The Deep Guide to Brazil's Essential City
Salvador da Bahia: Capital of Brazilian Culture...
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Restaurants in Salvador da Bahia
Deli do Pelô
Deli do Pelô | Rua João de Deus, 24, Pelourinho | Tuesday through Saturday until the last customer...opens up around sunset)
Fábio and Shelze arrived several years ago from the interior of Bahia and established an intimate restaurant in Pelourinho right next door (as it happens!) to Cana Brava Records. Beyond priding themselves on their cuisine, artful adaptations of traditional Bahian fare, they really do make the best caipirinhas in the world (although they only claim Pelô, as Pelourinho is popularly called).
And, given that they are right next door to Cana Brava Records, guests sitting outside (as most are wont to do on tropical Bahian nights) are treated to the best sambas in the world, from the record shop window. Does it get any better than this?
Porto do Moreira
Porto do Moreira | Largo do Mocambinho, 28 (popularly referred to as "Largo das Flores" for the flower sellers there, on Avenida Carlos Gomes (named for Brazilian composer of operas and classical music), several blocks from the Centro Histórico (a mocambinho is a little hut) | Tel. 3322 4112 & 3322 2814 | Monday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. until 4 p.m., and from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.
Celebrated Porto do Moreira -- an unprepossessing but interesting place with history and a buzz -- was opened in 1938 by Portuguese immigrant José Moreira da Silva across a side street from the Pharmácia Luz at the entrance to Largo Dois de Julho (the largo, farmácia, and the restaurant itself all figured in Jorge Amado's novel Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands). Now run by the founder's two sons Antonio and Francisco (fancifully depicted in the image above, inspired in the aforementioned novel) the establishment remains to this day a redoubt of old Bahian bohemianism, a place redolent with history, conversation, and the pungent odor of dendé.
Typical Bahian dishes are served at 20 to 40 reais (servings suitable for two) as well as steaks, chicken, and seafood (half-portions of these latter are generally available). Tiragostos (appetizer-type food meant to accompany drinks) may also be had.
O Cravinho | Terreiro de Jesus, 3, Pelourinho | Monday through Sunday until the last customer...the bar opens before lunch and the restaurant area opens up around 3 p.m.)
Julival's excellent place, devoted to infusões (cachaça mixed with spices, fruits, roots, barks, and other flavoring agents; cravinho is made with cravo, or cloves), but serving beer and other drinks and with great, inexpensive food in the restaurant (located in the rear behind the bar). Very popular with the locals, atmospheric, with the infusões in wooden barrels set on shelves up high in the bar, and the restaurant's tables and stools cut from tree trunks.
Recanto das Tias
Recanto da Tias (Hidden Place of the Aunts) | Travessa Padre Domingos de Brito, 25, Garcia | Tels. (71) 3332-2622/3235-5872/3235-8769 | Monday from noon to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 10 p.m.
A gem tucked away for the past twenty-five years among the backstreets of the humble neighborhood of Fazenda Garcia, with food prepared by sisters Célia and Lêda Anunciação and their families. Among the items on the menu are traditional dishes such as feijoada, maniçoba, carne do sol, rabada, and sarapatel. Prices run around 10 reais per individual plate, or 20 reais for a shared meal serving two people. Acarajés and abarás are also available (if you want to soak up that cerveja and don't feel like a full meal) at 3 reais (without shrimp) to 3.50 (with).
The reality is that Tia Lêda serves from Sunday through Thursday, and Tia Célia (the tias live side-by-side) serves Friday and Saturday, although this doesn't make any difference as a practical matter for diners.
One interesting thing about this place is that the family houses give right onto the "dining" area...for instance, here's Tia Lêda in her kitchen, preparing the feijoada...
Cruz do Pascoal
Cruz do Pascoal | Rua Direita do Santo Antônio, 3 | Santo Antônio além do Carmo | Tel. 3243-2285 | Open every day but Sunday
The Cruz do Pascoal is an oratório, a column crested by a niche housing a saint. In this particular case the column was erected in 1743 (by Pascoal Marques de Almeida, an immigrant from Lisbon) and the saint on top is (was rather, she's been stolen) Nossa Senhora do Pilar. The Cruz do Pascoal, however, which is specifically of interest here, is not the oratório, but rather the bar by the same name across the street.
Situated on the Largo do Pascoal and vested in the same blue tile, Bar Cruz do Pascoal looks like a small nondescript stand-up place with maybe a couple of cheap folding tables set up out front. But the trick is to move past the bar, through the doorway, past the refrigerators, and on out to the expansive terrace behind the bar with its truly marvelous views of the bay.
