The 2014 edition of Brazil’s Comida di Buteco competition is underway! The month-long competition pits botequins against each other. These small, family-run bars serve traditional food and are the center of Brazilian popular gastronomy.
The contest began in 2000, in the city of Belo Horizonte, Brazil’s “Capital of Botequins.” Now, it takes place simultaneously in 16 cities, including Rio. As a gastronomy writer and a botequim lover from Rio, I’ve covered the Comida di Buteco in this city since its first edition here in 2008.
Each participating bar – there are 31 botequins in Rio vying for the win this year – has to create a new dish. From April 11 to May 11, any person who visits one of those bars can order the special dish, taste it and submit a ballot with a grade, from 0 to 10 (organizers have installed ballot boxes in each bar).
In addition, some “experts” on the subject of botequins (myself included) are invited to visit the contestants, to try the dishes and give their own grades. At the end of the month, the people’s choice and the experts’ choice will determine the winner.
In the 15 years the contest has run, more than 2 million people all over the country have taken part. This year, the contest in Rio will include some of the best botequins in the city. These are a few of my favorites:
Bar do Omar
This typical botequim sits at the top of a lovely hill (not a favela) next to Rio de Janeiro’s harbor. The view and the food are both splendid. The bar’s entry into the competition is Omaravilha, a pork and cheese dish. Be sure to try the aipim cozido (boiled cassava) with dried meat. This place is the best in town.
Considered the best botequim of Rio’s working-class north zone, Cachambeer is set up almost like a restaurant, but the ambiance is singular and fun. The dish to get here is the delicious (and huge!) baked rib. Cachambeer’s entry this year is Olha a marra do porquinho, a wonderful dish of pancetta served with herbs, lemon, honey and pineapple.
A Copacabana classic. Behind the enormous glass counter, this bar offers more than a hundred Iberian tapas, the best of which are the seafood dishes. The draft beer is very good too. For Comida de Buteco, Adega Pérola has entered Buraco quente (“hot hole”), which combines sacadura, an Italian-style bread, with pork and catupiry, or Brazilian cream cheese.
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