While nobody should come to Rio de Janeiro without making the tourist pilgrimages to see the Christ Statue, Sugar Loaf mountain and the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana, there are times when visitors want to get off the tourist trail and experience the city like a local.
Fortunately, you won’t have to venture too far off the beaten track to discover the spots that locals love but that remain largely off the tourist radar. For an eating and drinking experience that feels different from the norm, head away from the beaches and up into the hills of Santa Teresa on a weekend evening. Instead of joining the tourist throng that mills around the main eating and drinking strip around Largo do Guimaraes, follow the tram line up Almirante Alexandrino until you reach ‘Castelinho‘ a fairytale-esque turreted white castle. In front of the castle sits a little strip of watering holes and cafes that, while popular with locals, are largely unknown to tourists.
While the food and drink at Mike’s Haus and Bar do Bonde are tasty enough, the real reason to venture up here is to try the northeastern delicacies of Nega Teresa, who sets up stall here from Thursday through Sunday. Dressed in the white gowns and headwrap of the candomble religion, Teresa sits beneath a sparkling chandelier, adding a touch of glamour to this unassuming street scene.
Her speciality is Acaraje – a Bahian street food that sees beanflour patties fried in palm oil and split like a sandwich, to be filled with shrimp, chopped tomato, a gooey okra paste and spicy chilli (you can ask for any of these to be left out if they are not to your taste).
Pull up a seat at one of Bar do Bonde’s sidewalk tables, order a gin and tonic (this is one of few spots in Rio where you can find one at a less than budget-busting price) and place your order with Nega Teresa at her stall.
On Saturday nights, there are live samba, choro and pagode performances in Bar do Bonde, providing a wonderful musical backdrop to your culinary adventure.
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson