Eating like a local in Sao Paulo

The benefit of visiting a city where you know people, is that you can experience food through their eyes. We ate at several places that would be frowned upon for travel, but we’ll tell you why when we get there.

Most people think of meat when they think of Brazilian food, and they’re not wrong. We got schooled on all types of beef cuts. It was interesting that whether it was a small restaurant in the mall or a tucked away gem, they all gave you options on the cut. When was the last time burger king gave you the option of flank, sirloin, or tenderloin?

The only rub is that we’re not big meat eaters, so we needed some alternative options. You’ll be surprised at some of the places we ate. They weren’t all “Michelin star” or “anthony-bourdain-blessed,” but we enjoyed it. I’m going to post the photos and number them so you can have an unbiased opinion before I tell you where it’s from. Enjoy and let me know what you’re favorite Brazilian foods are!

  1. After landing, this was our first stop for food. It had an amazing lunch special, since there are many offices in the area. The quick lunch gave you access to the full buffet, a main entree, and I believe a beverage as well. Our bill did get up there, but it was because we were insanely thirsty. Eight bottles of water are not cheap when you pay for the bottle. I believe the lunch special was the equivalent of $20 USD.

2. Walking the city all day, leaves you really hungry. We had these massive churros to tie us over to dinner.

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vanilla cream filled churro with dark chocolate and coconut shavings

3. All of the travel tips for Brazil, pointed to this type of place for breakfast. Fortunately our friend had her favorite, local version.

4. As we explored Vila Madalena, we had to recharge with some local brews. It would be truly be a sin to go to Brazil and not have any coffee. This place stood out because of it’s unique concept. It is in a beautiful 2 level space with indoor and outdoor seating. All of the staff wear lab coats. The menu is basically intended to be a study in coffee, giving multiple options to try coffee with different preparations. It also includes authentic Brazilian preparations of coffee and food. We also enjoyed a few small bites, including a delicious version of grilled cheese with a locally made cheese and mouth-watering bread.

5. Our last meal before we started heading towards the airport was in an area called Itaim Bibi. This restaurant featured Brazilian mainstays and awesome fusion dishes. Our pick as an entree was a beef curry. We had what we could loosely equate to Italian rice balls x 100 as an appetizer. these fried treats were stuffed with meat or veggies or rice and hit all of the right spots.

6. We got a great deal on a plane ticket via Avianca airlines. We even upgraded one leg of our flight for a low price at the airport. While the flight and seat were both awesome, this was our most challenged food experience. Definitely select a meal when you purchase your ticket. The flight attendants had limited language skills and could not give details on what was in the food. They were not able to accommodate allergies or religious food limitations. Plan ahead to make it easier.

Location key for our food picks!

  1. Pullman Hotel Vila Olimpia
  2. Random street vendor with massive churros in the square across from the Catedral Metropolitana de Sao Paulo.
  3. The local Padaria Vitoria Regia (bakery) in Vila Olimpia. Although “padaria” means bakery, they serve almost everything. We went there twice for breakfast. We tried local treats like fresh acai and banana juice, tapioca, and farofa (coarse manioc flour with seasoning and butter).
  4. Coffee Lab Vila Madalena – founded by our friend’s namesake Isabela Raposeiras, she insisted that we check it out.
  5. Itaim Bibi is known for lots of restaurants, nightlife, expats, and celebrities. We went for the food. Our first stop was Santo Grao, which served up a chill vibe and fusion Brazilian cuisine.
  6. I spilled the beans, but it was on the flight with Avianca. Read the message and choose your food wisely. We could not eat most of it, and were ravenous when we landed.
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