On my first bus journey in Brazil from Iguazu Falls to Florinopolis (Floripa), the bus stopped around 11:00pm at a restaurant rest stop. At the entrance to the large restaurant a young woman handed me a checklist-like paper ticket printed with the names of food items.
Inside the restaurant I surveyed the food offerings, selected a coxhina and an empanada, and the cashier marked my ticket as he gave me my food. Prior to returning to the bus, I had two tasks to complete: pay for my meal and use the restroom. Not wanting to appear to be skipping out on my check, I thought it would be best to pay at the cash register before using the bathroom.
I got in line to pay, handed my ticket to the cashier, and paid for my food items. After paying, I was required to exit the restaurant. It was not possible to turn around and re-enter the restaurant through the checkout line. I thought no problem, I will return to the door marked entrance to re-enter and use the restroom.
At the entrance to the rest stop, a young woman again handed me a ticket. In Spanish I attempted to explain that I would only be going to the bathroom and I did not need a new ticket. She prevailed. I took the ticket and went to the bathroom. In the bathroom, I threw the ticket into the first garbage I saw, which was located next to the paper towels for hand drying.
After using the restroom I attempted to exit the rest stop the same way I entered, through the entrance. The woman attending the door, who only 3 minutes ago had given me my ticket, would not allow me to leave. She continued to request my ticket. I explained using Spanish, a language that did not quite connect with her first language of Portuguese, that I only used the bathroom and did not eat. I asked if she remembered me from a few minutes ago and added that I had thrown my ticket into the garbage, but my efforts were to no avail.
I needed a ticket to exit. So, at 11:30pm, in a foreign country, where I did not understand the systems and processes or speak the language, I dug through the waste basket full of paper towels to find my blank ticket. Upon providing the woman with the ticket, I was permitted to exit through the rest stop entrance.
As I traveled more in Brazil, I learned this style of restaurant with a ticket required to enter, designated entrance and exit, and payment at the end, is standard. Once I understood this system, I found it more efficient than full service or fast casual style serving practices.
My meal at the rest stop en route to Florinopolis (Floripa). I ate a coxhina and an empanada. A coxhina is fried dough filled with meat. I prefer coxhina de frango, chicken coxhina. The dough is usually wheat based, occasionally mashed potatoes are used. This is the rest stop and checklist ticket where the above story took place.
Of all the countries I have and will visit, Brazil is the most expensive. At my hostel in Floripa, I saved money by cooking eggs with vegetables. In addition to saving money, I enjoyed preparing my food too.
Breakfast at the hostel in Floripa. The first new Portuguese word I learned in Brazil was bolo, meaning cake. Bolo is a common breakfast food and accompaniment for coffee.
At the beach in Floripa I ran into Romain, from France, a friend I made in Argentina. He was carrying banana bread in his backpack so we ate some as a beach snack.
Vivek and I drank beer and ate at a restaurant on the beach. Pastel is a typical Brazilian fried snack. The plural is pasties. As is true with much of the food served in Brazil, this food item has Portuguese influences. We also ate a white fish ceviche.
My favorite foods in Brazil are pao de queijo, cheese bread, and coxhina. Pao de queijo is a popular snack and breakfast food. On every block it is easy to find both of these foods. These snacks were eaten at the Floripa bus terminal before boarding my bus to Sao Paulo.
With new friends Stephen, Taisa, and Laura from the hostel in Sao Paulo, we dined at restaurant in Vila Madalena called Acongue Central. In Brazil, it is common for the appetizer bread basket to be optional and, if ordered, the cost is added to the bill.
After dinner we had cocktails. My caipirinha was especially strong.
Laura and I continued our night at a karaoke bar in the Liberdade neighborhood. Liberdade is an area of Sao Paulo with a significant Asian population. This bar also operated with the checklist ticket system for tracking purchases and collecting payment. We were not allowed to leave the bar until we showed our tickets that had been stamped pago or paid.
A random collection of meals I ate including a coxhina, pao de queijo, a hostel breakfast which I supplemented with fruit and scrambled eggs, and a slice of chicken quiche.
A meal on the beach in Paraty. This fresh squeezed pure mango juice was outstanding. The plate of vegetables was also refreshing.
