Bistros and Beach Bars - the Best Restaurants in Barra da Tijuca

Home to the Rio 2016 Olympic Village, Rio de Janeiro's Barra da Tijuca neighborhood is famous for its gorgeous beach, US-style shopping malls, its affluent residents and its many upmarket restaurants. With hotels - including Rio's first Hilton - springing up here in the run up to the August 2016 Olympics, it is set to receive more tourists than ever before, and a new metro link is improving access to the rest of the city.

Foodies in Barra have plenty of options - many of them located inside the food courts of the neighborhood's many malls - and there are dozens of grills and carveries here. Among the best are Fogo de Chao or, for Argentine-style parilla - Pobre Juan.

Beachfront kiosks such as Barraca do Pepe serve drinks and wholesome light meals aimed at the sporty crowd that frequents the beach, while at nearby Recreio das Bandeirantes, there are simple beach bars offering a laid back alternative to formal dining. For a real treat, make advance bookings and take the little boat across the river to Laguna, a seafood restaurant sitting on a little island. 


This popular steakhouse has branches across Brazil and has even expanded internationally. The Barra branch offers top quality grilled meats on a 'rodizio' basis - waiters flit among the tables, offering slice after freshly-cooked slice to diners. The main emphasis is on beef, but chicken and pork get a look-in too, and there's a lavish buffet laden with all manner of tempting sides. The set price of around R$120 includes limitless meat and as many trips to the buffet as you can manage, and vegetarians can opt for a 'Market Table' - trading the meat cuts for treats such as hearts of palm, quinoa salads and imported cheeses.

Recommended for Barra's Best Restaurants because: Fogo de Chao is often cited as the best steakhouse chain in Rio - and Brazil - and scores bonus points for catering to vegetarians

Lucy's expert tip: Make sure you come here with a hearty appetite - have a light lunch if you're coming for dinner - to make the most of the meaty treats

Read more about Fogo de Chao →

This traditional bar-restaurant in Rio is famous for its late opening hours and its alcohol-absorbing food as well as its lively atmosphere. Cervantes now has several branches in Rio, but this Copacabana was the first and is still arguably the most appealing for those looking for good food, drink and prices and a lively local atmosphere. At this branch, there's a sit-down restaurant/bar and adjoining stand-up bar, where locals gather to eat, drink and chat until the early hours of the morning. Cervantes is famous above all else for its mammoth sandwiches - to say they are generously filled would be an understatement. The steak, cheese and pineapple version is a long-standing favorite on the menu.

Recommended for Barra's Best Restaurants because: Cervantes is a much-loved Carioca institution, famous for its huge portions and friendly service.

Lucy's expert tip: Virtually everything on the menu comes with a huge slice of pineapple - if you don't like the fruit, say so when you place your order.

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One of several restaurants in the stable owned by celebrity chef Claude Troisgros, CT Brasserie feels like a chic French restaurant in the unlikely setting of a busy Barra da Tijuca shopping mall. While the interior and the menu have a Parisian flair, the terrace with its view of Pedra Bonita - the flat-topped shrouded by jungle - serves as a reminder that this is the tropics, while the menu adds a spot of Brazilian pizzazz to traditional French dishes. Classic starters include steak tartare and moules marinières, but local ingredients such as baroa potatoes and palm hearts get a look in, too. Service is relaxed, the wine list is above average, and there's an opportunity to pick up delicious cakes and pastries to take home at CT Patisserie, too.

Recommended for Barra's Best Restaurants because: This is one of the best-acclaimed restaurants in Barra, and makes a change from the neighborhood's many meat grills

Lucy's expert tip: The risotto dishes are among the most popular mains on the menu here

Read more about CT Brasserie →


This legendary beach kiosk is famous for its laid back vibe, its fresh, tasty sandwiches and snacks, and the beautiful young people that gather here. The sporty young types that frequent this stretch of Barra da Tijuca's beach gather here to tuck into light pita sandwiches and smoothies by day, while after dark music spills from the bar and the attention turns to cocktails, beers and bar snacks. The type of place where you will feel perfectly at home in beach wear at any time of day or night, Barraca do Pepe is arguably the most famous beach bar in Rio, and, while it's not fine dining, the beach setting, friendly service and good quality ingredients make Barraca do Pepe the perfect spot to eat on a sunny afternoon or balmy evening in Barra da Tijuca.

Recommended for Barra's Best Restaurants because: Barraca do Pepe is the best-loved of several beach kiosks on this stretch of sand

Lucy's expert tip: Try the mango lassi - made with fresh fruit and yogurt - for a delicious energy boost

Read more about Barraca do Pepe →

One of several surprisingly good restaurants located inside Barra da Tijuca's Village Mall, Pobre Juan is part of a highly successful chain of Argentinean steak houses dotted across Brazil. And while Brazilian grills are abundant in Barra, there's no questioning the quality of the meat at this reliably-good parilla. Diners can order several tapas-style small plates - the chorizo sausages and palm hearts come highly recommended - before tucking into meaty main dishes served with good salads and sides. Wash it down with a bottle of Malbec and try to leave room for dessert - the churros with doce de leite are an indulgent treat.

