The hilltop Rio de Janeiro neighborhood of Santa Teresa is known for its bohemian, artsy set of residents, as well as its lively bars and handsome colonial mansions. And for decades, it was also the home of the late, infamous Great Train Robbery thief Ronnie Biggs, who spent decades in exile in Rio before his return to the UK in 2001.
While living in the neighborhood, Biggs could often be spotted conducting interviews, or just enjoying a drink, at the German-owned bar-restaurant Mike’s Haus.
Biggs may no longer be on the scene, but the bar continues to bring in large numbers of locals and out-of-towners, who are attracted by the cozy atmosphere, hearty German food and excellent range of imported beers.
The original Mike's Haus lies a little off Santa Teresa's main tourist trail — Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson
Not to be confused with the spin-off bar-bistro Mike’s Haus Imbiss, which anchors a corner of Santa Teresa’s main drinking and dining strip close to Largo do Guimaraes, the original Mike’s Haus is located some five-minutes’ walk from the touristic center, along the tram lines (as of this writing, the famous Santa Teresa tram has been out of service since an accident in 2011, with works ongoing to restore it) on a little strip of bars, restaurants and shops that also includes Bar do Bonde and, on weekends, northeastern Brazilian food from Nega Teresa.
The bar was opened in the 1990s by the Bavarian-born owner Mike, who still runs the informal tavern today.
Take a seat at the shaded outdoor patio on a hot afternoon or balmy evening, or head indoors on a cool night to enjoy an atmosphere that calls to mind a British pub – there's something pleasantly bewildering to the senses about eating German food in a pub that feels like a British village pub – before stepping out onto the streets of tropical Santa Teresa.
The food itself will please anybody who likes traditional German cuisine: frickadellen, schnitzel and sauerkraut are all present and correct, along with several types of authentic German sausage, a crowd-pleasing potato salad and an enormously popular apfel strudel, which is served warm with ice cream.
The portions are huge, and prices are cheap for the neighborhood, giving this a feel of an off-the-beaten-track foodie find.
There are wines and cocktails on the drinks list, but it’s the beers that are the biggest draw here. With Erdinger on tap and German beers by the bottle – alongside more accessibly priced Brazilian brands – there’s plenty to keep cerveja-lovers happy.
Occasional live music performances on the weekends lend a lively atmosphere to proceedings, and the outdoor patio is packed on weekends, when locals flock to eat and drink here and at the neighboring bars.