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Rio’s small traditional bars, known as botequins, are by definition simple establishments, where orders are usually taken down with pen and paper – and sometimes not taken down at all, but mentally noted. But even in these fuss-free eateries, times they are a-changin’.

Take Ziza Bar, in Copacabana. The almost 50-year-old botequim became the very first example of the next-generation bar four months ago after adopting a digital order-taking system. Since last June, the bar attendants have been using tablets to take and immediately transmit customers’ orders to the kitchen. This novelty joins another curious service they already had in place: The waitstaff uses digital wristwatches that vibrate whenever customers press a button on the table.

A server at Ziza Bar with her high-tech wristwatch, photo by Vinicius CamizaThese innovations were the brainchild of Zé Antônio, also known as “Feijão,” who has been the owner of the bar since 2008. An electronics hobbyist, Feijão this year decided to bring his personal interests into his workplace. Motivated in part by the World Cup rush (that phenomenon where local businesses make improvements to impress tourists), he and his partner made the investment together, buying the equipment and hiring an installation service. The gamble paid off: In a few weeks, the bar doubled its number of customers.

But before you dismiss these innovations as style over substance, we assure you that the soul of this traditional botequim remains intact. Technology has just made it easier for the waitstaff to tend to their customers. They’re not just faster, they’re also better at their jobs. “Now we have more time to chat with the clients, which is something they like,” one server told us. “There are almost no mistakes with the orders, which they like even more!”

Ziza Bar's carne-seca, photo by Vinicius CamizaOf course, technology is not the only attraction here. Known for the excellent price point of its beers (the cheapest in Zona Sul), Ziza Bar also serves wonderful northeastern cooking, in dishes straight out of the state of Ceará. Although the botequim offers the usual carioca fare, such as feijoada and rabada (oxtail), the real star of the menu is the carne-seca, or sun-dried meat, served shredded, sauced with butter and accompanied by a huge plate of fried manioc.

Because of the cheap beer and its six big, brand-new TVs, Ziza Bar also attracts soccer fans, who pack the botequim Sunday and Wednesday evenings when the National Championship matches take place. They might not care as much about the other new screens in the bar, but that’s the beauty of this place: There’s something for everyone. Except maybe Luddites.

  • Os ImortaisNovember 15, 2017 Os Imortais (0)
    Theres’s a new phenomenon in Rio’s botequim scene. Until some years ago, running one of […] Posted in Rio
  • Os ImortaisOctober 24, 2016 Os Imortais (0)
    Theres’s a new phenomenon in Rio’s botequim scene. Until some years ago, running one of […] Posted in Rio
  • Tasca CarvalhoApril 26, 2017 Tasca Carvalho (0)
    Portuguese gastronomy is at the core of Rio's botequins, the small, often family-run […] Posted in Rio
Vinicius Camiza

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