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Those who venture inland from the iconic beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema in Rio de Janeiro are rewarded with the beautiful, hilly neighborhood of Santa Teresa, with grand colonial houses, cobblestone streets and fantastic views. Stroll down the hill and you quickly find yourself underneath the famous arches of Lapa, the heart of Rio’s nightlife scene. We check out the ten best places to dine in this trendy neighborhood, from native dishes to fusion favorites.
A true Santa Teresa institution, Bar do Mineiro serves food from the state of Minas Gerais, considered by many to be Brazil’s finest culinary region. Indeed, this is a good spot to try Brazil’s national dish feijoada, a rich bean stew filled with generous chunks of meat – such as sausage and salted beef – served with rice and farofa, a manioc flour fried with herbs. Bar do Mineiro is a popular spot and fills up quickly, with drinkers spilling out onto the street until late into the night.
Finding high quality coffee and sandwiches in Rio is not always an easy task. Cafecito is therefore a welcome addition to the city’s culinary scene. On a lovely wooden veranda, surrounded by trees and artwork, Cafecito is the perfect place to relax in the shade with a cappuccino or cafe latte, alongside an elegantly crafted sandwich, such as toasted ciabatta with pastrami, Gouda cheese and basil, or a local variant with cheese and banana. Cafecito is also distinct from its counterparts for serving an impressive variety of craft beers, with a depth and flavor generally absent from the light, ice-cold beverages preferred in these parts.
Right at the center of Lapa’s world-famous nightlife scene, this spacious, open-air pizzeria offers party-goers respite from the hustle-bustle of Lapa’s main thoroughfare. Diners can relax amid the old-world decor, fill up on a delicious pizza and a choppe – a draft beer – and take stock of the madness around them, with live samba overflowing from the party outside. Pizzaria Guanabara doesn’t offer fine-dining per se, but their pizzas are made firmly in the tradition first used in Brazil by Italian immigrants at the turn of the 20th century – thick, cheesy and with lots of hearty toppings. It is also open late, to refuel after wild parties long into the night.
Despite being surrounded by the ocean, good seafood is not always high on the agenda in Rio. Sobrenatural puts this right, with an extensive list of dishes featuring fish and seafood in all sorts of varieties. It’s a great place to try some Brazilian seafood dishes, particularly from the Bahian coast, with their African-inspired cuisine. Moqueca – a fish stew full of coconut, spices and fruity flavors – is a must for any visitor to Brazil and Sobrenatural offers a wide variety of moquecas, experimenting with varying flavorsome fishes and ingredients. Seafood risottos and pastas complete this impressive menu. The place itself is colorful and atmospheric, reminiscent of seaside restaurants in coastal fishing towns.
Although not a restaurant, no list of places to eat in Lapa is complete without giving the street food a passing mention – a truly Brazilian experience. As the sun sets, stalls selling innumerable varieties of food and drink begin to appear on every corner and alley. Start with the stalls under the arches of Lapa – hidden amidst the cheap hot dogs, one can find all sorts of Brazilian delicacies, such as caldos de mocotó (soup made with cow feet). Carry further on along Rua Mem de Sá and Rua Riachuelo to find barbecues on the street, or old ladies selling fried pastry pasteis. The unpredictability and informality – what’s there one day may not be the next – is all part of the beauty.