This is a place which is exceedingly popular with the locals, and on a Friday or Saturday evening there may be a wait for a table (though you'll probably find temporary respite at one of the several tables inside, just off of the terrace). Later in the day is the best time to show up. Beach-type umbrellas are set up while the sun is still high enough in the sky for patrons to want protection from the glare, and as the sun sets, the umbrellas do as well.
The house specialty is carne do sol accompanied by purê de aipim, generous portions of which are priced at 14 reais. The beer is usually ice-cold.
The Largo do Pascoal is located in the bairro of Santo Antônio (behind Pelourinho and itself a part of Salvador's Centro Histórico) on the principal street which connects Pelourinho to the Largo to Santo Antônio. Locals tend to call Bar Cruz do Pascoal by the name of its Spanish* owner: Porfilio.
* Porfilio is one of a large group of immigrants to Brazil, the Galegos, or "Galicians" in English. Galicia is located directly to the north of Portugal and although, as a part of Spain, Spanish is the official language, Galegos have their own language (quite logically called "Galego") which is very similar to Portuguese, the two languages really being mutually intelligible dialects. The Galegos are Celts and their music would sound right at home in a pub in County Kilkenny.
Axego | Rua João de Deus, 1 | Pelourinho | Tel. 3242-7481| Monday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. until 9 p.m.
Manoel dos Santos Pereira was a guy who liked to cook for friends and family. He had a simple summer house on the island of Itaparica, with a big veranda which on weekends he liked to set up with tables for extensive gatherings of kith and kin. The house was close to the beach in the village of Conçeicão, which in turn is next to Itaparica's Club Med.
So one fine day a Frenchman decided to leave the self-contained confines of the Club Med for a look around at the local life. His wanderings brought him to what appeared to be a lively restaurant packed with customers and with a wonderful aroma of seafood emanating from the kitchen. The Monsieur stepped up, found himself a table, sat down, and ordered the dish of the day (moqueca de aratú -- red crab). The man was welcomed and happily served.
When the check was asked for Manoel explained as best he could that this was in fact was a private domicile, that the meal was a gift, and that the man should consider himself among friends. To this day Manoel is not sure whether he succeeded in making his point clear.
Whatever the gentleman's understanding, the following the weekend he was back, this time accompanied by friends, and this time determined to pay. Thus was born Axego (derived from aconchegado, something like cozy).
Some years later Axego moved across the bay to the mainland, first onto Rua dos Adobes in the neighborhood of Santo Antônio, and then into a space with a wonderful view overlooking the water, across from the Convento do Carmo. Manoel himself went out daily and purchased the ingredients for his dishes. He himself prepared the foods. And it was he who waited on his customers (aided by his wife, Maria do Carmo Santos Pereira, and his son Fabrício). The restaurant's reputation grew by dint of word-of-mouth, and it prospered.
Prospered to such a degree (within its modest bounds) that when the lease was up the landlady figured she'd throw Manoel out and open up her own restaurant in the space. The result for this woman was, as one might imagine, a well-deserved disaster.
After occupying a small place on the Largo do Pelourinho for several years Manoel finally found what he was looking for -- a well-appointed place with a big kitchen and plenty of space for guests. Thus Axego will now be found just off of the Terreiro de Jesus on Rua João de Deus, 1 (one floor up).
The menu changes daily, with prices varying from 20 reais or so for carne do sol and carne do fumeiro, to a little more for steak, to 30 for the fish dishes, and 40 or so for dishes including shrimp (the moqueca de camarão is wonderful!). These are expansive meals which include accompaniments and serve two hungry people very amply.
In keeping with local tradition Friday is a day for traditional Bahian caruru. A lovely feijoada is served on Sundays.
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Ramma | Praça do Cruzeiro de São Francisco, 7, (this is the praça off of the Terreiro de Jesus, leading back to the Igreja de São Francisco; Ramma is to the right as one faces the church, before the Banco do Brasil with its big horizontal yellow and blue sign), Pelourinho | Tel. 3321-0495 | Monday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Ramma was originally conceived as a vegetarian/natural foods restaurant, but nowadays is not intended food just for vegetarians. The food is, however, so varied and flavorful that it's possible to eat a great meal and not miss the fact that one might not have gone for the fish or chicken. The salad bar is a world unto itself (I put the ginger-pepper dressing on food it was never intended to accompany!), the non-dessert sweets are a blessing (a statement of course calling for the cliché "and the desserts are a sin!").
Food is by weight, and a rounded meal costs some 15 reais. Fresh fruit juices are available as well.
