Cariocas love to eat out. Better yet, they love to linger over their meals. Waiters in Rio would never dream of coming by to ask you to "settle up" so they can go off shift. So take your time. Dawdle. Savor. Enjoy.
Rio offers an endless variety of places to eat. There are the chopperias, the place for cold beer and casual munchies. Slightly more upscale are the botequins, many of which are open to the early hours. There are hundreds of food kiosks, each with its own specialty, be it barbecued prawns, Bahian finger food, or vegetarian sandwiches. And on top of all that, there's a wide variety of restaurants in all neighborhoods, ranging from inexpensive to very expensive, from simple sandwiches to delicious steaks, from fresh sushi to the complicated stews and sauces of Brazil's Northeast. There's no excuse for going hungry in Rio.
Most restaurants are open from around 11am until 4pm and then again from 7pm until midnight or later. There are also quite a few establishments that will stay open all day, especially on the weekends when people leave the beach at 4pm to go eat lunch. Sunday is often the busiest day for lunch as extended families get together for a meal. Many restaurants close Sunday evening. The exception to these hours is in Rio's downtown, where restaurants cater to the office crowd; only a few of them remain open evenings and weekends.
Where to Find the Finest Feijoada -- For the best feijoada in town, try one of the following restaurants (on a Sat, of course -- lunch only). Confeitaria Colombo serves an outstanding feijoada in the loveliest dining room in town, Rua Gonçalves Dias 32, Centro (tel. 021/2221-0107; www.confeitariacolombo.com.br). Galani, on the 23rd floor of the plush Caesar Park Hotel, Av. Vieira Souto 460, Ipanema (tel. 021/2525-2525; www.caesarpark-rio.com), is famous for its Saturday buffet. Even fancier is the spread at the Sheraton's Mirador, Avenida Niemeyer, São Conrado (tel. 021/2274-1122; www.sheraton-rio.com). After lunch you'll welcome the 30-minute walk back to Leblon.
Don't Shy Away from Street Food
When it comes to street vendors and food, you read a lot of strange things in travel guides. Never eat meat. Don't touch fruit. Don't eat anything at all. Only drinks. In cans. Insist on ice cubes made from bottled water. Sheesh!
Rio is not Rangoon, nor the fetid fever swamps of 19th-century Benin. Yes, tap water is best avoided. It won't kill you; it's just so chlorine-saturated that it tastes like eau de swimming pool. Some of the best meals I've had in Brazil have been purchased from a street vendor. One night in Rio, on the Rua Ouvidor, we came across a man and his charcoal brazier, selling skewers of fresh-grilled prawns, lightly salted and doused with lemon. We bought two skewers, which lasted about 40 seconds . . . so we went back for four more . . . and then another four. The moral? Eating from street vendors is fine, as long as you take precautions. Does the vendor look clean and healthy? Is the food stored in a cooler? Are Brazilians queuing up? If so, odds are the food's good, and whatever supplies he has in his cooler haven't been hanging around long enough to go bad. So eat, enjoy, and don't have a cow. Or rather, do, if that's what they're selling.
Rio's juice bars are a bit like a magician's hat. You peer into a hole-in-the-wall diner and think there's nothing there, then the guy behind the counter conjures up any kind of fruit juice you care to name, all of it made fresh to order. The menu in these often standing-room-only spots will typically list over 25 different kinds of fruit juice. There are the standards such as passion fruit (maracujá), pineapple (abacaxi), mango (manga), or cashew fruit (caju); there's carambola (star fruit), goiaba (guava), jaca (jack fruit), and açerola (red juice from the tiny açerola fruit). This is where things get fun. You can mix anything with anything else. Try laranja com açerola (orange juice with açerola, a very popular combination); maracujá com mango; or pineapple e guava, cashew e açerola. Some of these work, some don't. The magicians behind the counter are full of suggestions if you have any doubts. (Brazilians like to mix their fruit juice with milk.) You can also just throw caution to the wind and see what comes out of the hat.
Excellent juice bars include Big Nectar, Teixeira de Melo 34A, Ipanema. (no phone; www.bignectar.com.br; 24 hr.). Five other locations are in Ipanema, Copacabana, and Catete. Or try Bibi Sucos, Av. Ataulfo de Paiva 591, Leblon. (tel. 021/2259-4298; www.bibisucos.com.br; daily 8am-2am), with 10 other locations in Rio.
Rio's Avenida Gourmet
We could probably fill half the Rio section with reviews of restaurants on the Rua Dias Ferreira. This windy street on the far edge of Leblon has become a one-stop shop for gourmands. Trendy vegetarians head straight for O Celeiro (no. 199; tel. 021/2274-7843). You pay by the weight so help yourself to the delicious offerings and grab a spot on the large patio. To enjoy a stylish afternoon tea with all the trimmings, head over to Eliane Carvalho (no. 242; tel. 021/2540-5438; closed Mon). For pasta there's Quadrucci (no. 233; tel. 021/2512-4551), which is open for lunch and dinner and has a great patio.
For fine dining there are a number of options, mostly only open in the evenings. Zuka (no. 233; tel. 021/3205-7154) offers creative seafood dishes such as crab in phyllo pastry or grilled tuna in a cashew-nut crust. Across the street you'll find Carlota (no. 64; tel. 021/2540-6821), chosen by Condé Nast Traveller as one of the 50 most exciting restaurants in the world. Chef Carlota opened this Rio restaurant after her original São Paulo digs became the toast of the town. As in the original, her Rio dishes are fresh and creative, but portions are tiny. Farther down on the corner of Rua Rainha Guilhermina is the sushi hot spot of the city, Sushi Leblon (tel. 021/2512-7830). Thursday through Saturday evenings the lines can be long, but most people don't seem to mind the wait. If you're up on who's who in the Brazilian entertainment world, you can pass the time spotting artists and actresses. If a smaller and intimate sushi venue is more your style, check out Minimok (no. 116; tel. 021/2511-1476). By the same owners as the Mok Sakebar, this very stylish hole in the wall serves up great variety of sushi, sashimi, tempura, and rolls.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.