Rio de Janeiro is a city that caters for 6.7 million hungry mouths (Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia).
Add in an extra 1.5 million tourists a year.
Don’t stumble into a bog standard restaurant like 80% of visitors.
Follow this list of 5 recommendations for traditional Brazilian cuisine in Rio de Janeiro.
They aren’t Michelin Stars, but these will steer you clear of the tourist traps.
You may also be interested in reading our Guide to Decrypting the Brazilian Menu!
Traditional BBQ – Brazilian Cuisine @churrasqueira_rio
This restaurant’s notoriety has infiltrated across state borders. The original restaurant and owner hail from Juiz de Fora in Minas Gerais. This may seem like your average steak house, however, there is something beeaaauutiful about the way Mineiros (natives of Minas Gerais state) cook their meat that brings tender, drool-worthy succulence. Absolutely anything on this menu is astounding, but I’ll run through my favourites.
A starter to share of fried gilo. This is a bitter vegetable that can be overpowering when served raw. However, churrasqueira fry the gilo and it tastes like a slightly bitter fried zucchini.
Another great starter is the queijo coalho, a Northeastern cheese. They serve it melted in a sizzling pan they bring straight to the table.
For the maincourse both the rib-eye steak and the grilled chicken are excellent choices and as a side get mandioca fries (fried cassava).
Work as a team and order as many meats as you can!
Traditional Portuguese Food – http://restaurantecervantes.com.br
Cervantes is your spot for a late night Carioca feast. We’re talking 5am munchies on a Friday and Saturday morning and sandwiches you could die for.
It’s a real crowd-pleaser.
The original restaurant in Copacabana, Avenido Prado Junior, opened in 1965 and has since spread in infamy opening two branches in Barra. It has a basic Portuguese set up with pristine waiters dressed in black and white with bow ties and a decor adorned with paintings of the Portuguese conquest, however, this is anything but you average Portuguese cuisine.
I would opt for the classic sandwich, which comes with filé mignon ao ponto (how the chef sees as perfectly cooked), sumptuous caramelized, grilled pineapple, squashed between Brazil’s version of a mini baguette (pão francesa).
There’s no going wrong trust me.
If you are looking for more of a knife and fork kind of dish, choose the filé mignon with batatas portuguesas and a side of pineapple (it just really is melt in your mouth goodness). Batatas portugueses are homemade crisps, or potato chips for our American buddies. Small circular fried potato about half a centimetre thick and absolutely 100 x better than French fries. This is the best place in town to eat these bad boys.
Traditional Amazonian Food @territorioaprazivel
Aprazível is parked at the top of the bohemian neighbourhood Santa Teresa. It sits like a tree-house with a breathtaking view over Rio de Janeiro. Although a little out of the way, you can squeeze in an Uber with your fellow foodies or opt for the R$30 restaurant transport (see website for details).
Down to the serious stuff, gorging on a delicious fusion of Brazilian cuisine! In a country the size of Europe the food variety is a force to be reckoned with and this blessed restaurant makes the most of it.
Although not a cheap abode, I recommend having a three-course meal. For starters or nibbles begin with the pastel de angu. For the main, I love the octopus (polvo), but equally the cabrito (goat) is something a little different. Do not miss out on the Castanha de Pará ice-cream with capuaçu candy.
To accompany try the Cachaça do Jámbu – a simple cocktail served in a mojito glass.
Jambu is a herb found in the Amazon that the indigenous believe to have medicinal properties. Several minutes after consuming this herb you get a tingling sensation on your lips and the back of your throat. It sounds scary, but is thrilling. At Aprazível they mix this cachaça with pineapple juice and a squeeze of lemon and the result is lipsmackingly good, literally.
4. Churrascaria Palace
Traditional Brazilian BBQ – @churrascariapalace
Any Brazilian restaurant list must include a BBQ house and Churrascaria is one that won’t disappoint. Founded in 1951, the Churrascaria Palace is tucked down the side of Copacabana Palace.
All you can eat Brazilian BBQ houses feature a full salad buffet, which includes sushi and rice dishes, while servers walk around with sticks of sizzling meat. This option will weigh heavy on your wallet at R$169 per person, however it is on par with BBQ houses in the USA. And it is worth the splurge.
Churrascaria Palace also specialize in seafood BBQ, with tambaqui ribs (a Braziian river fish) and cavaquinho (small lobster). Throughout the year the restaurant holds festivals adding chef specials to the regular menu. The exotic meats festival features unique meats like ostrich, alligator and duck.
The final charming touch of Churrascaria Palace is Carlinhos Muller’s painting that embraces the room, Santa Ceia da Bossa Nova or in English The Last Supper of Bossa Nova. An imitation of the bible’s Last Supper, but with famous Bossa Nova founders crowding around the table. It soaks the restaurant in an atmosphere of reminiscing, perfect to enjoy this traditional Brazilian cuisine.
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A #CostelaPrime tem um ótimo nível de gordura e sabor inconfundível. Como o nome já diz, se refere a parte dianteira e mais macia da Costela Angus 😋 Uma das nossas 5 Estrelas Bovinas, a Costela Prime ganhou o coração do público e se tornou uma das carnes mais pedidas da casa. Experimente! 😉 . 📞 Reservas e informações: (21) 99993-4696 ou https://www.churrascariapalace.com.br/temporada/carnes
5. O Bom Galeto
Traditional Brazilian Chicken – @obomgaleto
Many might snub their noses at my last pick, which is a restaurant nestled in a neighbourhood that consists of just one square, though I believe it is something special. On the exit of Largo de Machado metro station O Bom Galeto serves up the best version of this traditional Brazilian cuisine with decorum and pride.
Galeto is a young, spit-roasted chicken, which has tiny bones and super-moist meat.
The idea of the restaurant is unpretentious, you choose your galeto either clássico (with bones), or desossado (boneless). Then you choose your seasoning from a range of BBQ, curry to garlic cream, whatever really takes your fancy. I would also opt for the pão de alho while you’re there. It is a Brazilian cuisine classic appearing at every BBQ. They are made with those same Brazilian baguettes.
It’s not like any garlic bread you’ve had before.
In sum, rotisserie chicken with mind-numbing seasoning. There’s no going wrong.
6. Jappa da Quitanda
Traditional Brazilian Sushi in the heart of Ipanema – @jappadaquitanda
With it’s beginnings in downtown Rio, Jappa da Quitanda has bought its loyal following to Zona Sul. The restaurant sits on the corner of Nossa Senhora de Paz square and metro stop. The sushi chefs at Jappa da Quitanda offer traditional fare and upmarket inventions like Joy da Barriga de Salmão (Salmon belly with pineapple jam and onion crisps) and truffle-dipped oysters.
Enjoy the all-you-can-eat sushi menu for R$150 or take your pick à la carte.