Mama Bahia | Rua Alfredo Brito (Portas do Carmo), 21 | Pelourinho | Tel. 3322-4397 | Open for lunch and dinner, till midnight or so
Roberto Simon's establishment, with excellent steaks served on the chapa (small serving grill)...grilled fish and moquecas too. And a considerable wine list. Roberto has a Pelourinho-themed blog here: http://bahiapreciosa.blogspot.com/
Café Conosco (Coffee With Us)
Café Conosco | Rua da Ordem Terceira do São Francisco, 04 | Pelourinho | Tel. 8111-3538A homespunningly charming coffee, cake, and quiche, etc. shop, with cakes and quiches handmade by owner Nilza Ribeiro. Nilza's establishment sits on a quiet sidestreet (across from the Igreja -- Church -- da Terceira Ordem de São Francisco), and so is suffering with the drop in visitors to the area since the implosion of the world financial crisis...but it is nevertheless a nice, good-vibed place to sit, relax, and enjoy.
Bar Santa Bárbara
Bar Santa Bárbara | Feira de São Joaquim, Rua do Muro, Box 20 | Tel. 8712-5480 | Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m.
Great breakfasts of aipim and accompaniments, great lunches including bacalhau and other fish in moqueca style, 7 reais and under. This is a true workingman's place, a mother and daughter operation, with a tiny counter and one table. Close, cramped, and... great.
Brasserie Ancienne Belgique
Brasserie Ancienne Belgique | Rua Álvares Cabral, 10, Comércio | Tel. 3241-6337 | Monday through Wednesday until 6 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays until 10 p.m., and Saturdays until 3 p.m.
It's like one has stepped from a hot sidewalk in urban Brazil through a spacetime warp to emerge in civilized old Europe on a fresh cool day. Belgian Christiaen Peeters (to the right, in the left-hand corner back there) has brought a piece of his homeland to Salvador's downtown area, easily reached from Pelourinho via the Plano Inclinado (take the Plano Inclinado from back behind the northwest corner of Praça da Sé; emerging, walk straight ahead to the first proper street, turn right, and the Brasserie is some hundred meters along on the right).
Bahia Marina, on the Baía de Todos os Santos, along with performing nautical functions also is home to seven restaurants, the first to have been established being devoted to sushi and Japanese cuisine...
Soho | Avenida Contorno, 1010, Bahia Marina, Pier D | Tel. 3322-4554
...but don't be thinking that you'll be welcome around here in your yachting gear unless you dress like Thurston Howell, III. Although to the best of my knowledge there isn't isn't an official dress code in any of the marina restaurants (?), you'll probably be sniffed at should you enter in your bermudas, t-shirt and deck shoes or havianas (I have been a couple of times; it's never happened at Recanto das Tias though!). Standard style for restaurants such as these in Salvador is what I term "school clothes", meaning nothing elegant (that went out in the '50s, unfortunately), but you know, what your mom might have considered appropriate for a special occasion.
Box do Alemão
Box do Alemão| Avenida Juracy Magalhães, 1624, (Ceasa, Box 70) | Rio Vermelho | Tel. 3351-6660 | Open Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays from 8 a.m. to noon
Box do Alemão would be The German's Stand, as in food stand, but the owner's name is Rodolfo Ferrari and the only thing German about him are the sausages he sells and the mustard to go with them (and the derivation of his first name, perhaps). This doesn't stop him from selling the best sausage sandwiches this side of München though, the sausages handmade by a real-deal German wurstmacher (?) here in Bahia. Everything will have to be washed down by Heinekens though, if not Coca-Colas, given that German beers here are very expensive and Rodolfo is working to maintain eat-at-the counter prices.
All is also available for takeaway, packages of sausages of types only a Teuton would discern, along with German mustards...and breads and even humous and babaganoush and etc. etc. as well.
Buteco do França
Buteco do França | Rua Borges dos Reis (Orla), 24-A | Rio Vermelho | Tel. 3334-2734 | Open Tuesdays through Saturdays from noon to the last customer, Sundays from noon to midnight
França is the owner's name, an ex-waiter from restaurant Extudo (currently being redone) who struck out on his own. Excellent food and service, both inside and outside in the alleyway out front.
Sorriso da Dadá
Sorriso da Dadá (Dadá's Smile) has within a relatively short period of time become part and parcel of the lore of Bahia. Dadá is Aldacir dos Santos, who arrived in Salvador from the town of Conde in the interior of Bahia at fourteen years of age to work as domestic servant. She opened her first restaurant -- Tempero da Dadá -- behind a house in the working-class neighborhood of Alto das Pombas (Dove Heights) and from there became famous for the magic she put into traditional Bahian dishes.
