Sociable Spots for Group-Friendly Dining in Lively Rio de Janeiro

Much of Rio de Janeiro´s social scene centers around food, and the city is well geared up towards large groups of diners. 

As Brazilians rarely drink on an empty stomach, most bars serve food - from petiscos - (bar snacks) to hearty, alcohol-absorbing full meals, and most botequims (bar-restaurants) are perfectly happy to host families with young children as well as large and lively groups of friends.

Among the best-loved of Rio's food-focused botequims are Leblon institution Jobi, famed for its excellent bolinhos de bacalhau (seasoned cod and potato balls) and the lively Bar do Mineiro in Santa Teresa, which serves hearty traditional plates from the Minas Gerais region of Brazil as well as some delicious small eats such as pastries stuffed with cheese, shrimp, or black beans. 

Our top pick is trendy Spanish restaurant Venga, in Leblon, which led the charge for Tapas restaurants in Rio, and politely suggests that patrons turn off their phones and talk among themselves. Nearby Stuzzi offers Tapas-style dining with Italian small plates.  Also in Leblon, La Calaca does Mexican food - and tequila-based drinks - with aplomb.

For something more traditional, head to Porcao for a meat feast that can be stretched out over an entire afternoon or evening - here waiters bring cut after cut of freshly grilled meat to your table, while an immense buffet of salads and sides ensures vegetarians won´t go hungry.

Rio de Janeiro is gradually developing its own cafe culture, too, and Cafecito is one of the best options in town with its leafy, ornate terrace, good strong coffees and cocktails and delicious light meals. 

Based on the Italian concept of 'Stuzzichini' - small plates of light bites for sharing over drinks, similar to Spanish Tapas or Greek Mezze - Stuzzi brings together deliciously moreish finger foods and dangerously drinkable cocktails to create...  Read More

Whether you're a staunch vegetarian, a health-food enthusiast or even a carnivore who has tucked into one steak too many, this cosy corner restaurant in Leblon is just the ticket. Healthfood and organic eating is a growing sector of Rio's...  Read More

In a neighborhood where many bars are formal and a little stuffy, Jobi is a breath of fresh air. The early-opening, late-closing Leblon institution is a fine example of the Rio boteco - botecos being informal bars serving food and good company...  Read More

Chico & Alaide
Photo courtesy of Chico & Alaide

The Brazilian bar snack, when well made, is a beautiful thing, and those at Chico & Alaide are among the best in Rio. The pair behind the bar have created a 'petiscos' (snacks) list that is so extensive it is hard to know where to begin, but...  Read More

It doesn't look like much, but this unpretentious little spot in leafy Santa Teresa offers vast portions of delicious Northeastern Brazilian food at more than reasonable prices. The walls are hung with paintings by Chilean artist Selaron -...  Read More

This funky Mexican restaurant at the heart of Rio's trendy Leblon neighborhood serves food to satisfy any hankering for Mexican food, as well as immaculately-presented margaritas and other cocktails that taste as good as they look. The food is...  Read More

Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson

This appealingly laid back bar at the heart of Santa Teresa's nightlife strip is a long-standing favorite among locals and visitors alike, with its late opening hours making it a top spot for end-of-the-night drinks. Prices are reasonable, the...  Read More

Aimed squarely at North Americans with a hankering for taste of their homeland, Gringo Cafe does a roaring trade in US DIner-style favorites such as hash browns, bottomless coffees, pancakes, waffles and French toast, as well as delicious cakes,...  Read More

The first tapas bar to arrive in Rio is still considered to be the bestin town. Venga serves the traditional Spanish-style small eats in a relaxed atmosphere that lends itself perfectly to socializing over a jug of sangria. Spicy sausages,...  Read More

This popular steakhouse 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...  Read More


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.