When we talk about the “suburbs” in Brazil, some may imagine the affluent outer boroughs of London, New York or Singapore. But in Rio de Janeiro, they’re nothing like that. Far from its beautiful beaches, Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain, the city’s suburbs are the opposite of tony – they’re where Rio’s working-class people live.
Yet the suburbs are where you can find the most authentic carioca soul. They are home to the biggest favelas, the most important samba schools, Afro-Brazilian religious temples, the majority of football fields and, of course, the best botequins, or local bars.
Bar do Seu Domingos, which is owned and run by Seu Domingos himself, is one such place. Unlike the upscale bars of Leblon or Ipanema, Bar do Seu Domingos is not merely a watering hole; it’s also a place to feast on local delicacies, namely meats, many of which are difficult to come by in the city center.
Informality is part of the charm here, and can even lead to impromptu samba shows.
The bar’s menu is not all that different from what you can find at hundreds of local bars in the suburbs. But Bar do Seu Domingos has built its reputation on quality. Domingos, who formerly worked as a waiter in several restaurants in Rio, prides himself on offering only the freshest meat. “Every single day of the week my wife and I go to the street markets to find fresh meats and seasonings. Everything you can see on my counter right now was made this morning,” he explained.
When we entered the small, unassuming space, we were immediately drawn to the plates of meat on the counter. There are piles of torresmos, tender pieces of fried pork belly, and salty baked pork ribs, which are served without sauce in Rio’s botequins. Both should be eaten by hand and are best when washed down with an ice-cold beer.
After downing some torresmos and ribs, we moved on to lombinho, pieces of pork loin seasoned with a variety of spices and cooked slowly. Unlike the meats that came before it, the pork loin is not a finger food and is usually served with toasted manioc flour.
The bar also offers moelas (chicken gizzards), tremoços (lupini beans) and jiló (African eggplant stuffed with meat). Any questions about the simple menu are best directed to Domingos, who in the summer can often be found perspiring behind the bar. A typical carioca suburban businessman, he has owned this humble but buzzing bar in Vicente de Carvalho for more than 20 years.
There are no waiters on staff – Domingos and his wife run it by themselves – and the small, greasy salon only fits three tables. Most of the patrons eat and drink standing up at the counter or seated on benches outside. This informality is part of its charm, and can even lead to impromptu samba shows, where the bar’s customers use dishes, tables and matchboxes as makeshift percussion instruments.
While we can’t guarantee that each visit will end in a street party, there’s no doubt that you’ll feast on some excellent meat. As Domingos told us, pointing to the plates piled high with ribs, torresmos and lombinho, “If you come back tomorrow, it’s going to be the same.”