15 amazing restaurants in São Paulo

One of the reasons why I decided to launch Beyond Beauty was to share my love for eating and going to restaurants – after makeup (and possibly shoes), this is my favourite thing to do! I just love exploring new places, going to old favourites and every time I travel somewhere, my main research is based on the restaurants I want to try. It’s all about the foodie experience.

And of course the first post I had in mind was a list of the restaurants I love in São Paulo, my hometown. Not only São Paulo is the biggest city in Brazil, the most cosmopolitan and the economic capital of the country, it is for sure one of the best places to eat in the world – not only because of the amazing quality of the places, but because of the diversity. Being an immigrant country, Brazil’s culture is incredibly diverse, and this shows on the restaurant scene. Italian, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Japanese, Lebanese, not to mention the local cuisine, you can find it all and of the best kind!

There are so many great places that choosing favourites is a hard task, but I made an effort and came up with this list of 15 restaurantes that are a must visit when in São Paulo – it is for sure a changing one, as new places are opening all the time and there are some classics that I still haven’t got the chance to visit (most importantly Mocotó, a raved-about Brazilian food place). But I think this is a good start if you’re travelling to São Paulo for the first (or 10th) time.

Here they are, in alphabetical order:

Bar da Dona Onça – I love the fact that it is located under the Copan building, a landmark of the Paulista (that’s for “from São Paulo”) architecture, in the historical Center of the city. Although the name says bar and a lot of people actually go there as a bar, the food is incredible and very Brazilian. Also, they make one of my favourite caipirinhas in town, the “Meladinha”, with lime, ginger and sugarcane and cachaça. There’s always a waiting list but I enjoy sitting on the sidewalk to wait for a table while nibbling on the milanese. This is definitely the kind of place to go when not in a rush! Extra tip: Almost in front of Bar da Dona Onça is the recently opened Casa do Porco, whose chef, Jefferson Rueda, is the husband of Dona Onça’s chef, Janaína – it’s entirely based on pork and has been getting rave reviews.

Bistrô Charlô – This charming restaurant has been a favourite for years. The food is always great, the ambiance is also lovely, in a more “low profile” vibe. I love sitting outside for lunch or going for a romantic dinner, even though the big round tables are great for family celebrations. The menu is mainly French, with a bit of Brazilian and Portuguese references in the mix. My favourite dish was a tuna that just got cut out of the menu (c’est la vie…), but their steak tartare never disappoints.

Chez Oscar – One of the coolest places in town, it has a great decor – think many candles that melted to create a kind of art installation vibe and a huge green leather Chesterfield sofa that is to die for -, and is a great place to go with friends for a fun night, either for dinner or just drinks and some appetisers (the fried polenta is a must and the sangria is famous). On hot nights you can seat in the terrace. Extra tip: on the ground floor you’ll find Chez Astro, a cute café, and Prince Books, a well curated bookstore, and on the top floor there’s the Bar de Cima, a fun bar.

– This is my favourite Japanese restaurant in SP. I fell in love with their first place in Pinheiros, close to my house, and they later opened one in Jardins neighbourhood which is also amazing. It’s small, low profile, amazing sushi… I just love it. When I go there, I don’t even read the menu – I just ask Marcel or any of the chefs to make whatever they feel like! It’s always such a treat.

La Casserole – One of the most traditional restaurants in São Paulo, this place has an old school vibe that I adore. It’s in Largo do Arouche, right in front of the cult flower stalls, also in the old city center. It’s one of my “celebration” places for special occasion and it brings me really nice memories, which is always great! I always start with the smoked salmon and then go for the duck confit with polenta. Tip: ask for a table in the front on the restaurant!

Mani – When someone asks me for tips on where to eat in SP, Mani is always one of my top recommendations. I really admire Helena Rizzo’s work and her signature Brazilian cuisine with a “molecular” touch, and it’s no wonder why she and the restaurant have won so many prizes. I admit I sometimes dream with the tuna with quinoa and their dessert called “O Ovo” (The Egg), which is a eggnog ice-cream with coconut foam. Their couvert is a total success – the polvilho, a local snack, is a must try -, and if you go on a sunny day, make sure to get a table outside. Extra tip: visit the Padoca do Mani, located on the same street, a paulista-style boulangerie, and Manioca, their sister restaurant on Iguatemi Shopping mall.

