Sao Paulo, one of the largest cities in the world, also has one of the most developed culinary scenes in Latin America. Here you can find Bahian seafood stews, Neapolitan pizza, third wave coffee, expertly sliced sashimi, and even leaf-cutter ants on the menu. The Japanese, African, Syrian, and Lebanese diasporas are all strongly represented in the city’s culinary makeup, as well as the use of Indigenous Brazilian recipes and cooking methods. The growing need for sustainability in gastronomy has caused restaurateurs to become more creative in their sourcing, preparing, and selling of food, leading some eateries to make everything from scratch (and even mill their own flour). Regardless of food style, you're sure to find character as well as flavor at each of these restaurants.
Pan Asian joint Tan Tan serves ramen, sweet chili chicken, and katsu pork sandwiches alongside expertly made cocktails in a hip, friendly ambience. Order the kumamoto tonkotsu to slurp delectably spicy pork broth, or for vegetarians, the milder vegetable-based yasai. Both come with noodles made in-house. Pair the ramen with a drink from the cocktail menu like the Chet Baker, a sweet mix of Angostura bitters, vermouth, and aged rum. Alternatively, the skilled bar staff can create impromptu cocktails tailored to whatever patrons say they like. Every detail is thought out, even down to the type of ice used.
Smart and classy, the family-friendly Bar Astor has a retro vibe, complete with a backlit bar and plush red booths. The kitchen prepares lunches of canapes, gourmet sandwiches, salads, and steaks, while waiters pour the perfect foam-to-beer ratio chopp (draft beer). Afterwards, head down the stairs to sample some of the famous creations of the SubAstor, a speakeasy that's consistently been on the World’s 50 Best Bars list since 2017. For cocktails with distinctly Brazilian ingredients, order the tereré made with cachaça and chimarrão (highly caffeinated tea).
Of Sao Paulo's over 1,000 coffee shops and micro roasteries, Coffee Lab has been the coffee scene's consistent star since owner Isabela Raposeira opened it in 2009. Serving single origins and offering coffee prepared via hand-pulled methods like Clever Dripper, the space functions as a coffee shop, barista school, and roastery in one. Pair your caffeinated beverage with a light Brazil lime cake or go for the creamy coffee soft serve. Sip your drink in the garden area or enjoy it inside near the bar, as baristas clad in mechanic outfits switch from syphons to V60 drips filling orders.
Espousing a quiet ease, Manís contemporary Brazilian cuisine has earned it a Michelin star, a place on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, and the unofficial title of the best restaurant in the city. Started by internationally-decorated chef Helena Rizzo, Maní uses fresh, organic ingredients to create dishes like cashew ceviche, Atlantic Forest salad with charcoal infused oil, and a seafood and vegetable tempura with cilantro emulsion. Intentional in the food as well as the décor, Maní has a simple, clean design with a whitewashed floor, wooden tables and chairs, and a patio vaguely reminiscent of a bonsai garden. For the full experience, order the tasting menu.
Order one of Marias e Clarices’ Neapolitan pizzas, then choose which craft beer you want to add to the dough. Options include IPA, stout, or wheat beers, thus giving each pizza three different options of aroma, texture, and flavor. Ask for the flagship pizza with figs, brie, bacon, and honey for the entrée, but start your meal with a creamy burrata topped with fresh basil leaves and drizzled with beer mustard. Choose from their extensive wine menu, and complete the meal with a limoncello mousse for dessert. In the male-dominated world of Brazilian pizza-making, the owner, Ivo Herzog, aims to have the space elevate female voices. His first step towards this was naming the space after his mother, Clarice, and the second, displaying works of female artists on the walls.
Only a seven-minute walk from Cathedral Sé (the exact center of Sao Paulo), this traditional Portuguese bakery serves pastries and breads. Founded in the 1950s, the name pays homage to the favorite cheese shop of King Fernando II of Portugal. The most famous menu item is the pastel de nata, a flaky egg tart with a lightly sweet filling of lemon mixed with egg and a hint of cinnamon. Other delights here include the queijada de leite (essentially a pudding cupcake) and pastel de Sao Bento (a sweet, nutty pastry). Have a translator handy as staff speak no English.
Chef Jeffereson Rueda constantly re-imagines how to cook and prepare pork, which led him to create dishes like the pork tartar and pork jowl sushi with wild cassava root sauce. For the Paraguayan-inspired san zé pork, the restaurant’s signature dish, Rueda even commissioned special barbecues to be built to slowly roast whole pigs for eight hours. Craft beer, wine, and more meat fill out the menu. Sustainability matters to Rueda, whose team either makes everything in-house or buys it local. Whatever meat is not used in the kitchen, A Casa do Porco sells in the butcher shop onsite.
