One of the things I love most about travelling the world is discovering the variety of foods available in different countries. While the food in Brazil isn’t the most exotic food in the world, it definitely does not disappoint!
The very first thing I noticed about the food in Rio is that the people here have an absolute love-affair with Steak and Garlic! Everyday around 11:00 am the smell of roasting meat and garlic starts wafting through the streets and into the apartment windows. For me, this is practically heaven on Earth. I love steak and I love garlic, so for me, food has been a big winner here in Brazil. The best thing is, you can pretty much eat like a king and not break the bank because food is so cheap here! I’ll give some examples of my favorite places to eat and you can see for yourself the variety and great pricing that Rio has to offer.
Food By The Kilo: This is a very cool idea for a buffet and it is PERFECT for those of us training hard on the mats everyday. “Comida por kilo” is much like a traditional buffet except that here you pay by the weight of the food you put on your plate. Now, this was confusing to me at first. The first time I went into a “Por Kilo” I had this strange misconception that it was like a Chinese buffet or one of those “American Family Style” all-you-can-eat buffets. I grabbed my plate and started filling it up with a little of everything. When I had something of everything and there was still room on my plate, I put some more stuff on it! I had to admit to my wife, later, that I had gotten confused and thought it was an “all you can fit on your plate in one-go” type of buffet…which is not at all true.
Here is how it works:
Walk in and go straight to the buffet. Grab a plate (they are all the same and they have a known weight – you will never pay for the weight of the plate ). Put just as much food as you think you will eat. They generally have a good selection of salad, vegetables, carbs and proteins.
Once you have what you think you will eat, just walk up to the scale (the table top style) and give your plate to the attendant. They will weigh your food and give you a slip of paper with the weight written on it. Tell them what you would like to drink and have a seat anywhere you would like (they will bring you your drink.) If you realize you didn’t get enough food and want seconds: no problem, just take your slip back to the buffet grab another plate and repeat.
Now, here is why I LOVE the “por kilo” restaurants and why they are PERECT for hard-training Jiu-Jiteros. Grab your plate and walk past all of the salads, veggies, rice, potatoes, etc. Stop in front of the meat (proteins), load up! Most buffets will have a selection of grilled, roasted, fried and baked chicken, various cuts and preparations of beef like maminha, and roast beef stew, etc. So, after a hard training session I can load up on high quality proteins and not have to pay for the Salad, fries, and side of rice that would come with an order in a normal restaurant! Win!
Right now, cost ranges from around R39 -R49 per kilo which, at the time of writing is about $10.25 – $12.90 US/kilo (for Americans that is about $4.50/lb.) I normally run up a tab of around $4.75 before drink, which means, after a hard two hours on the mat I can devour a little over a pound of solid protein for less than $5.00 US. You gotta love that 🙂
Street-side Restaurants: These are another favorite of mine. These differ from a “normal restaurant in that they normally have all their tables and chairs on the sidewalk and don’t usually have much, if any, interior space; just a small counter and a kitchen somewhere in the back. These are an even cheaper option than “Por Kilo” except you don’t get the option of selecting 100% meats 🙂 But, pound-for-pound, this will be one of the cheapest (and still delicious) food options in Rio. The menus will be a poster printed and posted on a sign board and will consist mainly of, you guessed it: meats. Grilled chicken, grilled steak, even grilled horse steak (which I have’t gotten around to trying). Don’t speak Portuguese? No problem, just walk to the poster and point to the steak 🙂 My favorite meal from the place across from my apartment (Hyper-Mate, Corner of Rua Prado Jr. and Nossa Senhora De Copacabana) is the grilled flank steak (pictured) which runs R14.99 (about $4.00 US) and comes with a 10-12 oz steak, side of fries, side of spaghetti (Brazilian style), side of black beans, and a side of white rice. It is a MASSIVE amount of food for the money and I have NEVER been able to eat it all in one sitting.
These places are all over Rio and you just can’t possibly miss them. Walk any street in the Copacabana and they will be lining both sides. A great option when you are out on the go, shopping, coming back from the beach, or on the way home from training. Quick, cheap, delicious!
Food on the Beach: This a pricier option for eating but it can really be worth it for its convenience. The beach is the undisputed “King of the Social Circuit” on weekends, especially during the summer. Thousands of people just hanging out in the sun, swimming, surfing, playing volleyball, futebol, frescobol, and just having a great time. I am lucky enough to live just one block from the Copa, so it is pretty easy for me to head back to the apartment, whip up some grub and then head right back out, but for a lot of people this is a major inconvenience. There are two ways to eat on the beach (and don’t worry, it is 100% normal to straight up eat lunch in your thong bikini or Sunga).
