A boteco is a small bar that tends to be low-key and basic, with a rustic-pub feel at the ‘top-end’ and spreads to a few plastic chairs and tables scattered out onto the street at the other. They’re a key fibre of the cultural fabric in Rio and nothing is better than a cold beer and some petiscos (Brazilian bar snacks) at your favourite boteco. We check out some of the best ones in Rio.
Bar Macaense, better known as Bode Cheiroso, Maracanã
Bar Macaense got its nickname, Bode Cheiroso, from the days when it wasn’t so well-kept and their were some bathroom issues. When you realize that Bode Cheiroso translates to smelly goat, things become clearer. Yet nowadays, whilst the nickname has stuck, that image has long gone and it’s now one of the most popular botecos in Rio, especially with football fans after a game at Maracanã. Locals to the joint will declare it has the coldest beers in Rio and it’s worth saving room for food; the pastels and sardines are hugely popular, yet the main star is the pork.
Bar, Brazilian, Wine, Beer, Cocktails, Seafood, $$$
It’s not glamorous, but then again that is the charm of botecos. The reason this makes it into the list is it’s the winner of Comida Di Buteco 2015, a fiercely competed competition in Rio held between the botecos for the best food. Boteco food is legendary and here a must-try is Xo! So Tinha Banana Verde e Rocambole do Bar which is rolled up meat with crunchy fried banana.
Santa Teresa‘s bohemian and arty vibe is captured perfectly in this friendly and popular boteco with a mix of colorful, bright paintings and old black and white photos of Rio hung up on the wall. Here it’s the caipirinhas that are the star of the show with various types such as ginger and lime, as well as lots of cachaças that are actually good enough to drink on the rocks.
Despite Copacabana‘s huge variety of restaurants, bars and botecos, Bip Bip remains one of the most famous. That’s remarkable given it’s tiny, has about 10 plastic chairs to sit on, no snacks and beer straight from the can. Yet what makes this place legendary is the roda de samba (live samba act) there which is perfectly skilled and intimately embracing. Alfredo is the owner and loved by locals and visitors alike. As you walk to pick up your can from the fridge, take a moment to admire the walls of newspaper clippings and photos which tell a story of their own.
As expected from a traditional boteco, it’s simple, basic yet gets everything else right with attentive service, icy cold beers straight from the bottle and moorish snacks. Not one night of the week is immune to the large crowds that gather there after work and getting a table is something to be celebrated. Yet the friendly, lively atmosphere makes standing up bearable, more so with a plateful of pastel de camarão (prawn pastel).
Located in upmarket Leblon, this boteco almost seems out-of-place with its simple design and basic amenities. Yet it gets full marks for service, cold beers and top boteco snacks which gives it its iconic status. Typically people spill out onto the pavement as tables fill up quickly from the people who swing by after work or after the beach. Try the bolinhos de aipim (fried cassava) and one of their icy cold chopps.
This is one of the more upscale botecos that manages to keep the traditional charm of a boteco yet in a more modern and furnished environment. Centered in Lapa‘s busiest street, this boteco gets crowded on the weekends, yet that’s all part of the fun of it. From excellent cold beers to delicious snacks (try the carne seca empanada, a dried meat little pie) and quick, friendly service, this is one of the better botecos in Rio.