One of the delights of going out and drinking in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil is hitting the botecos or botequims – traditional, unpretentious neighbourhood bars. After a couple of weeks in the city we developed some favourites, the botecos and botequims we think are Rio’s best neighbourhood bars.
Lacking any kind of pretentions, these local bars range from atmospheric old joints such as Bar Bracarense to modern neon-lit places like Botequim Informal that may not have much charm but more than make up for it with friendly service, good food and great value drinks.
A favourite spot of ours is Bar Urca, a simple counter bar downstairs and restaurant upstairs, opposite the water, where locals buy their drinks and snacks and take them across the road to sit on the sea wall – the views are spectacular.
Aside from the affordable drink prices, one of the best things about these bars are the plates of hot snacks, from queijo coalha asado (roasted curd cheese) to bolinho de Bacalao (cod balls) and bolinho de quejo (cheese balls) and various other croquetas (croquettes), empadas (empanadas) and pastels (like pasties).
After so many disappointing and very expensive meals at many of Rio’s supposedly best places to dine (the ones that have appeared in the latest articles in the New York Times and the like), we gave up on restaurants and stuck to the botecos, where we always had a brilliant time.
Here are our picks of Rio’s best neighbourhood bars:
Academia Da Cachaça
Rua Conde Bernadotte 26, Leblon
A popular local place with indoor and outdoor seating that specializes in cachaça. Some of the more creative cocktails are a bit weird, so stick to straight cachaça or classic caiparinhas. The snacks are scrumptious – we loved the queijo coalha asado (roasted curd cheese).
Rua José Linhares 85, Leblon
A classic old boteco that has been around for some 60 years or so – they don’t come more local than this. The bolinho de Bacalao (cod balls) and bolinho de quejo (cheese balls) are some of the best we’ve eaten in Rio.
Av. Ataulfo Paiva 1166, Leblon
Another traditional-looking pub that has been around for about 60 years. They also serves meals, so it gets crowded inside for dinner, though locals continue to drink outside.
Rua Cândido Gaffrée 205, Urca
Our favourite bar in Rio is a very simple affair with a big counter and not much space at all to drink in the actual bar. But that doesn’t worry the locals who buy their drinks and snacks and take them over the road to socialize with friends on the sea wall. Stunning sea views!
Rua Visc Caravelas 184, Humaitá
At an intersection where there are three excellent neighbourhood bars, this brightly-lit place has some seats on the footpath outside and super-friendly staff. Order a plate of the bolinho de Bacalao (cod balls) which are scrumptious.
Cobal do Humaitá
Rua Voluntários da Pátria 446-8, Humaitá
Half a dozen bars with outdoor seating that hum with the chatter of locals in the evenings, especially on weekends and during summer. Tourists seem to like Espirito do Chopp though locals hog the plastic seats at Joaquina across the way.