Exploring the culinary delights of Brazil is part of the pleasure of any trip to Rio.
But there are times when only a good bit of home-style comfort food will hit the spot – perhaps the morning after a big night out in Lapa, or if you're traveling with kids in tow and they're hankering for some good old mac 'n' cheese or a slab of carrot cake.
The hugely popular Gringo Café in Ipanema aims itself squarely at those with a love for traditional North American food. And with its free coffee refills, all-day breakfasts and English-speaking staff, the popular spot sets out its stall as a little taste of Americana in the middle of tropical South America.
Muffins and cakes are among the crowd-pleasers at Gringo Cafe — Photo courtesy of Fabienne D.
The name itself refers to the catch-all name that Brazilians give to any foreigner. Gringo (or gringa, for females) applies to any and all non-Brazilians, but it's not usually derogatory. You're likely to hear it many times while in Rio, so don't take offense!
Pancakes and waffles with maple syrup, cheeseburgers made with real cheddar and spaghetti and meatballs will all hit the spot at Gringo Café for any North Americans longing for a little taste of home.
The small spot, a couple of streets back from the beach, is a huge hit with long-stay American expats, as well as with the types of wealthy locals who have either traveled to the United States or have an interest in doing so.
Prices may seem steep by U.S. standards, at around $10 for a burger, but they're average for the area. Plus, the cost of all those imported ingredients is not cheap in a country where the government whacks a hefty import fee on anything sourced outside of Brazil.
Gringo Café has become a popular meeting spot for gringos organizing informal business meetings or expat get-togethers, but it attracts a healthy number of Brazilians, too – many of whom come here for the famous cakes, which include a delicious velvet cake, various types of muffins, carrot cake and rich chocolate cakes. Those last ones, in particular, have become firm favorites with sweet-toothed locals.
For the grown-ups, bottomless cups of coffee and Bloody Marys have a real novelty factor: you won't find them anywhere else in town! Meanwhile, juniors will satiate any pangs of homesickness with root beer floats and milkshakes made with real ice cream and fresh fruit.
There are lunches and dinners on offer, too, but it's the breakfasts and the treats that are the really compelling reasons to stop in at Gringo Café.