The restaurant moved to a small space in Pelourinho and eventually came to assume the name it bears today, becoming de rigueur for anyone wishing to experience the cuisine of Bahia at its most subtly delicious.
Time has passed, however, and a couple other restaurants in Dadá's name have opened (Caranguejo da Dadá: on the beach at Patamares, and Varal da Dadá: in her old neighborhood of Alto das Pombas -- both of which I'll be covering shortly). Meanwhile the restaurant in Pelourinho has taken on an upscale look (white tablecloths and wine glasses), and Dadá is seldom on the premises. The food is okay nowadays, but without Dadá around the magic isn't there anymore.
Prices are in general 60 reais or so for dishes which serve two people.
Sorriso da Dadá is located at Rua Frei Vicente, 5, and is
open daily from noon 'til midnight. The telephone number is
Alaíde do Feijão
Alaíde do Feijão (Alaíde of the Beans) is a small restaurant located in Pelourinho and named for the owner, Alaíde (Ah-lah-EE-gee) da Conceição, who began cooking at her mother's side over forty years ago (at a table set up in Praça Cayru, in front of where the Mercado Modelo is now located). Even under such simple circumstances Alaídes' mother (Maria das Neves) achieved a certain esteem, deservedly passed on to her dutiful daughter. Alaídes' restaurant is particularly well-known and appreciated among local congnoscenti of Afro-Bahian heritage.
The food is traditional Bahian, and it is also eminently affordable, with dishes running between 5 and 10 reais (caldo de feijão -- bean soup -- is priced at 2 reais). Feijoada, rabada, and mocotó are served seven days a week, and Bahian dishes such as vatapá and caruru are served on Fridays. The address is Rua 12 de Outubro, 2 (down the small street to the left of the Igreja de São Francisco, and around the corner), and hours are daily from 11:30 a.m., with closing time at 7 p.m. (or so) on Sunday, 8 p.m. (or so) on Monday, and 11 p.m. (or so) Tuesdays through Saturdays. The telephone number is 3321-3634.
Cantina da Lua
By my reckoning, this place was at one time
Now granted, there are many, many bars on this planet of ours, including many that I haven't been to, but a grooving place with hot music (live), and hot samba on wooden floors between beat up tables, in a hot (metaphorically as well as literally) place like Salvador da Bahia... well, that place can't be too far down the list.
Cantina da Lua (Cantina of the Moon) has for the past thirty-five years been run by Clarindo Silva, and it was for years (together with Porto do Moreira) a hangout for Bahia's bambas. Then, beginning in 1994, Pelourinho was rebuilt (in stages, and in typical Bahian style the final stage has -- sixteen years later -- yet to be finished). In this process Cantina da Lua was also reformed (adapting the Portuguese way of putting it to English, and I haven't utilized this adaptation lightly; "reformed" is right on the money). But why reform the greatest bar in the world?
Because money makes the world go 'round. In Cantina da Lua it made the samba go away, to be replaced by comida a kilo. And if you don't have the cash in your pocket there's an ATM right there, and they take every credit card under the sun, and who am I to feel that Clarindo should have kept the place the way it was and earned less? Still, I live with my memories of the place the way it was.
Listen to Batatinha, second from the right above and at the time the photo was taken no kid himself anymore (he passed away in '97), sing the praises of Jajá of Gamboa, an older woman who's lost none of her considerable charm...
And to give Clarindo his very substantial due, when Pelourinho was at its lowest ebb ever, having fallen to a state of degradation below even that lived by Jorge Amado's roaring cast of bohemians and gamblers, prostitutes and misfits, it was Clarindo who initiated the area's rehabilitation in part by the creation of the Tuesday night bêncão (blessing), a weekly Pelourinho-wide party. And it was Clarindo who worked tirelessly to see that the heart of this great South American city wasn't completely destroyed, this place which has seen it all...riches, poverty, feast, famine, war, peace, slavery, liberty...a place which ironically came very close to being felled by one of the most insidious destroyers of all...neglect.
Address: Praça Quinze de Novembro (this is the official name, which nobody ever uses, the original and commonly used name being Terreiro de Jesus),
Ramma is a natural foods restaurant in Barra, occupying an open and very tastefully done space, with food so delicious that you don't have to be natural foods "type" at all to thoroughly enjoy the place. "Rama" is "shoot" in English (in the sense of "plant shoots"), the extra "m" having been added by owner Marina Neves upon the advice of a numerologist.