Recommended for Barra's Best Restaurants because: Pobre Juan serves excellent meat dishes in a relaxed, inviting atmosphere

Lucy's expert tip: Come here with plenty of time - service is far from speedy

Read more about Pobre Juan →

The Devassa chain brews its own beers in a range of flavors and alcohol strengths, and while their marketing is playful, they take their brewing seriously. Here you might want to try a malt beer or a --loira--(blonde) beer, which are served ice cold by draught. The food is good too - try the pizzas made with a manioc flour base - and the lively, relaxed spot makes this a great place to begin a night out in Rio. Pitchers of beer and plates of light finger food for sharing have made Devassa a byword for sociable dining in Rio.

Recommended for Barra's Best Restaurants because: Devassa is a fun place to eat, drink and socialise in Barra da Tijuca

Lucy's expert tip: There are several branches of this Carioca chain in Barra, all with the same laid back ambiance and extensive beer lists

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Some 40-minutes bus or cab ride away from Ipanema and Copacabana, this scenic beach is a popular hangout for surfers and body boarders, and the kiosks along the seafront serve simple, tasty dishes such as sardines and fries. Although packed at weekends and on public holidays, it is usually blissfully quiet during the week. The ambiance is a world away from the touristic rush and crush of Rio´s more famous beaches, and the jungle-fringed setting is nothing short of spectacular. Nearby, informal bar-restaurants offer a chance to refuel, and the atmosphere here is a whole lot more laid back and less hectic than that of central Rio. Although not far from the rush and crush of the city, it feels like a whole world away.

Recommended for Barra's Best Restaurants because: The kiosks that line Recreio beach are perfect for light bites in front of the crashing waves

Lucy's expert tip: This is the place to come if you're looking for an alternative to Barra's more formal - and sometimes rather soulless - restaurants

Read more about Praia do Recreio →


Barra da Tijuca's many shopping malls are home to some surprisingly good dining options, and Yalla is an excellent case in point. Serving tasty Middle Eastern and mediterranean cuisine with a slick contemporary twist, it's popular with vegetarians - who rave about the falafel and salads - as well as with meat eaters looking to chow down on lamb kebabs, vine leaves stuffed with seasoned rice and meat, and other Lebanese, Turkish and Greek treats. A good option is to choose a few Mezze (small plates) to start - this is one of very few places in Rio serving hummus, and the babaganoush is delicious, too. Almost all the mezze are veggie, and many are vegan, making this a good option for non-meat eaters and carnivores alike.

Recommended for Barra's Best Restaurants because: This modern Middle Eastern eaterie makes a refreshing, veggie-friendly, change from the many steak houses in Barra

Lucy's expert tip: Come here if you have a hankering for hummus - it's hard to find in Rio, and the version here is very good

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This rustic Italian restaurants has branches in Leblon and Barra da Tijuca, and is famous for its delicious home-made pasta as well as its well-stocked wine cellar. The menu has a Tuscan flavour, and many ingredients are imported from Italy. The couvert - with home made breads, olives, and cheeses - is a good place to start, and there's an enormous array of pasta choices. The stuffed ravioli dishes are among the stars of the extensive menu, and seafood dishes are good, too. The pizza here is some of the best you'll find in Rio (not a great city for pizza lovers) but the pasta dishes are really exceptional.

Recommended for Barra's Best Restaurants because: Stellar service and delicious home made pasta make Fratelli an enduringly popular option in Barra da Tijuca

Lucy's expert tip: This is one of very few restaurants in Rio to offer gluten-free pasta and pizza options

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Reaching this seafood restaurant in Barra da Tijuca is quite an adventure in itself. Once you've made a reservation, you'll be able to take a little boat across the river to a tiny island filled with palms and tropical fruit trees, and will be warmly welcomed at Laguna. Stars of the menu include the moqueca - a traditional seafood stew from Brazil's northwest - and shrimp pastries, and the bar staff can make a mean caipirinha. It's a quick but exciting trip for visitors based in Barra da Tijuca, while those based in Copacabana or Ipanema will find it well worth the 30-40 minute trip out for the experience alone. A smalll play area keeps kids happy, and means parents can concentrate of the food, drink and relaxed atmosphere

Recommended for Barra's Best Restaurants because: Laguna serves delicious seafood in a truly gorgeous spot

Lucy's expert tip: Don't forget to make reservations in advance- that way the restaurant will be able to send over the little boat that ferries diners across the river

Read more about Laguna →


Meet Lucy Bryson

Lucy is a British freelance writer living in Rio de Janeiro since 2007. While there are some things she misses about her home country, the lure of year-round sunshine has proved too powerful to resist.