São Paulo is the gourmet capital of Brazil. It's the city with the money to attract the country's best chefs, with the clientele to pay the tab at the most outstanding restaurants. Plus, with no beaches or mountains to play on, Paulistas amuse themselves by eating out. People dress up for dinner here (or more than they would elsewhere in the country) and usually go out around 9 or 10pm at the earliest. Though it's becoming more common for restaurants to accept reservations, many will do so only up to 9pm. After that, you have to take your chances. If waiting for a table drives you to distraction, better to arrive unfashionably early at 8pm.
The variety of cuisine is larger than anywhere else in the country. Like New York or Toronto, São Paulo is a city of immigrants. Many of the city's best restaurants are Italian. However, the city has a number of top Middle Eastern restaurants, as well as the best Japanese food in the country, plus Spanish, Portuguese, Bahian, and even Thai cuisine. Churrascarias are always a favorite, as are lunchtime kilo spots, which mad-for-work Paulistas see as the perfect way to fuel up for long hours at the office.
The Guia São Paulo, the entertainment listing published in the Friday Folha de São Paulo newspaper, contains a detailed restaurant section, handy for confirming hours and phone numbers. Also note that the long street names are often abbreviated by Paulistas; for example, the Rua José Maria Lisboa may also be known as Rua Lisboa.
The Higienópolis Dining Triangle Smack in the middle of Higienópolis just behind the FAAP sits the delightful Praça Vila Boim. A lovely three-sided square with beautiful trees, the praça offers great casual dining options covering most of the world's cuisines. Sushi lovers will be pleased to find Sushi Papaia (tel. 011/3666-2086; www.sushipapaia.com.br). For pizza lovers there's Piola (tel. 011/3663-6539; www.piola.it), famous almost as much for its edgy, industrial-chic decor as it is for its 30 pizza combinations. Favorites include the Rimini (smoked salmon and ricotta) and the Mantova (mozzarella, brie, fresh tomatoes, and arugula). For a great burger and a heavy helping of nostalgia try the Fifties (tel. 011/5094-5454; www.thefifties.com.br), an old-style diner offering burgers, chili dogs, shakes, and fries. If steak is on your mind, look no further than the Empório Natan (tel. 011/3828-1402), which specializes in Argentine and Angus cuts. For Mexican lovers, there's SiSenor (tel. 011/3476-2538; www.sisenor.com.br), with an excellent selection of tacos, enchiladas, and burritos.
If This Is Higienópolis, It Must Be French -- Deprived of their sought-after Brazilian colony in the 1500s, the French appear to have decided to take over Higienópolis, or at least a goodly portion of its restaurants. In addition to the La Brasserie Erick Jacquin, there's a pair of side-by-side Parisian bistros just around the corner on the Rua Pará. The Ici Bistro, Rua Pará 36 (tel. 011/3257-4064; www.icibistro.com.br; Mon-Fri noon-3pm and 7pm-midnight, Sat noon-4pm and 7:30pm-12:30am, Sun noon-5pm), offers top-quality cuisine by a cordon bleu trained chef, plus a rooftop terrace with lighter quicker fare. The Mercearia do Francês, Rua Itacolomi 636 (tel. 011/3214-1295; www.merceariadofrances.com.br; Mon-Fri noon-3:30pm and 7pm-midnight, Sat noon-5pm and 7pm-1am, Sun noon-5pm), offers more casual French fare, plus a replica of the Eiffel Tower on its patio. And if that wasn't enough, over at the Praça Vila Boim (in the Higienópolis Dining Triangle), where the rest of the world also has a foothold, there's Le Vin Bistro, Rua Armando Penteado 25 (tel. 011/3668-7400; www.levin.com.br; Mon-Sat noon-midnight, Sun noon-11pm).
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.