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.
Recommended for Ipanema’s Best Restaurants because: There’s a good reason that cariocas have a long-standing love affair with the sweet treats and coffee at Cafeina.
Lucy’s expert tip: This enduringly-popular spot now offers a range of gluten-free cakes and pastries as well as veggie and vegan savories.
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.
Recommended for Ipanema’s Best Restaurants because: A temptinng wholefood buffet makes this a top choice for body conscious locals and tourists alike.
Lucy’s expert tip: Don’t feel like a sit-down meal? There’s a range of takeaway snacks too, among which the oven baked, wholemeal pasties are stand outs. The palmito (palm heart) with soft cheese version is addictively good.
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.
Recommended for Ipanema’s Best Restaurants because: The opportunity to sit in the very spot where Girl From Ipanema was written makes this a must for any music fan in Rio
Lucy’s expert tip: Singles, grab a window seat – you may spot your very own girl or boy from Ipanema passing by.
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 Ipanema’s Best Restaurants because: Enjoying a late night meal on the beachfront is one of the highlights of any stay in Ipanema.
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!
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 Ipanema’s Best Restaurants because: Amazonia Soul serves acai in all its rich, antioxidant-packed glory, undiluted by sugar.
Lucy’s expert tip: Don’t leave Rio without trying this unique berry, the taste is virtually undescribable – somewhere between nutty and fruity
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.
Recommended for Ipanema’s Best Restaurants because: This is the only place in town serving Brazil´s national dish every day of the week.
Lucy’s expert tip: What better way to wash down the national dish than with the national drink – the caipirinha? Here you can try it with passionfruit as well as the more traditional lime.
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.
Recommended for Ipanema’s Best Restaurants because: Yummy food and good Bloody Mary cocktails make this a good spot to start a night out in Ipanema
Lucy’s expert tip: The breakfasts – served all day – are the stars of the show 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.
Recommended for Ipanema’s Best Restaurants because: The excellent wine list and superb fresh pastas make this often-overlooked Italian restaurant one of the stars of Ipanema’s restaurant scene
Lucy’s expert tip: Bring plenty of cash – the restaurant doesn’t accept cards, and Rio’s ATMs generally close at 10pm
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.
Recommended for Ipanema’s Best Restaurants because: This is a top spot for fine dining in Ipanema, and is popular with a high-end clientele
Lucy’s expert tip: Request a private table if you want to be able to exchange sweet nothings without the distraction of other diners.
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.
Recommended for Ipanema’s Best Restaurants because: It attracts a somewhat showy crowd, but this restaurant is about substance as well as style.
Lucy’s expert tip: The lobster is a delicious – if predictably pricey – house speciality