April, 2016: Unfortunately when most people think of visiting the cities of Brazil, Rio is top of the list. Sao Paulo doesn’t get a look in because it’s thought to be too big, too dirty and too dangerous. Thankfully we got convinced otherwise and while it certainly is big, dirty and no doubt, at times dangerous, there is so much that makes up for it….not least of which is the amazing food! This is about us spending a few days finding Sao Paulo’s best eating.
We arrived in Sao Paulo somewhat bleary eyed after a 2:30am start from the Londrina bus station and, having heard plenty of scare stories about the place, were pleasantly surprised when we weren’t kidnapped, robbed or stuck for too long in traffic. Instead we had an easy cab ride into the centre of town and unpacked our stuff into our own awesome AirBnB apartment 1 minute from Paulista Avenue, the city’s main drag. Later that afternoon we went out to explore the Vila Madalena area and found a city pulsating with life.
Our first stop was the Benedito Calixto market where old and young alike danced to live samba, crispy pasteis were served fresh out of the oven and craft beer flowed freely to quench our thirst. A few, street art adorned blocks further on we had hoped to sneak into Bar Samba for a few beers. Finding it packed to the rafters, we had to settle at Filial, a little further down the road where we enjoyed a few beers and watching the parade of ‘sampas’ (Sao Paulo locals). After a while our hunger drove us to the Italian district of Bixiga and for the first time in months we feasted on authentic, wood fired pizza at Pizzaria Speranza. As the molten hot buffalo mozzarella and perfect tomato sauce from our margarita pizza blistered our tongues we couldn’t have been happier. Our first night was a good start to discovering Sao Paulo’s best eating.
For the remaining four days, finding Sao Paulo’s best eating and drinking was a big priority. Whether it was drinking fresh coconut juice in the enormous Ibirapuera park while listening to a string quartet play Coldplay covers; or, washing down squeaky fresh sashimi and bowls of steaming Ramen in the Japanese district of Libertade (Sao Paulo has the largest Japanese population outside of Japan); or, scoffing warm mortadella sandwiches while drinking ice cold ‘cerveja’ in the Mercado Municipal…we ate and drank well.
About those mortadella sandwiches…a friend from Londrina had mentioned that we had to find Bar do Mane and indulge ourselves in one of these mountainous, artery busting bread rolls stuffed with differing combinations of mortadella, pastrami, cheese, tomato etc. On arrival around 3pm we became slightly panicked when Bar do Mane was no where to be found (think it may have already closed for the day) and we had to settle on one of the many other cafes. About 45 minutes later as we lent back on our bar stool and wiped the last of the mortadella grease from our face we realised that whether it was Bar do Mane or not, it didn’t actually matter. All we had to do was follow the crowds of locals, loosen the belt and hook in. Another highlight of Sao Paulo’s best eating had been found.
Without doubt though, the highlight of our quest for Sao Paulo’s best eating was a visit to Casa do Porco not far from the Republica metro station in the centre of town. Our AirBnB host told us about this relatively new hot spot which translates literally as the ‘House of Pork’ where surprise, surprise, the only thing on the menu is pork, pork and more pork. We knew we had to check it out. While it was a bit of a splurge on our backpacker budget, our degustation of the humble pig washed down with unique cocktails and perfectly matched wine was so worth the investment. From the pork tartare to the delicate pork belly sushi and the more traditional but no less outstanding slow roasted pork with black beans and other trimmings; to origami pigs which hung from the ceiling or the dried lemon wheel and juniper berry garnishes in our delicious G&T’s; everything was tasty and executed with bang on precision. We sat for 3 hours and made our way comfortably through the 13 courses of pig. At the end of it all, we didn’t even feel disgustingly full which was testament to chef Jefferson Rueda’s ability to craft the perfect, well balanced menu.
Sao Paulo wasn’t all about eating though. From the amazing MASP on Paulista Avenue and the awesome antique market underneath it; to the colourful street art scattered around; to climbing the beautiful Martinelli building (Sao Paulo’s first skyscraper) to sit on the steps of the top level penthouse and take in the urban sprawl of the city below; to taking in the various examples of Oscar Niemeyer’s outstanding modern architecture…we didn’t even scratch the city’s cultural and artistic side. Maybe we got lucky in Sao Paulo or maybe you’re not that into fantastic eating with a smattering of art and culture but if you are, you should definitely schedule some time into your Brazilian itinerary for a visit to this fantastic city.
Sao Paulo’s best eating and travel tips:
- The Municipal Market (306 R. Cantareira, Centro) is definitely worth a stopover on a very empty stomach for a Mortadella sandwich and pasteles
- For outstanding wood fired pizza and other authentic Italian fare head to Pizzaria Speranza, (1004 R. Treze de Maio, Bixiga)
- Arguably Sao Paolo’s best eating can be found at Casa do Porco, (124 R. Araujo, Republica)
- MASP had a great exhibition on when we were there and we also loved the random, interactive installations which can be found underneath the gallery building. Check our online before you go as we got in for free. (1578 Paulista Ave, Bela Vista)
- Antique markets: the Saturday market at Benedito Calixto (Praca Benedito Calixto, Jardim Paulista) and the Sunday antique market underneath MASP are a great way to spend a few ours trawling through the random bits and pieces on display.
- To escape the hectic traffic and enjoy a little greenery a stroll through the Ibirapuera park (Pedro Alvares Av, Vila Marian) is a great way to pass a few hours
- For the best views in town, head to the Martinelli building (405 R. Sao Bento, Centro) and then stroll through the old financial district