically is) with fries, white rice, vinaigrette sauce, and farofa (that amazing eggy, bacony, oniony cassava flour dish you might have heard of. I suggest you do try this recipe!).
There are several restaurants like these sprinkled all over the city center, so if you really want to have a truly local experience, go during weekdays.
Address: there are just many of them, but one of my favorites is O Príncipe dos Galetos at R. da Assembléia, 34 – Centro, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 20011-901, Brazil
How to get there: 5 min walking from Carioca Metro Station
Opening Hours: 6 AM to 9 PM Mon to Friday, 7 AM to 3 PM Saturday, closed on Sundays
What to get: Get a Galeto with fries and farofa de ovos (egg farofa). You can have it with Chopp or soda.
Price: R$ 27.90 for a full course of Galeto, Fries, Rice and Vinaigrette sauce.
Pro tip: As it is a small restaurant, get there before noon to avoid the crowds on lunch break. You can pair this restaurant with your Lapa tour and breakfast or afternoon tea at Colombo Bakery.
Ipanema: Brazilian Breakfast From A Traditional Bakery
If you think about breakfast in Rio, chances are people told you to go to Colombo. Maybe to the Copacabana fortress. Or perhaps you are just thinking about having those lovely fresh fruits at the hotel buffet. These are all great options, but they are not authentic! No one in Rio is going to Colombo bakery unless they are taking their foreign friend there.
Most people would have their breakfast at home but most of them (if not all) will have had breakfast in a bakery at some point. Honestly, any bakery will do the job well, however, some have a better bread than others. As with the galetos, you will usually sit on stools around the counter and order directly to the server who usually doubles down as the cook.
Each person will have their favorite order, and usually have that every single morning. Mine is OJ (freshly squeezed in front of you) with a (usually generous) ham and cheese sandwich on what we call French Bread (pão francês) because it resembles a mini-baguette.
Other very popular options are french bread with scrambled eggs, french bread toasted with butter (a close second favorite for me), or a pastry displayed on the counter (coxinha, risole, or empada – look them up, they are all so good!).
For drinks: OJ is pretty popular, but some coffee and milk (we don’t really call these “lattes”, it sounds too fancy!), plain black coffee – it is short and strong -, or some other fruit juices are also on the list.
Address: anywhere there is a bakery, which is mostly every corner of the city. If you want a specific option, go to Santa Marta at R. Nascimento Silva, 62 – Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22421-000, Brazil
How to get there: It is 8 min walking from General Osório metro station.
Opening Hours: 6 AM to 10 PM daily, including Sundays
What to get: I’m biased, so I always get orange juice and grilled ham and cheese sandwich (make sure to order it on French Bread)
Price: R$ 12.90 for 17.6 fl oz Orange Juice (500 ml) and R$ 8.90 for the ham and cheese sandwich.
Pro tip: If you are the party-hard type of person, go have some breakfast after your night out directly. Most bakeries are open from 5 AM or earlier (with fresh pão francês!). You can get some bread with deli meat to make sandwiches for your day ahead and save some money on food too! Santa Marta is not open that early, but you will certainly be able to spot one open after 5 AM.
Copacabana: Pineapple Sandwich
If you know someone in Rio and you tell them you read online about this place that sells sandwiches with pineapples in Copacabana, they will know right away you are talking about Cervantes! Established in 1955, it has been a classic for generations of cariocas.
I remember both of my parents talking about the good ol’ times where they would go for a sandwich after partying in the 70s.
Now, I haven’t actually tried this one, but if both my parents, AND the entire city AND my professors at university always talked about this, I guess I can take their word for it. I will make a mental note for myself to try it next time I am in Rio and update this post with my findings.
Address: The traditional restaurant is the Copacabana branch, but they have other addresses as well. Av. Prado Júnior, 335 – Loja B – Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22011-001, Brazil
How to get there: 7 min walking from Cardeal Arcoverde Metro Station
Opening Hours: Tue – Thu 12 PM to 4 AM, Fri and Sat until 6 AM and Sundays until 2 AM. Closed on Mondays.
