Where to Eat in Rio's Hippest Food Neighborhood: Botafogo
Cold caipirinhas, obscure Amazonian fruit, perfectly puffy pão de queijo... So goes the classic "to-eat" list of the first-time traveler to Rio. But biodynamic orange wine and naturally leavened sourdough? Until recently, an enlightened epicure in search of certain rarefied pleasures would have needed a plane ticket to Paris or San Francisco.
Legendary for its dramatic coastline, soccer rivalries, and street samba, Rio hasn't exactly been on the front lines of the global culinary vanguard (no offense to those starchy-springy orbs of baked cheese and cassava we devour by the basketful with our daily cafezinho). But our sources tell us that change is afoot; the Carioca foodscape is looking more and more interesting, at least in one increasingly detour-worthy part of town.
Thanks in part to its favorable transit access and affordable rents, the long-overlooked neighborhood of Botafogo is emerging as the city's de facto food incubator, luring renegade chefs and new-school entrepreneurs eager to explore beyond the boteco. Take it from an expat culinary correspondent who roasts his single-origin Brazilian coffee beans at home: "In recent years, a host of exciting new experimental bars and restaurants have opened in this laidback corner of Rio's South Zone," says Gyde & Seek's Tom, having experienced firsthand the area's delicious evolution. "Largely owned and run by pioneering young Brazilians who are keen to break away from traditional business models, these new ventures are drawing a hip creative crowd hungry for something new."
Ready to meet the bakers and baristas responsible for Botafogo's rising cool quotient? We scored you a copy of Tom's must-eat cheat sheet to the flavor-forward bairro. Spoiler alert: you're in for good Brazilian wine (for real, though!) and properly-pulled espresso.
1. The Slow Bakery
"This über-cool bakery specializes in fantastic sourdough bread, which is made locally using a 30-hour fermentation process. The results are worth the wait! As well as selling a variety of whole loaves, the bakery serves delicious snacks and main courses (many featuring more of their lovely baked goods) and a rare thing in Rio: seriously good coffee."
The Slow Bakery; São João Batista 93
"Visitors to Rio are often dismayed to find that decent wine is in short supply, many restaurants offering only a handful of overpriced Argentine or Chilean bottles. Thank goodness we have WineHouse to show us the way! This charming neighborhood wine bar has an extensive selection of excellent imported and Brazilian wines, a good number of which are served by the glass. The menu of tasty snacks, charcuterie, and sharing plates makes it the perfect stop for the visiting wine lover."
WineHouse; Rua Paulo Barreto 25
"Located a short walk from Botafogo metro station, Marchezinho does triple duty as a bar, restaurant, and grocery. Although you may detect a French accent to the menu (the owners are indeed French), the kitchen uses exclusively Brazilian ingredients and supports dozens of local artisanal producers."
Marchezinho; Voluntários da Pátria 46
Tom is a professional culinary scout and Gyde & Seek's go-to arbiter of taste in Rio. No one knows more about artisan cachaça producers or authentic açaí counters. Looking for Brazilian Wine 101? Wondering how to get from breakfast to barzinho? Just ask Tom. He'll guide you straight to the most distinctive and surprising Carioca flavors.