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Although fine dining worth its price can be hard to come by in Rio de Janeiro, the city’s food experiences are wonderful and unique (and often inexpensive), and make up an important part of Brazilian culture. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ favorites.
1. Açai. This superfruit comes from the Amazon jungle, but is shipped all over Brazil (and these days, the world). The dark purple berry is blended with ice and guarana (a sweetening syrup) to make an amazing cross between frozen yogurt and a smoothie, or what the Brazilians call simply açai. Order it blended with bananas, strawberries, or your choice of fruit, and top it off with granola. Most people become hooked after their first one — it's just that good. You can get açai at any of the ubiquitous juice (sucos) stands in Rio.
2. Beachside food stands. While basking in the glory of Rio's urban beaches, you will be offered all kinds of snacks and drinks — don't hesitate to try them. Have one of the beach umbrella vendors cut open a large green coconut for you; the faintly sweet water inside does wonders to hydrate while you soak up the sun. Or, enjoy a refreshing cup of matte leao (a sweet black tea) that vendors sell from large metal barrels. Also try queijo coalho, hunks of cheese that vendors grill right on the beach in front of you on mini portable grills.
3. Feijoada. Go to Casa Rosa in the neighborhood of Laranjeiras to try feijoada, the Brazilian national dish. The quaint restaurant serves a heaping plate of the black bean, beef and pork stew over rice, with savory, garlicky couve (chopped collard greens). After dinner, enjoy the live samba band that plays on the large outdoor patio, where you will actively wonder how every Brazilian can move their feet that fast to the beat of the music.
4. Churrascaria. Brazilian barbecue is not for the faint of heart — or for vegetarians. Servers walk around the churrascaria with large hunks of meat on skewers, which range from familiar cuts like prime beef, pork sausages and marinated chicken to the more exotic (think chicken hearts). Eat as much as you want, and accompany it with plates of food from the buffets loaded with salads, rice, noodles, sushi, seafood, fruits and dessert.
5. Sucos stands. On nearly every corner of the city, you will find a one-room, open-air shop with a counter displaying every possible type of fruit (including several you may have never laid eyes on before) and several types of meat- and cheese-filled pastries. The fruits are for making sucos (juices) and the pastries are called salgados. Nothing is more of a staple in the Rio diet than picking up a fruit smoothie and a salgado for a quick meal or a snack.