What has become an essential super food on the health scene, has in fact been an everyday staple for generations in Brazil. In the north, it is traditionally prepared in its rawest form producing a bitter taste; in Rio it is often mixed with syrup or sugar to sweeten it up. Here are some of Rios’ best places to try acai.
Set in the heart of bohemian neighbourhood Santa Teresa, Cultivar holds the quasi-official title of one of the best acais in Rio – or at least, that’s what the locals and visitors will say. Served in large portions and made using organic ingredients, Cultivar manages to keep the health appeal of acai as well as its rich flavours.
Amazonia Soul brings a slice of north Brazil to Rio with various regional dishes from the Amazon, including acai. It steers clear of sweetening the acai with additional syrup and is a healthier alternative to the many acais found at the corner juice bars. Here it’s considered the real deal, yet it is one of the most expensive ones in the city.
To try the traditional acai from the north of the country, head to Tacaca do Norte which is one of the few places in Rio that serves pure acai. Here, acai is made without sugar, guarana syrup or extra additives. It simply adds a sprinkle of organic sugar to neutralise the bitter taste of the berries. It’s one of the city’s most popular acai joints for true acai-lovers.
This 50-year-old restaurant-meets-bar in the heart of Copacabana has a long-standing reputation for its authentic dishes inspired by Amazonian cuisine. Its acai has won local and tourist hearts for decades and never strays from the traditional method of making pure acai with no artifical guarana syrup or additives. It comes served with classic tapioca flakes for a welcome additional texture.
Tucked into a hidden street in Leme, Natu Sucos serves the typical Rio acai which is much sweeter than its northern counterpart. Yet this venue manages to get the sweet balance just right and keeps it healthy by sweetening it with plenty of fruit instead of buckets of sugar. Typical additional fruits are strawberries and bananas, but off-the-menu choices include passionfruit and raspberry.
A trip to Shopping da Gavea shopping mall should end in a Gavea Garden Bistro, a cozy bistro that serves typical coffee shop foods all made with natural ingredients. The acai maintains its health properties with no artificial flavours and optional granola, melon, strawberries or banana as an extra. The portion size is huge and can easily replace lunch.
With at least one Bibi juice bar in every neighbourhood in Rio, coming across one isn’t much of a tricky task. Acai here is delicious and comes in huge portions, although you may experience a sugar buzz soon after. Servings come with optional extras such as fruits, nuts, granola, honey, protein powder and various other choices.
Locals claim the taste of the acai here is near to that of the original taste from the north. Made with pure acai and only natural sweeteners, the acai keeps its true flavours and is still healthy. Ask for extra granola for an additional crunch or some sliced strawberries for some sweeter notes.
Based outside the usual tourist destination in Barra da Tijuca, Porto do Sabor is locally acclaimed as one of the best acais in the area. It’s not all idle gossip either; the cafe sells more than five tonnes of acai per month. In addition to their trademark acai, they serve various sandwiches, crepes and natural juices.
A rustic design with tropical decorations creates a fitting environment for a Rio based restaurant. The varied menu at Balada Mix serves a range of health food options, including acai that is organic and chemical free.