- Walk up to the promenade and sit down at one of the MANY beach bars / restaurants. These are open air places selling drinks, coconuts, and full menu lunches and dinners. They are a little more expensive than the sidewalk restaurants but, obviously, much more convenient and the view just can’t be beat! Here you can order anything from a sandwich and fries, to a grilled steak dinner (depending on the restaurant). You’ll pay somewhere between R20 – R40 ($6 – $11 US) for a sandwich to a full dinner and caipirinhas will cost between R7 – R10 (they tend to get cheaper as you head toward posto 6 and away from Posto 1). I have only eaten at one of these places, but the menus appear to be pretty similar all down the beach.
- Let the food come to you! Vendors will be coursing the beach all day long. There is almost nothing you can’t get while sitting on the beautiful Copacabana sand!
Everything from Caipirinhas, grilled shrimp, Arabian sandwiches, roasted nuts, to sunscreen, t-shirts, draft beer, sodas, everything… Everything will cost a little bit more for you this way, these guys essentially bill in a service fee but not a lot and, why not, they are trudging the sand all day long. This is a very convenient way to hit the beach on a Sunday and get a full days worth of vitamin D therapy. I absolutely love letting the sun be my sauna and working the aches out of my Jiu-Jitsu muscles while people watching on the Copacabana!
What article on food in Brazil would be complete without talking about:
The Original Brazilian Steakhouse! Back home, my team at the Ohio Combat Sports Academy gets together at least twice a year to make a team event of going out to Rodizio Brazilian Steakhouse. Who doesn’t love the concept? A dozen or more types of finely spiced, grilled or otherwise prepared meats brought to your table in an infinite revolving selection and served to you for as long and as much as you want! Well, here in Brazil, it is no different! I was really curious if it would be different here in Brazil versus the US, but it turns out it is pretty much the same, with one big exception: The Price! Thanks to the exchange rate It cost about $21 US each for us to gorge ourselves (okay, I gorged, my wife showed dignity in her restraint).
In the U.S., the Brazilian Steakhouse will run you about $40.00 US, so that is about half-price. We chose the “Carretao” churrascaria in Ipanema based on the recommendation of our landlord but there is also a “Carretao” and several other churrascarias right here in the Copacabana. Thanks to our Metro card though, it was no big deal to make the trip to Ipanema. The Churrascaria is really a “Must do” when visiting Brazil, IMO.
Just need a quick snack? No problemo! Just stop by one of the MANY sorveterias and pick a couple hundred mils of ACAI! (also available on the beach from those vendors I mentioned). Acai is the famed Brazilian “Super-fruit” touted as the all-natural, age-defying, energy giving wonder berry! I don’t know about all that but it is high in ant-oxidants and tastes pretty damn delicious! Here in Rio you will find Acai in the form of a sherbet (Sorbet, or sorvete). It is a dark purple color and when I had my very first taste my first thought was “Who put the cough syrup in here”?
But, then the after-taste came and I was hooked. I really can’t describe the overall flavor of this stuff but I can say that the more I ate, the more I wanted it! This is normally served with toppings like granola, strawberries, bananas or a combination of all of those. A small 300 ml bowl will run you around R7.00 (about $2.00 US).
Late night snack while sitting on the couch watching “Fight Night”? Cool, just grab a pack of your favorite potato chips. Here in Brazil they have flavors like Ruffles brand “Churrasco” (Grilled meat flavor) or Lays Brand “Picanha” (a special grilled meat flavor)! Remember when I said Brazil has a love affair with meat? I wasn’t kidding! I am a junk-food kind of guy and I really liked the Ruffles Churrasco, but then I discovered those Lays Picanha and mmm, mmmm!
Okay, I think I could go on forever about the food here in Rio de Janeiro, but I hope this article gives you an idea of just how well (and cheap) you can eat here. Just don’t think that it’s gonna be easy to make weight for that upcoming tournament! I routinely grill up filet mignon for lunches for my wife and I because I get it for just $5.00 U.S. per pound (That’s cheaper than hamburger back home!) So, if you are considering coming to Rio to train…don’t be scared off by the talk of how expensive it is here. Sure it can be, if you always go out to eat at the Copacabana Palace Hotel restaurant, but you can definitely eat GREAT for a budget price!
*Pro-tip: My wife and I are actually eating this well for LESS than it cost us to eat in Mexico, which I thought would be one of the cheapest places in the world for food!