Autumn in Rio finds the city at its the best. The days are sunny, the scorching heat of January and February has subsided, and it’s low season for tourists, which means the beaches are less crowded. The only problem with fall days is they end too early—the sun sets by 6:00 pm in April. If you want to keep the day going, one good option is to head to one of the city’s many beachside pé sujos (literally, dirty feet), ultra-casual outdoor bars.
On a recent April evening we found ourselves at Bar Bunda de Fora (Bar Butt-Out), steps from Copacabana Beach. According to owner Deborah Cardoso, the bar got its nickname because the interior used to be so small that when customers placed their orders at the counter their rear ends were technically outside the bar. It’s a classic low-key Rio joint: the beer is light, cheap, and bem gelada (very cold); the stools are made of plastic; and the food is fried. The crowd is young and old, mostly made up of families and neighbors.“The people who come to Bunda de Fora have created a community,” said Cardoso. “Everyone knows everyone – some of these people used to come here as children with their parents.” The bar has been around for over sixty years, she said, and run by her family for nearly forty. A Flamengo-Fluminense game (the city’s leading soccer rivals) played in the background as customers ordered plates of pastéis, deep-fried pastries filled with cheese and meat, and frango à passarinho, crispy fried chicken smothered in garlic and parsley.
Next door, at BeerLab, a year-old craft beer house, a new tradition is emerging – it’s part of a growing wave of bars specializing in small-batch, Rio-made brews. Owners Hélio and Tatiana Macedo Soares serve up IPAs, lagers, and stouts from local brewers alongside cheese plates and artisanal sandwiches like the beer-marinated pork loin on ciabatta bread. On a recent visit, Daft Punk played on the stereo and instead of plastic, customers sat outdoors on improvised wooden crates.
“Brazilians’ palates have become more sophisticated in the last couple of years,” said Hélio. “They want to drink less but better.” The couple’s bar is a sort of upscale version of the pé sujo. “We’re trying to democratize consumption by bringing good products to an accessible space,” he added. Like any good beachside bar, customers often wear little more than their swimsuits and flip-flops as they quaff their wheat beers – and that’s just fine by Hélio and Tatiana.But how do the cool kids get along with the neighbors?
“We have a great relationship with BFD,” Helio said, using an acronym for Bunda de Fora. Tatiana added, “They offer things we don’t have. When someone wants typical barfood – like feijoada – they can order one from next door and have one of our artisanal beers. Or they can have a beer [from next door] and have one of our charcuterie boards.”
Cardoso said the feeling’s mutual. “They’re a little more sophisticated, a little more expensive, but there’s no competition.” She said customers flow easily from one bar to the next: curiosity brings her customers to BeerLab and her top-notch pastéis draw beer lovers of all stripes.
Gizeli Hermano, a customer at Bar Bunda de Fora, who lives in Rio’s suburbs but has been coming here for years, explained Bunda de Fora and BeerLab’s coexistence to us best. “In Rio, you’ll see favelas right behind fancy buildings. It’s like that here: this is a place for everyone, whether you want modern, artisanal beer or this,” she said, motioning at her BDF surroundings. “We’re all sharing this space. The contrast is very Rio de Janeiro.”