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Editor’s note: The year is coming to an end, which means it’s time for us to look back on all the great eating and drinking experiences we had in 2014 and name our favorites among them.

Ferro e Farinha
We have the Fulbright Program to thank for this newcomer – a one-of-a-kind Rio dining destination. Pizza chef and New Yorker Sei Shiroma had put out a Craigslist ad looking for a roommate, and a Brazilian exchange student studying linguistics answered it. The two went from being roommates to eventually marrying. This gave Shiroma a motive to bring his mobile pizza oven down to Rio, where he gained a devoted Facebook following in spite of the very un-carioca style of dining he was proposing. (Eating with your hands, on the street? The concept does bear some similarity to the cheap drunk food of the podrões – the “rotten” food trucks that dot Rio’s streets late through the night.)

Shiroma, a devotee of the Neapolitan style of dough and cooking techniques, recently opened a non-mobile pizzeria, a small eatery in the residential neighborhood of Catete. There’s only one table on the sidewalk outside, and diners otherwise eat on stools along his narrow bar. We give him our endorsement for reminding us that great food can be consumed in simple settings, and for his highly flavorful toppings, like caramelized onion, spicy honey and lemon.

Santa Filomena
If restaurants were characters from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Santa Filomena would be Bashful. Owner and cook Nino Gomes, whose training in gastronomy comes from watching YouTube videos, seems genuinely delighted and a little “aw shucks” that his Santa Filomena has become so well liked. Gomes’s menu includes a variety of empadas, bruschettas, risottos, gnocchi and marmitas, simple plates with a meat main dish and side of potatoes, which nicely avoid the worst sins of Rio’s hedonistic gastronomy and leave a diner satisfied and without a bellyache. We order the risotto de abóbora com manteiga de alho negro, which has sweet pumpkin and fermented black garlic. And when we go to Filomena we also visit the nearby Quinta da Boa Vista. The park is a Rio landmark that simultaneously reminds us of the colonial-era grandeur of the Portuguese empire that made its home in this city and also of the decades of local families, couples, kite flyers and popcorn vendors who have overtaken the greenery to make it definitively property of the povão (masses) since.

Curto Café
This café on the second floor of a Rio bus terminal plays a healthy role in questioning the culture of ostentatious consumerism among Rio’s nouveaux riches. Is the coffee good because you paid a high price for it, or do you pay a high price because you liked the coffee? So go up to the bar of Curto and order an espresso, and pay what you want for it (there’s a box to put cash in). Local bakers have caught on to the trend and leave out plates of treats. Our favorite? The brigadoreo, which successfully mixes two cultures’ ubiquitous junk foods: a brigadeiro, or chocolate ball made with sweetened condensed milk, is dusted with crushed Oreos and filled with that trademark white cream.

Bar do Omar
This humble botequim, which sits at the top of a hill with a beautiful view of Guanabara Bay, opened four years ago, specializing in burgers. Nowadays, not only is the hamburger considered one of the best in town but the menu here also includes great appetizers like the aipim cozido na manteiga com carne seca (boiled cassava with butter and dried meat). Omar makes great caipirinhas too – the best is made with mango.

Oysters from the fishermen's market on Copacabana beach, photo by Juarez BecozaThe Oysters of Copacabana
Located so close to Rio’s best-known oceanfront hotels, yet ignored by most tourists, the Z-13 Fishermen’s Colony on Copacabana Beach offers the exclusive experience of having oysters at a very reasonable price on the sands of the world’s most famous beach. There’s not a bar here, just a tiny fish market that sells fresh seafood and excellent oysters, which are shucked on the spot. All you have to do is decide how many you want to buy, choose a place to sit at the beach, ask for a beer and slurp away.

Sushi Barcellos
Rio is a long way from Japan, but we’ve found a great place serving superb sushi – and in the middle of a street market, no less. One of Rio’s street-market fishmongers decided five years ago to prepare sushi and sashimi for his customers under his open-air tents. Owner Mr. Arnaldo and his employees spent a couple of years training under real Japanese sushi masters, and today, he serves a huge variety of Japanese dishes, prepared from the most pristine fish available, at three street markets on different days of the week. In addition, he recently opened his own restaurant in the neighborhood of Ilha do Governador.

 
(top photo by Lianne Milton; above photo by Juarez Becoza)
 
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