What to get: They have restaurant entrees as well, but their signature dish is the beef, pate and pineapple sandwich.
Price: R$ 34.00
Pro tip: If you are not keen on pineapple on your sandwich, you can ask for it to be removed. This will not decrease the price, though.
Leblon: Smoothies of all kinds
By now you might have noticed that Cariocas enjoy food that is… huuh… not so healthy. But, we do have healthy options as well! We have some juice bars where you can have juices from all kinds of fruits and request medley juices, it is just so tasty!
Especially for those days when coming back from the beach in the afternoon, a nice smoothie from a juice bar is all you need to replenish your energies to go out partying (or just rest at the hotel) at night.
One of the famous options is BiBi Sucos (read bee-bee), they have a full menu with all the fruits available and also some suggestions of combinations for perfect smoothies. And if you feel like eating, they also have some burgers or healthier options for you as well!
Address: they have several branches but here is the address for the one in Leblon: Av. Ataulfo de Paiva, 591 A – Leblon, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22440-033, Brazil
How to get there: 3 min walking from Antero de Quental Metro Station
Opening Hours: Sun to Thu from 8:30 AM to 00:20 AM and Fri – Sat until 1:20 AM
What to get: Try one of their smoothie blends. They are all great (and healthy!)
Price: It ranges from R$ 13.50 to R$ 23.50 according to the smoothie you choose
Pro tip: Try making your own combination of fruits. Go wild or keep it safe. Anyhow, it will taste awesome!
Flamengo: Oldest Restaurant In Town
Ok, so this is not a food recommendation in itself, but a place you should go. Café Lamas is one of the oldest, if not THE oldest restaurant in Rio that is still open. They have been in business since 1874 and artists, philosophers, and writers used to be frequent patrons.
The restaurant is quite big, so it is unlikely you would need a reservation but if you would prefer, you can go to their website and book a spot. The menu is quite traditional for most restaurants in Rio, so if you want “traditional carioca food”, this will give you some good variety to choose from. T
hey will have pasta, beef, chicken, and seafood dishes, so probably will cover all tastes. It is also very close to Largo do Machado (where the Sfihas are), so if you feel like having a bigger lunch, you can head to Lamas instead.
Address: Lamas is at R. Marquês de Abrantes, 18a – Flamengo, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22230-061, Brazil
How to get there: 5 min walking from Largo do Machado Metro Station
Opening Hours: Sun – Sat from 12 PM to 12 AM
What to get: About all dishes will be good. I personally like their breaded file mignon with a side of mixed onions, peas, ham, and thin fries (Guarnição à Francesa). They also have a good selection of international (mostly European) beers, if you want to have something different. Bear in mind dishes are usually meant to be shared between 2 people but you can order the “Executivo” which is meant for 1 person.
Price: It will cost around R$ 30.00 for 1 person and between R$ 60.00 and R$ 120.00 for 2 per meal (not including drinks and 10% tip)
Pro tip: Walk around the corner towards Paissandu Street for a beautiful palm tree-lined street that will culminate on the State Official Palace (where the Governor for Rio de Janeiro State works from). It is a quiet residential street and the palm trees are from the Empire times, so very tall and imponent. When arriving at the Palace, you can either get a cab to Corcovado or back to Copacabana and Ipanema if you prefer. You can also visit Fluminense’s home stadium, where they have a museum, in case you are a soccer fan, which is just around the corner.
I hope this gives you a flavor of the places we carioca truly like. When speaking to my friends and family about this post, all of them had so many recommendations to add to this list, that I needed to cut it short.
I selected the few that I think convey a little bit about the carioca spirit. If you do go to any of these venues, I hope you enjoy it. I know I thoroughly enjoyed writing this post, it brought back so many wonderful memories! I will try and keep this post updated with what is going on in the city according to my “team inland”, but in the meantime, have a wonderful stay in Rio!