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Rio de Janeiro Street Snacks That Every Foodie Should Try



Foodies visiting Rio de Janeiro will be in for a treat at the city's abundant street stands.

The tropical climate and culinary melting pot of influences from Africa, Europe and the Middle East mean that there is a wealth of edible delights just waiting to uncovered during a trip to Rio.

And, happily for budget visitors to the city, many of the 'must-eats' for gourmands are inexpensive and readily available street snacks. Cariocas love to eat (the super-skinny look has never really caught on in this land where ample curves are celebrated), and there is opportunity to do so at every corner. Vendors stroll the sands of the city's famous beaches selling all manner of sweet and savory treats, while the streets are lined with vendors hawking tasty culinary wares.

Make a point of trying acaraje - a fried bean patty filled with shrimp, chili and tomato that hails from Brazil's north east, and tapioca, a pancake made from manioc flour that may be stuffed with anything from sundried beef to chocolate and banana. 

Cariocas rarely drink on an empty stomach, so where there is booze, there is food. A great example is the weekend street party beneath the Arcos da Lapa in the downtown party district, where stands selling burgers, hot dogs and pizza jostle for space with those selling potent fruit cocktails. 


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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.

Recommended for Street Food because: As well as being delicious, Acai is packed with antioxidants and is a real energy booster.

Lucy's expert tip: Don't leave Rio without trying this unique berry, the taste is virtually undescribable - somewhere between nutty and fruity

Read more about Amazonia Soul →


Rua do Lavradio
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson


Visitors looking for the historic heart of Rio won't find it by the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana, but in the heart of downtown Lapa. Rua do Lavradio was one of the first streets to be built in Rio de Janeiro back in the 1770s, and its handsome colonial buildings offer plenty to offer architecture buffs. Fittingly, many of the buildings have been converted into antiques stores, while others now serve as bars and restaurants. On the first Saturday of each month, the street packs with vendors, shoppers and sightseers when the famous Feira do Rio Antigo - an antiques, fashion and arts fair - takes place.

Recommended for Street Food because: The monthly antiques fair sees vendors selling corn on the cob, coconut water, grilled cheese and other tasty street snacks.

Lucy's expert tip: The Feira do Rio Antigo is a must-visit for anyone in town on the first Saturday of each month.

Read more about Rua do Lavradio →


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.

Recommended for Street Food because: The beach vendors here offer sandwiches, grilled shrimp, grilled cheese, and ice cream among a wealth of other snacks and treats.

Lucy's expert tip: Rio's beaches are its social spaces - don't be afraid to try out your Portuguese if somebody catches your eye on the beach, just make sure they're not already accompanied before you try out your lines!

Read more about Ipanema Beach →


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Feira Nordestina de Sao Cristovao
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson


It doesn't feature on many tourist itineraries, but foodies in Rio should be sure to pay a visit to this vast market dedicated to all things Northeastern. A huge, purpose built space housing hundreds of food and drinks stalls and restaurants alongside craft and clothing stores, the 'Feira Nordestina' is a great place to sample the often-spicy cuisine from the arid north of the country. Those who find food in Rio to be a little bland may want to sample some of the many colorful chili peppers and pepper sauces here, while seafood fans are well catered for too. Eating opportunities range from quick snacks on the hoof to hearty meals served from heaving buffets, many of which serve food priced by its weight, not its type - meaning that 100 grams of lobster could cost the same as 100 grams of white rice.

Recommended for Street Food because: The numerous food stalls here provide a taste of Northeastern treats such as acaraje.

Lucy's expert tip: The fair is at its liveliest over the weekends, when it opens on Friday morning and does not close until Sunday evening. Take a taxi to and from here after dark, as the surrounding area is a little seedy.