Food is buffet-style per kilo, with fish and chicken served in addition to the salads and vegetarian fare. Location is several blocks up from the beach at Rua Lord Cochrane, 76 (Rua Lord Cochrane is a cross-street running between Rua Princesa Isabel and Avenida Marquês de Caravelas). Hours are Monday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. 'til 3 p.m., and from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. An average meal runs 15 reais or so. Telephone is 3264-0044.
Boi Preto (Black Bull) is a churrascaria, and a churrascaria is pretty much the polar opposite of a natural foods restaurant ("churrasco" being Brazilian barbecue, minus the sauce). At most churrascarias -- including this one -- the meat is served "rodizio" style, meaning that waiters continually circulate with various cuts of beef, offering you all you want.
Boi Preto happens to be a chain out of São Paulo, but it doesn't have the ambience of a chain restaurant. The service is fabulous and, in addition to the rodizio, Boi Preto offers a sumptuous buffet with salads and smoked salmon and lobster and shrimp and an extensive array of cheeses, and lots and lots more. And you eat all you want and all is included in the price of the rodizio (a little over 40 reais). It's a very good deal.
Boi Preto is located across from the Aeroclube Plaza on the Orla (Avenida Otávio Mangabeira, no number) in Armação. Hours are Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and from 6:30 p.m. 'til midnight; Saturday and holidays from 11:30 a.m. 'til midnight; and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. The telephone number is 3362-8844.
Recanto da Lua Cheia
Recanto da Lua Cheia (Hidden Away Place of the Full Moon) is located in an area called Pedra Furada (Rock With a Hole in It) -- I know, sometimes the poetry in a phrase or expression gets lost in the translation -- on the peninsula of Itapagipe not too far from the Igreja do Bonfim. It's an informal, outside place (though a part of it has overhead covering), set among coconut palms and with a striking view of the bay. It's also another place very popular with the locals.
Seafood is the specialty here, including crab (siri-bóia and caranguejo), lambreta, muqueca de camarão and more, all to be washed down with cold beer. The address is Rua Rio Negro, 2, Montserrat, and the place is open Wednesdays through Fridays from 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., and Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Telephone is 3316-3986.
Picui is a restaurant (several of them, actually, named for a small bird) serving the cuisine of the Northeast of Brazil (Bahia is a member state), the interior of which is a hot, dessicated land of grinding poverty. And in the manner of Brazil's renowned national dish feijoada, which rose from its humble origins as the food of slaves making do with what wasn't wanted in the Casa Grande (Big House), the food of the Northeast has via the creativity of its denizens risen beyond mere expediency to become something truly delicious and fully satisfying.
One of the mainstays of this cuisine and a Picui specialty is carne do sol (literally "meat of the sun", salt-preserved meat which is no longer sun-cured, as in the days of yore), born of a lack of refrigeration and maintained both because it has become a part of the regional lore and because it is so highly appreciated. Surubim no espeto (surubim on a spit) is another popular Picui favorite (surubim is a meaty freshwater fish without small bones, somewhat like catfish; it's served breaded). Aipim frito or cozido (fried or boiled yucca), feijão tropeiro (beans with cassava flour), and manteiga da garrafa (bottled, or clarified, butter) are common accompaniments. One order will serve two people to busting! Prices are extremely reasonable.
Rua Melvin Jones, 91 – Jardim Armação.
Koisa Nossa is a lively Thursday and Friday night tradition in Salvador, lambreta (steamed clams) being the specialty (accompanied by cold beer), served at tables set out on the street. Location is the central Salvador neighborhood of Mouraria, on Travessa Engenheiro Alione, 3 (behind the Quartel General; everybody in the neighborhood knows where it is).
Açai: The Little Berry That Got Big!
The Power of the Amazon! The Forbidden Fruit! Açai (ah-sah-EE) has grown to become very popular in Brazil -- it's served all over the place in Salvador -- and efforts are underway to promote the spread of this popularity to Europe and the United States.
Açai is a small, very dark-blue berry for which great claims are made, the fruit of a palm tree found in the region of the Amazon (though the tree can be found as far afield as Venezula and the Brazilian state of Maranhão). The berry can be served in a variety of ways, but is most often put into a blender with ice, guaraná, and other fruits, where it is beaten to a sherbet-like consistency and then served in a bowl. One of the claims for the berry is that it is "energizing". I personally doubt that açai in and of itself is any more "energizing" than any other fruit happens to be, and my unscientific assumption is that the origin of this claim lies with the guaraná that goes into the blender along with the rest of the stuff. Guaraná energizes in (much) the same way that coffee does.
But this isn't meant to be disparaging; açai is delicious and refreshing. It goes down well on hot days and the pick-me-up is one those "ahhh" moments. I'm glad they have it here and I think it's deserving of wider fame, irrespective of any hyperbole.