Brazil is synonymous with a good chopp – cold draught beer is taken so seriously here that refrigerators mark the below freezing temperatures on the outside. Luckily a good chopp is easy to find at just about any boteco; these neighborhood bars populate almost every street corner in the Vila Madalena neighborhood, lined up with charming décor and samba playing in the background. The bars on Rua Aspicuelta are especially packed on the weekends, with Paulistas spilling out into the streets as they munch on the greasy bar food with endless chopp and plenty of colarinho (beer head). Classics in the neighborhood include São Cristovão (Rua Aspicuelta, 533) covered in soccer memorabilia, Posto 6 (Rua Aspicuelta, 646), its name an homage to the actual Posto 6, a hot spot on the beaches of Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro, and José Menino (Rua Aspicuelta, 596) a two-floor samba-playing, traditional boteco with delicious grilled meat and of course chopp.
The staple of all street fairs (feira) in São Paulo is the pastel: six inches of fried pastry dough goodness with your choice of filling. For the ultimate pastel, Pastel de Maria at Feira do Pacaembu (Open Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays) takes the gold star, having twice won best pastel in São Paulo with mouth watering fillings. Make sure to have the meat pastel or try the camarão com requeijão (shrimp with Brazilian cream cheese) and then drink a caldo de cana (sugar cane juice) mixed with lime or pineapple juice to seal the deal.
Experience what it’s like to visit a casa da vovó (Brazilian grandma’s house). At La da Venda, reminisce about the simpler days with café coado (drip coffee), pão de minuto (scones), and homemade cakes. The highlight is their snowball sized pão de queijo or cheese balls, so cheesy and fluffy that if you love them enough, you can even take some frozen ones back home. The café has some outdoor seating and a shop where you can buy old school pots and pans, retro drinking glasses, and beautiful homemade bolos (Brazilian cakes). Bolo de cenoura (carrot cake topped off with Brigadeiro frosting) is an especial favorite.
There are many upscale restaurants to visit in São Paulo, but few manage to capture the Brazilian ethos as well as Maní does. Maní, short for Manioca, an indigenous word adopted by the Portuguese for Cassava, is a cozy, unassuming space. The natural light and rustic interior leads to a relaxed ambience where you can focus on the true highlight, Brazilian dishes with high quality ingredients. Try the peixe a baixa temperatura no tucupi, fish cooked in a sauce from the juice extracts of the cassava root, or the falsos tortéis, a pasta dish that replaces the pasta with pupunha, the name for the large Brazilian heart of palm. If you are feeling less adventurous there are also many prato feitos (PFs) available during the week for lunch, which are just as delicious and less expensive.