The Cariocas — those fortunate enough to live in what they call the Marvelous City — may have it all. It's one of the world's most dramatic settings, sprawled between bay, jungle-covered mountains and fabulous beaches, with fine weather and the music, food and drink to go with it all. Travelers would be painfully missing the soul of the city without tasting a mixture of her cuisines — elegant European-influenced dishes, heavier, more South American plates and some of the world's finest meats.
Prices ($) indicate the cost of a three-course dinner per person, including tax and tip. Drinks excluded.
$ — under $20
$$ — under $35
$$$ — under $50
$$$$ —50 & up
Where to Dine in Style
Rua Aprazivel, 62 Rio Santa Teresa Brazil
Tucked away on top of a jungle-clad hillside, a 20-minutes taxi ride from the Copacabana, Aprazivel is the pièce de resistance of Rio's hipster neighborhood Santa Teresa. The sweeping vistas over downtown Rio top it all off while every dining nook has its special charm. Roasted and grilled meats, fish and seafood represent Brazil's culinary crescendo, organic local ingredients deriving from land or sea dominate the gamut of flavors. This place is a little far from the beaten track, so call ahead. Get a cab and have your cell phone map at hand as not all drivers know the location.
Rua Conde de Iraja, 191 Botafogo
One of the most celebrated restaurants in Rio, Lasai — which means 'tranquility' in the Basque language — opened in the Botafogo district in 2014 in a historic house from 1902. Needless to say, the mixture of old and new is worth a visit alone, not to mention the terrace view of Christ the Redeemer, the city's most famous landmark. To the credit of chef Rafa Costa e Silva, the food here does not play second fiddle to the setting. Order the ovo, the restaurant's signature dish of coconut-yam cream with egg yolk and beef jerky strip. And don't forget the wine and cocktails, which are among the best in Brazil.
Rua Custodio Serrao, 62
On a side street in a charming small house in the Jardim Botanico neighborhood, the food here is perhaps the city's best example of a mixture of French basics and Brazilian innovation. It's very well curated with local ingredients. Reservations are essential.
Belmond Copacabana Palace, Avenida Atlantica
Facing the swimming pool at Rio's most famed hotel, across the boulevard from the sands of the Belmond Copacabana and seating just 60, this is the loveliest dining room in town, not to mention the exceptionally comfortable adjoining bar area. It's another spot where reservations are a must. Shining with fish and pastas, Italy — not surprisingly — is master here, dominating dishes such as the gnocchi alla romana with lobster and shellfish sauce.
Estrada do Joa, 136-Sao Conrado
There's just nothing for carnivores exactly like eating meat in Rio at a churrascaria rodizio style, and this is the best. Hot, sizzling grilled meats come off the coals and are served on skewers at the tables, and they keep coming 'til you drop, or at least give a negative shake of the head. In this large, open room floored with tiles and trimmed with woods, the chicken, sausages, filet mignon and pork loin are truly a festival for the palate. There's also the classic Brazilian caipirinha drinks mixed at the tableside, and a superb salad bar. Weekend afternoons may be the best time for this spectacle.
Visconde de Caravelas, 184
On a narrow street in the middle-class Botafogo neighborhood, this is a real taste of a typical Brazilian menu. Nearly every dish comes with black beans and rice, none better than the peixe a Brasileira, a whole fish in a tomato sauce with traditional piron made from manioc. The kitchen is especially good for carne seca a Paulista, meat with kale, sausage and a fried egg. It's a fine spot to rub elbows with students and local residents while quaffing a cold draft beer. Forget reservations.
Avenida General San Martin, 1227
It's elegant and subdued and, even though there is a restaurant upstairs, the bar is the thing. On a residential street in the upscale Leblon neighborhood, this has long been a haunt for the Leblon and Ipanema sophisticate. The small bar and rich wood and leather lounge area lend themselves to the most gracious of Brazilian service. Drinks here are typically Rio, meaning a minimum of two ounces, and the presunto and cheese on the back bar are perfect to hold you off until a late-night Brazilian dinner.