Holding two Michelin stars and ranked in the top 10 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, D.O.M. made itself known globally thanks to chef Alex Atala’s drive and creativity. D.O.M. serves haute Brazilian cuisine, meaning Atala cooks with native Brazilian ingredients and uses French, Italian, and precolonial Indigenous Brazilian cooking methods. The four-course tasting menu includes dishes such as braised wild boar’s neck with banana purée and the Amazonian leaf-cutter ant atop pineapple cubes. To eat these dishes is to know Brazil’s regions through their ingredients: the electric jambu root from the northwest, white corn from the southeast, and the omega-rich baru nut of the south. Make your reservations months in advance to eat here.
Named after a Brazilian cow’s foot stew known to cure hangovers, Mocotó is a family-run treasure of comfort food in Vila Medeiros. Originally begun in the 1970s as a small store serving food from Brazil’s sertaneja (a northeastern region), the menu today consists of mocotó, corn grits, and 360 varieties of cachaça. When the founder’s son, chef Rodrigo Oliveira, took over management of the restaurant, it began to receive international acclaim, eventually earning a spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list and a Michelin Bib Gourmand award. Despite its prestige, Mocotó has stayed humble, casual, and inclusive.
Casual but hip, classic yet inventive—Komah walks the line between definitions and brings forth its own unique style of Korean food. Tucked into Koreatown in the central Bom Retiro district, the menu consists of recipes from chef Paulo Shin’s mother that he’s tweaked, like the yukhoe (Korean-style beef tartar with pear) and bokumbap (pork rice with kimchi and soft egg). For a drink, order the bokbunja (black raspberry wine). The one-room restaurant has just a few tables and simple wood and metal furniture set against a backdrop of exposed brick walls. Get there early for lunch or dinner, or be prepared to wait upwards of an hour.
Singer, sommelier, and chef Janaína Rueda began Bar Da Dona Onça as a place for artists and families to gather and share meals from the many regions of Brazil in a relaxed setting. She chose to open the bar at the base of Edifício Copan, an icon of the modernist school of architecture whom she pays tribute to with her chicken rice, Modernist Galinhada. Staples here include soups, steaks, and sausages. Wash your meal down with the national cocktail of Brazil, the caipirinha, or opt for a wine from Rueda’s list of 800 labels. Bohemian, central, and affordable, eat your fill here, and get the churros for dessert.
For Sao Paulo’s best Afro-Brazilian food, go to Pinheiros’ Consulado da Bahia. Dishes hailing from the northeastern state of Bahia include different varieties of moquecas (coconut milk-based stews with fish, shrimp, and octopus), carne de sol (sun-cured beef), and acaraje (black-eyed pea and shrimp fritters with dende oil). Get there early to avoid lunch and dinner lines, and sit on the colorful sunny patio with a capirinha in hand as you wait for your food. Pro tip: Bring a friend to share with, as portions are huge and prices can be high.
Chef Edson Yamashita’s omakase-style table only has room for eight guests per shift and only two dinner shifts per night. The charismatic Yamashita formerly studied sushi-making in Japan for eight years before starting Ryo Gastronomia, one of only two Michelin two-starred restaurants in the whole city. Serving Japanese food like sashimi and grilled octopus, the menu changes with the seasons, as only the freshest ingredients are used. Pair the nine-course tasting menu (vegetarian option available) with a sake or hot tea from their robust beverage menu and enjoy the calm atmosphere, complete with gardens, simple slatted wood walls, and calligraphy tapestries.
Probably the most sustainable restaurant in Sao Paulo, solar-powered Corrutela's ever-composting team make everything from scratch. They even grind their own flour, cornmeal, and cacao. Though chef Cesar Costa might appear obsessive in his mission of sustainability, any critics will be silenced once the food arrives. The polenta with anchovy sauce, potato gratin, and zesty orange Caesar salad sound simple, but the quality of the ingredients and preparation methods turn them into something exquisite. The menu leans heavily vegetarian though fish and seafood options are available, as well as fruity cocktails.
“Magic” is the word most often used to describe Vila Sonia’s oasis of Middle Eastern food, Sainte Marie Gastronomia. Patrons sit on rustic wooden furniture in a simple white-tiled room and order the smoked eggplant with chives and pomegranate, as well as the octopus pilaf. Be sure to order kibes—towers of ground meat, cooked greens, caramelized onions, and fresh mint—for the table. The dish is enough food to easily feed two people or a small family. Comprised of Lebanese and Armenian specialties, everything goes well with cold beer. Chef Stephan Kawijian moves throughout the restaurant, easily recognizable from his ear-to-ear smile.