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Rio's food scene is ever-evolving, and many restaurants have successfully elevated native Brazilian fare beyond the rice and beans staple that characterize this cuisine. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the five best places to eat in Rio de Janeiro.
1. Porcão. Visit a churrascaria (barbecue) while in Brazil to take part in a food experience unique to this country. The Flamengo location of the famous restaurant Porcão offers a reliable and appetizing menu, and has superb views of Guanabara Bay. Waiters continuously circle the restaurant with expertly grilled skewers of steak, sausage, pork and chicken (along with a Brazilian favorite, chicken heart), and slice it onto your plate at your table. Along with the rotating selection of meat, there are huge buffet tables you can visit to load up on dozens of kinds of salads, seafood, hot entrees, rice and pasta dishes, fruits, and deserts. You’ll want to arrive with an empty stomach and prepare to indulge in this all-you-can-eat extravaganza of Brazilian cuisine.
2. Zazá Bistrô Tropical. This charming yet funky restaurant in the Ipanema neighborhood is the total package, which is rare in Rio — beautiful décor, sophisticated ambiance, attentive service and gourmet East-meets-West fusion cuisine. Choose from tables on the French-colonial porch, or upstairs, which offers more intimate seating with low lighting, and cushions and pillows that echo the Middle Eastern notes on the menu.
3. Bar do Horto. An unknown gem set on a quaint street next to the towering palm trees of Jardim Botânico, this bar and restaurant serves up consistently delicious Brazilian classics such as bobó de camarão, a prawn stew served in a roasted pumpkin, and acarajé, fried chickpea balls filled with a tasty mixture of shrimp, onions, tomatoes. The eclectic décor inside this converted early 20th-century house consists of Chinese lanterns, whimsical kitsch and knickknacks, and bright string lights. Live bands play Brazilian music Wednesday through Saturday nights.
4. Aprazível. Tucked away on a hilltop in the Santa Teresa neighborhood, Aprazivel is perhaps worth the visit more for its incredible tropical ambiance than for the food. Perched above downtown Rio, the restaurant’s rustic wooden tables spill out over several levels of a colonial mansion, amongst a tropical garden with thatched-roofed patios and exotic palms and flowers as tableside décor. The fare is a contemporary take on Brazilian cuisine, and the grilled fish a perennial highlight, doused with orange sauce and accompanied by coconut-scented rice with cashews and baked pineapple.
5. Bar Urca. As with many restaurants in Rio, the views at Bar Urca play almost as large of a role in the meal as the food itself. A local favorite along the water in the neighborhood of Urca, this traditional Brazilian pub boasts amazing views of Guanabara Bay and the impressively long bridge that spans it. During the week after work and on weekends, the section of the seawall outside the restaurant fills with young people having cold beers while digging in to bar snacks like cod balls and fried shrimp pastries. If you'd rather sit inside at an actual table, sit upstairs by the window and order the seafood stew and a bottle of Brahma beer.