In just a few hours, Germany will play Brazil in a World Cup semi-final match, but the outcome doesn’t matter. Win or lose, Germany has already conquered this nation – gastronomically speaking, at least. This isn’t fancy gastronomy, of course (leave that to the French!), but the simple, hearty, delicious food that the best Brazilian German bars serve all over the country, especially in Rio.
German bars have been beloved institutions in Rio for a very long time. The most famous ones have been around since before World War II, when Rio was the capital of the country and the federal government was flirting with German’s National Socialist Party. By 1939, Rio had a dozen German bars.
Thank God, Getúlio Vargas, our president at the time, made up his mind in favor of the good guys – but that decision had consequences. When Brazil decided to join the Allies in 1942, German bars in Rio (the most famous was, coincidently or not, Bar Adolf), became the target of intolerance. Some were attacked by rocks and homemade bombs. To avoid further violence, the three most important German bars in town changed their names. Thus, Bar Adolf became Bar Luiz, Bar Berlim changed to Bar Lagoa and Bar Zepellin was savvily renamed Bar Brasil.
To this day, those three are still the best carioca German bars. Their architecture offers a glimpse of the 1930s, the food is still excellent, and the draft beer – the classic carioca chopp – is practically a national treasure. They’re an important part of our cultural heritage, and they each deserve a visit as much as the German national soccer team deserves to be defeated by ours.
Always nattily dressed in their white jackets and black ties, the waiters at Lagoa are famous for being efficient and unfriendly. This is pure myth. Be sure to ask for the steak tartare, which is prepared tableside, or the huge milanesa steak. Whatever you order, the chopp claro is always a must.
One of the oldest bars in town, Bar Luiz was considered for decades to serve the best chopp too (specifically the black one, but the claro is good too). In the heart of old downtown, Luiz is a kind of carioca institution. We love the kassler (smoked pork) with potato salad.
(top and middle photos by Vinicius Camiza, above photo by Yigal Schleifer)
The oldest bar in Lapa is not the place to experience Rio nightlife. Bar Brasil is a tranquil establishment, where you can enjoy your kassler or sausages with sauerkraut while chatting with friends – and drinking chopp, of course (we love the claro).
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