10 Best Restaurants in Santa Teresa, from Budget to Blowout

Foodies visiting Rio de Janeiro should make a beeline for the breezy, beautiful and bohemian hilltop neighborhood of Santa Teresa, where the steep cobbled streets are lined with dining opportunities to suit all tastes and budgets.

There's fine French-flavored dining at Térèze, while cozy Bar do Arnaudo entices with its fair prices, vast portions of northeastern dishes, and and friendly atmosphere. Cafe do Alto is a haven for families and fussy eaters - this centrally-located Northeastern restaurant offers vegan and gluten-free goodies alongside meaty stews and sausage dishes, and kids are offered crayons and paper.  There are organic, gluten-free treats at Cultivar Brasil, while those looking for a more formal dining experience can enjoy al-fresco meals with glorious views at the delightful, somewhat hidden Aprazivel. Santa Teresa is also home to some of the best examples of the carioca boteco.

Botecos are informal bar-restaurants where the conversation and ice cold beer flow freely, and two of the city´s most inviting are the Santa Teresa institutions Bar do Gomes and Bar do Mineiro. A little farther off the tourist track, Bar do Bonde offers delicious bar snacks and a perfectly-crafted caipirinha, sometimes to the sound of live samba music. 


Santa Teresa is fast becoming the destination of choice for interesting dining options, and Espirito Santa is a firm favorite on the neighborhood's dining scene. Chef Natacha Fink has created a menu that makes good use of fresh ingredients from across Brazil, including Amazonian piranha and hearts of palm. Even the drinks list has a tropical flavor, with native fruits such as cupuacu used in place of the standard lime and mixed with cachaca (sugar cane rum) to make an interesting take on the traditional Brazilian caiprinha. The building itself, a handsome colonial building dating back to 1875, is another point in the restaurant's favour, with the small balcony providing the best seats in the house on warm evenings.

This Santa Teresa bar-restaurant was opened by a family of Spanish settlers in Brazil in 1919, when it doubled as a grocery store. The official name, Armazem Sao Thiago references this, but for decades this most inviting of watering holes has been affectionately known as Bar do Gomez in honor of the affable owner. Visually, little has changed here over the years, and it maintains a historic charm that makes it one of the best-loved botecos (bar-restaurants) in Rio. Along with an extensive list of bar snacks and nibbles, there are some good sandwiches and main meals on offer - including hearty plates of grilled meat with salad, rice, beans and fries. Wash it down with a cold draught beer or one of the 60 types of cachaca on offer.

Bar do Bonde
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson

Take just a slight detour from Santa Teresa's main tourist trail and you'll find one of the neighborhood's best value bar-restaurants. Located just a few minutes' walk (follow the tram line uphill from the main square at Largo do Guimaraes), this laid-back little bar offers an excellent range of bar snacks and main meals at prices that compare very favorably with those down the hill at Largo do Guimaraes. There's also a decent cocktail list and a seriously well-mixed caipirinha. Saturday nights see live samba, jazz and bossa nova bands draw a sizable crowd of locals - get there before 8pm to grab one of the few sidewalk tables here.


With a prime location on the main drinking and dining strip in leafy, artsy Santa Teresa, Bar do Mineiro is the focal point for the neighborhood's famously lively social scene. As the name suggests, the menu bears the culinary influences of the owner, a 'Mineiro' (native of Minas Gerais) who over the years has built up a loyal fanbase drawn to his hearty plates of meaty dishes. For a lighter snack, the portions of 'pasteis' (small, deepfried pastries filled with cheese, meat, beans or shrimp) are widely considered to be among the best in the city. But it's the lively atmosphere that is the real draw here, with locals and visitors gathering here to eat, drink and chat well into the night.

Located high on a jungle-clad hillside in Santa Teresa, Aprazivel is worth a visit for the views alone. Wisely making the most of the sweeping vistas over downtown Rio, the owners have made al-fresco dining the order of the day, with grass-roofed gazebos sitting amid lush tropical gardens visited by toucans and monkeys. At night, the scene is lit by candles and flickering fairy lights which, when combined with the views and the delicious French-Brazilian dishes on the menu, makes this one of the best spots in Rio for a romantic meal. Chef Ana Castilho has combined Brazilian culinary influences with tricks of the trade learned during her training in France, and the result is a menu of light dishes that add some chic French touches to the wealth of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and seafood available locally.

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 - whose masterwork, the Lapa Steps, lies just a few minutes' walk from the restaurant - and the accommodating staff always offer the warmest of welcomes and the speediest of service. The restaurant (it's a bar in name only) serves hearty dishes such as sundried beef with cassava, rice and beans, while vegetarians can opt to switch the meat for 'queijo coalho' - thick slabs of grilled white cheese. Exercise caution when spooning on the pepper sauce that is served with each dish, it's fiery stuff. Set meals for one easily serve two or even three, making this a cost-effective spot for couples, families and groups of friends with hearty appetites.

High on a hillside in the boho, historic neighborhood of Santa Teresa, each weekend sees Nega Teresa set up her chandelier-lit stall selling authentic Bahian acaraje (pronouced a-kah-rah-jay). These savoury treats are bean patties that are fried in palm oil and then split open and filled with shrimp, hot pepper sauce, chopped tomatoes and a gooey but delicious okra paste. Veggies can omit the shrimp, and customers can ask for as much, or as little, hot sauce as they can handle. Nega Teresa's stall is located right next to popular local hangout Bar do Bonde, whose caipirinhas make an excellent companion to this delicious street snack.

Cultivar Brazil
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson

This small, unassuming, unsigned little lunch and brunch spot is a great option for anybody with an aversion to gluten or a preference for natural, organic ingredients. Alongside a range of wholemeal sweet and savory tarts and pies and some yummy sandwiches, there are gluten-free cakes, tarts (try the palm-heart and yogurt) and a mini-store stocked with a range of pastas, biscuits and other goodies to take away. In addition, Cultivar Brazil serves unarguably the best Pao de Queijo (little cheese breads made with manioc flour), here made with organic ingredients. There's no sign above the cafe, but Cultivar Brazil opens right onto Santa Teresa's main drinking and dining strip.

Occupying a corner building on Santa Teresa's liveliest square - Largo do Guimaraes - Cafe do Alto has carved out a reputation for serving delicious dishes at fair prices, in a wonderfully colorful setting. The emphasis is on food from Brazil's Northeast, but but avoids the stodginess that sometimes weighs down Nordestino cooking. Light dishes include tapioca panckaes filled with everything from tomato and marinated tomatoes or shredded jerk beef, to sweet versions filled with fruit and curd cheese; while recommended mains include moqueca - a typical seafood stew, here adapted to include veggie friendly versions made with palm heart or yucca. There are abundant breakfast options, and the weekend breakfast buffet - which runs until 1pm - is the ideal hangover cure for anybody who partied hard in nearby Lapa the night before. Service is attentive, the decor is cheery and the cafe scores major parental brownie points for its kid-friendly menu and drawing materials.

Fine international food and equally fine views are the order of the day at this upscale restaurant in the plush confines of 5-star Hotel Santa Teresa. It's not necessary to fork out for a room here in order to dine here (in fact there's a separate entrance) and it's a major destination restaurant in its own right. The location, high on a Santa Teresa hillside, means that seats near the windows offer gorgeous views down to Guanabara Bay, and the creative menu has a French touch, while embracing local ingredients (fish dishes are a strong suit) and pan-continental flavors.


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.