Read more about Feira Nordestina de Sao Cristovao →


Copacabana Beach
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson


This is one of the best places in Rio to shop for keepsakes and gifts for friends and family back home - and you can do it all from the comfort of a beachfront bar. Vendors stroll along the beachfront, selling all manner of goods from replica christ statues (scaled down, of course) to hats, t-shirts and sarongs. The same vendors also sell all manner of tasty snacks, some of which are wholly virtuous - such as corn on the cob - while others, such as grilled cheese on a stick, are less healthy but equally delicious. In front of the beach, street carts sell tapioca, churros, and other indulgences.

Recommended for Street Food because: Vendors stroll along the sands of Copacabana selling everything from grilled shrimp to falafel.

Lucy's expert tip: Come in your swimwear - that way you can tan as you eat and drink.

Read more about Copacabana Beach →


Cultivar Brazil
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson


This little gem of a lunchspot at the heart of Santa Teresa is a real treasure trove of tastiness 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)in the city, here they are made with organic ingredients and are truly delicious.

Recommended for Street Food because: Cultivar Brazil serves the tastiest pao de queijo in the city. Grab a bag to eat on the hoof as you sightsee.

Lucy's expert tip: It's worth waiting until a batch of pao de queijo comes fresh out of the oven - these little golden beauties are at their best served piping hot.

Read more about Cultivar Brazil →




The name 'X Tudo' comes from the fact that Brazilians pronounce the English word 'cheese' as 'Sheesh', which is the phonetic sound for X in Portuguese. Hence, X Tudo means 'cheese with everything', and a X Tudo burger is basically a cheeseburger on steroids. Sold at street stands and vans across the city, the burgers are loaded with cheese, bacon, a fried egg, matchstick potatoes, salad, and perhaps an extra burger. Often costing just R$2, it's a quick and cheap way to recharge your energy supplies, and a popular post-drinking snack. Opt for stands that seem to be popular, as these will probably be established and the least risky in terms of tummy bugs.

Recommended for Street Food because: X Tudo Burgers are the ultimate post-drinking snack in Rio de Janeiro.

Lucy's expert tip: Vegetarians can skip the burger and still have a pretty hearty sandwich.

Read more about X Tudo Burger →




Along with the beaches, the Christ statue and Sugar Loaf mountain, another postcard-perfect image of Rio is the Lapa Aqueduct - mammoth white arches that stand in city's historic center. At night, revelers gather below the arches as a huge street party unfurls - head here on a Friday night to see Rio's party spirit at its liveliest. The area around the arches is taken over by hundreds of stalls selling all manner of tempting treats to eat and drink, from fresh-baked pizzas and beers to Northeastern acaraje and fruity-but-potent cocktails. Surrounded by bars and clubs pumping out everything from hip hop and favela funk to samba and pagode, the Arcos da Lapa are the starting point for many a memorable night out in Rio.

Recommended for Street Food because: The area around the Arcos da Lapa is packed with street food stalls after dark on weekends.

Lucy's expert tip: Head here on a Friday night for the liveliest street scene.

Read more about Arcos da Lapa →


Tapioca
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson


Made from nothing more than sieved manioc flour, tapioca is a naturally delicious food that is one of the real joys of Rio de Janeiro's street food scene. The flour (which is naturally gluten-free) is tipped into a hot pan where it forms a kind of pancake to be loaded with the filling of your choice. Popular sweet options include banana and Nutella, while savory fillings include chicken, cheese, or even sun-dried beef. Tapioca stands can be found across Rio de Janeiro, from the beaches of the Zona Sul to the sticky streets of Centro. Beware, you may quickly become addicted.

Recommended for Street Food because: Tapioca is one of the most widely-available street snacks in Rio, and is absolutely delicious.

Lucy's expert tip: Tapioca is a great option for those on wheat-free or gluten-free diets.

Read more about Tapioca →




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.

Recommended for Street Food because: Acaraje can be found across the city, but Nega Teresa's is arguably the best, and the great location is a plus, too.

Lucy's expert tip: Grab one of the sidewalk tables at Bar do Bonde and order a drink as you wait for your acaraje.

Read more about Acaraje da Nega Teresa →


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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.

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