Nino Cucina – This is the latest restaurant I added to my favourites list, and also one of the newest hot spots in São Paulo – it’s almost impossible to get a table there (but they make the waiting nice). The cuisine is Italian, great pasta – I always go for the linguini alle vongole, because if I see vongole in the menu I don’t even look at anything else… But there are other great choices! It’s a good place either for lunch and for dinner.

Nou – when I was still living in Brazil this restaurant was walking distance from my house and I used to go practically 3 times a week, and it’s still a favourite. Super casual and relaxed, great no frills food, lovely atmosphere… My favourite dish is the veal milanese, that has won many prizes as the best in town, and I also love their great beer selection.

Ohka – Another Japanese restaurant that I really like, this one has a more busy / lively vibe, so it’s my choice for a fun night. It’s normally packed, so find a spot on the outside waiting area and just enjoy the people watching! The salmon baterá is delicious, as are the fish carpaccios. Extra tip: 3 other great Japanese restaurants with a livelier atmosphere are Naga, the younger place from traditional Nagayama, Nakka and Kitchin.

Piu – This is another newcomer to the restaurant scene in São Paulo, but such a special place that quickly became a favourite. Delicious Italian food, great ambiance and service, also always packed. My tip is to go either very early or very late (you can dine pretty late in São Paulo!). Their starters and amazing, I recommend trying all of them, and my favourite dish is the chitarra spaghetti with prawns and carcioffi.

Ritz – Practically a São Paulo institution, Ritz – unrelated to the traditional hotels from Paris and London – is the pioneer of the casual place + great comfort food + cool young people formula. I know the menu by heart, as do all of my friends, and it’s that no mistake place to go. There are three options to choose, all great – Alameda Franca in Jardins, Jerônimo da Veiga in Itaim and Iguatemi Shopping mall.

Taberna 474 – If you’re looking for a Portuguese / Spanish place to go, with a relaxed almost bar like environment, this is definitely it. From the same owners of Adega Santiago, a cult local favourite, it has a yummy menu and amazing wine list. The “Prato de Peixe”, a raw fish dish, is heaven on earth and I make sure to go to Taberna to have it every time I’m in town. MKe sure to leave some room for dessert!

Tappo – This tiny Italian restaurant is amongst my favourites since it opened, a few years ago. I’ve been an habituée and feel at home there! The food is perfect (try the Caprese for starter), the sound track is impeccable and the tiramisu is considered the best in town.

Tasca do Zé e da Maria – Attention: try not to devour the unbelievable couvert, full of delicious bread, cheese, croquete and fried bacalhau (the Portuguese cod) – you risk feeling totally satisfied just with it and that would be a shame! This low profile but great restaurant is one of my favourite Portuguese in town, amazing duck rice and those infamous Portuguese desserts!

Vinheria Percussi – Another Italian (you can tell I have a thing with Italian food) and another place that I feel very attached to. Incredible food made by Silvia Percussi, the chef – you can trust whatever she puts in the menu. Don’t miss the garlic bread and the pappardelle with duck ragout, and don’t miss at all the Contrasto dessert, so special.

+ Special mentions:

Pirajá – It’s my favourite bar in SP. Sometimes what makes a place become a favourite is the fact that it’s close to your house, and this is my local bar. But of course the main reason why I love it is… The atmosphere! It’s a typical Brazilian-style bar called “boteco”, very chilled, with tables on the sidewalk under an enormous and beautiful tree that is decorated with fairy lights all year long. You’ll drink the traditional Brazilian beer, chopp, a light and frothy lager served very cold, but also try the “A Nega é Minha e Ninguém Tasca” caipirinha – the original lime & cachaça with a twist. The food is great, my favourite is the meat sandwich. Extra tip: from the same owners, Astor is another great place to go for a São Paulo style bar experience, with the added bonus of Sub Astor, a speakeasy in the basement. (site)

Almanara – I should have a loyalty card from Almanara, it is possibly the place from where I order food the most when I am in town, and I also go there quite often for lunch during the week. Lebanese cuisine is another treasure from São Paulo’s restaurant scene and I’m obsessed with their raw kibbeh. Extra tip: Almanara is more “old school”, like Arábia, another favourite of mine, and I also recommend two more recent ones, that have great food and ambiance: Manish and Saj.

(You will probably notice I didn’t really stick to the 15 places the title of the post suggested… I’m terrible at respecting limits when it comes to lists, but in this case I thought the more, the better! There are so many other places I could have mentioned, so if you’re ever in São Paulo and want tips, let me know in the comments below!)

{Translated by Ana de Almeida}