10 Best Spots to Eat and Drink in Rio´s Trendy Ipanema Neighborhood

The Rio de Janeiro neighborhood of Ipanema is known as one of the most affluent areas of the city, but it's not just ritzy high-end restaurants here - in fact Ipanema caters well to foodie visitors of all tastes and budgets. 

Ipanema is known as a favorite hang out for the young and the beautiful, and there are plenty of health-food spots for those intent on keeping their beach bodies in shape - there's energy-boosting acai at Amazonia Soul, while New Natural is popular with body conscious locals and hungry tourists alike. 

Casa de Feijoada serves Brazil's national dish - a hearty meat and bean stew - every day of the week, while the super-sophisticated  Fasano Al Mare -is a high-end option serving seafood-focused Italian dishes.  

Dining at beach kiosks is one of the most relaxed ways to eat in Ipanema, and is surprisingly inexpensive if you stick to simple dishes such as fried sardines, while beach vendors stroll along the sands selling everything from grilled cheese and shrimp to low-cal sandwiches and ice-creams. 

And when in Rio, be sure to sample Acai - an Amazonian 'power berry' served frozen and topped with fruit and granola for an antioxidant-rich energy boost. Most vendors sell it stiff with sugar, but the version at Amazonia Soul is virtually sugar free. 


Given its abundant supply of coffee beans, Brazil has been surprisingly slow to pick up on the coffee bar trend, but Cafeina is one spot where caffeine boosts are more inventive than simply with-or-without-milk. Alongside a range of cappuccinos, lattes and espressos, there are some seriously tasty cakes, pastries and other goodies that make wonderfully indulgent companions to a creamy coffee. Sandwiches here are good lunch options, and the place also serves lavish breakfasts and afternoon teas. A good place to linger over a book with a good cup of strong coffee, Cafeina has truly earned a place in locals' hearts.

Located a few blocks from Ipanema beach and right next door to the strip of backpacker lodgings dubbed 'Hostel Alley', this health food store, buffet restaurant and snack bar offers a huge range of wholesome ingredients for self caterers as well as a range of eat-in dishes that are every bit as tasty as they are nutritious. While there is plenty of choice here for vegetarians, New Natural is not entirely meat-free, with low-fat chicken and fish putting in a few appearances on the menu. The buffet operates on a pay-by-weight system, and prices here, while on the high side, are reasonable for the neighborhood. There's an air conditioned lounge upstairs and a couple of sidewalk tables and chairs, making New Natural a favourite spot among backpackers looking for a quick, healthy lunch.

Garota de Ipanema (Girl From Ipanema) is the spot where the legendary bossa nova song of the same name was penned. The songwriters Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes were inspired by a beautiful girl who passed by the window of the bar as they enjoyed a beer each day, and today the spot is a major tourist attraction in its own right. The food is less remarkable than the bar-restaurant´s history, but it´s a nice place to enjoy a pizza and a beer in the late afternoon. Visitors flock here to snap photos or sit by the window and try to spot their own boy or girl from Ipanema gliding by.

Ipanema Beach

While Copacabana wins out as the most picture-perfect city beach in Rio, Ipanema is easily the more chic of the two neighboring stretches of sand. Less flanked by high rise hotels than its neighbor, Ipanema is the ideal place to while away the hours just working on that tan and watching the beautiful people glide by. There are scores of kiosks selling tempting food and drink, too. The towering twin peaks of the Dois Irmaos (two brothers) mountains frames the beach scene in spectacular fashion, and visitors will find the beach informally divided into social groups. Head to Posto Nove (Lifeguard post 9) for a young, hip crowd, or look for the giant rainbow flag if you're looking for gay-friendly sunbathing and socializing.

Acai (pronounced Ah-sigh-ee) is a 'power berry´ native to the Brazilian Amazon that has been credited with everything from boosting energy levels to preserving youthful looks. While there are any number of spots purporting to sell acai (usually served as a frozen pulp, sorbet-style), it generally comes served so thick with sugar that any extra energy you feel will almost certainly be a sugar rush. Here, the bowls are full of the real deal - the purple berry is crushed in all its anti-oxidant goodness, and you can add fruit and granola for extra vitamins should you want an extra energy boost. The restaurant doesn't just serve the sweet stuff though - this is the place to come for traditional Amazonian dishes, many of which feature shrimp, manioc, hot peppers and other native ingredients.

Feijoada - a hearty bean and meat feast - is Brazil's national dish, and no foodie worth their salt will want to leave Rio without having tried it. Traditionally served only on Saturdays, Casa da Feijoada is one spot where you can feast on this delicious stew every day of the week. Served with traditional sides such as fried 'couve' (spring greens), farofa (toasted and seasoned manioc flour) and a slice of orange 'to lower cholesterol', the feijoada itself combines all manner of cuts of meat slowcooked with beans, and is such a feast that Brazilians will usually eat it over the course of several hours, turning feiijoada-eating into a social event.

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, milkshakes and cheese burgers made with imported American cheese. The breakfasts, served all day, are manna from heaven for many homesick ex-pats, who can indulge a craving for bacon, eggs made any way you choose, while mains such as mac & cheese and spaghetti with meatballs also help to keep homesickness pangs at bay. A couple of blocks back from the beach, Gringo Cafe is also popular with wealthy locals keen to experience a taste of North America, but the English-speaking staff mean that bedazzled visitors to the city can relax and put the phrase book away here.

Fresh, handmade pasta and wood-fired pizzas are the stars of the menu at this authentic Italian restaurant located at the meeting point between Ipanema and Leblon. The restaurant specialises in dishes from the Emilia Romana region of Italy, and there's been little tampering with the traditional recipes - alongside some of the best pizzas in the city, there's a huge range of pastas, including lasagne, tagliatelle, ravioli, garganelli, tagliolini, cappelletti, tortelli e tortellini. The couvert delicious small plates to be nibbled on while enjoying something from the good - and, by Rio standards reasonably priced, wine list, and an outdoor patio allows for al-fresco dining.

This elegant seafood-focused Italian restaurant at the super-chic Fasano Rio hotel is a favorite among business people looking to impress clients, as well as with romantic types looking to impress their dates. The Phillipe-Starck designed interiors have a cool, minimalist style with plenty of crisp white linen, and diners can request a private table separated from the main room by linen curtains. There are views over the beach, and the food is high quality, if also highly expensive. Chef Paolo Lavezzini joined the restaurant from the triple-Michelin-starred Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence, and creates wonderful pastas and seafood risottos, as well as other dishes that combine local ingredients with Mediterranean flavors.

This fine dining seafood restaurant in Ipanema is a favorite among adventurous eaters, who can tuck into octopus in various forms, as well as several types of crab, moquecas (seafood stew made with coconut milk and palm oil). Sushi, seafood risottos and seafood pasta dishes are tamer choices, and there are a handful of vegetarian-friendly side dishes, but this is really a place for those who appreciate seafood in all its wierd and wonderful forms. The restaurant attracts celebrity diners, too - Jared Leto is among the big names to have been spotted there. There's a branch of Satyricon in the chic beach resort of Buzios, too.


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.