Paraty is a former colonial town. The picturesque historical district is full of small cafes and restaurants. I ate acai ice cream one evening in this neighborhood. The breakfast spread at the first hostel I stayed at in Paraty included roasted eggplant, roasted peppers, humus and other mediterranean style foods.
The boat day trip in Paraty stopped at a per kilo lunch buffet and we sat by the water while we ate. For dinner, I joined the 3 Irish lads at a local restaurant. I ate an egg omelet and an acai with banana and granola. Acai is a typical snack in Brazil. It is high calorie, lightly caffeinated and delicious. Acai is considered a superfood and has antioxidant properties.
Coconut macaroons I bought as a snack from a street vendor in Paraty. A cheese and chicken pastel for dinner my last night in Paraty and a coxhina I ate when I arrived in Rio de Janeiro.
My hostel in Rio gave each guest 1 free caipirinha, which I drank as I answered emails. The same evening, Darren and I met for dinner. We ordered calabrese sausage and still do not know exactly what this meat was, but it was tasty. 14-Weiss is a Brazilian beer. There is a strong craft beer industry in Brazil with the city of Blumenau, near Floripa in the south of the country, leading the way. Perhaps not surprisingly, Blumenau was founded by German immigrants in 1850.
The following day, Darren and I hiked Dos Irmaos to see Rio city views. Darren made amazing sandwiches to eat at the top. When we returned to the bottom, we bought and snacked on fresh pasteis.
After hiking, Darren and I walked to meet Laura in Ipanema at a cafe called New Natural. This cafe has an extensive per kilo buffet.
For late night activities, Darren, Laura, and I reunited at Bar Astor, also in Ipanema. I started the night with an espresso and a mojito. Laura drank her mainstay cocktail, a cashew caipirinha.
After the futebol match at Maracaña, we went for drinks and small snacks called petiscos at the Lapa location of a bar called Boteco Belmonte. I drank a maracuya (passion fruit) caipirhina. Petiscos, like Spanish tapas, are hard to define. In general Petiscos served in Brazil are hearty bites of finger food that usually have meat and dough.
My local Rio tour guide, Greg, has a few go-to beach eating options including the boardwalk coconut vendors and a barraca he calls Los Uruguayos because they fly a Uruguayan flag. The Uruguayos serve excellent chicken, beef, and sausage sandwiches paired with fresh salsa. They were featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations Rio television show.
Buying caipirinhas and street food at the Pedro de Sol outdoor samba party. Each caipirinha was 10 real or about $3.33 USD.
The morning after Pedro de Sol, my day began at another one of Greg’s recommended restaurants – BB Lanches. Lanche is the Portuguese word for snack. BB Lanches is one of the many open-air, corner establishments where fresh fruit juices, sandwiches, and petiscos are served. These establishments are open close to 24 hours and are especially common in Rio. I drank a coconut milk and ate a bacon and egg (ovo) sandwich. The bacon was high quality.
A meal of hamburgers and acai with Liam and Darren at Big Polis in Leblon.
Tapas, wine not pictured, with Taisa, Laura, and Darren in Ipanema.
A decadent morning breakfast: croissants with almond filling from the Leblon bakery Talho Capixaba.
Another meal purchased from Los Uruguayos and enjoyed on the beach with Darren and Liam.
Acai at another one of my local tour guide’s recommended establishments – Natural y Sabor in Ipanema. Dinner was pizza delivery paired with Brazilian beers.
One of the plazas in Ipanema, Nossa Senhora da Paz, has a farmer’s market every Friday. I walked around the market watching people complete their daily and weekly tasks. I bought fruit and fresh grated coconut for a fruit salad.
One more food recommendation from Greg – pastel de nata (egg tart) with espresso at a Leblon bakery.
Liam and I ate our last lunch together at the per kilo restaurant New Natural. I was coming from a beach workout so a fresh coconut tasted great. The coconuts are 5 real a piece, about $1.50 USD. The servers chopped open the coconut after I drank the milk so I could eat the flesh.
Darren and I bought beer and petiscos at Bar Urca in the Urca neighborhood. We watched the sun set as we nibbled on our food and drank. These petiscos included a fish ball, mini-chicken potpie, and a beef item.
I tried the popular Brazilian soda, Antarctica. It tasted like a lemon-lime beverage and I liked it. Before leaving Rio I also drank one more coconut while people watching and ate an acai at Natural y Sabor.