It’s not easy to get to Mania de Boteco. You have to go up, up, up, first by car (or, for something more thrilling, on the back of a motorcycle taxi) and then by foot, cutting across alleys and climbing narrow stairwells. But this spot is worth all the effort.
Tiny and humble, Mania de Boteco has an almost improvised feel to it, teetering at the top of Vidigal, one of Rio’s most scenic favelas. The first thing noticed here is the astonishing view of the ocean and Leblon and Ipanema beaches down below. But Mania de Boteco is more than just a scenic spot: it also happens to be a top-notch botequim serving wonderful food and amazingly good drinks.
This special place was built on love: the owners are a young couple who are equally passionate about their community as they are about serving high-quality drinks. Both live in Vidigal and are used to working hard to make a living. Lucas Marinho works as a waiter at a cocktail bar far away from Vidigal, while Carolina Macaroff, his wife, is a professional bartender, with experience behind the counter of several upscale restaurants and bars in town. One year ago, they decided to open a botequim – a kind of neighborhood gastropub found all across Rio – mere meters away from their home in Vidigal. They transformed an old beauty salon into a dining area with tables and seats strategically facing the ocean.
Behind the counter of the bar, a minuscule kitchen produces classic botequim snacks, like fried sausages and potatoes. Every Friday, a delicious Portuguese soup called caldo verde – fresh potatoes, collard greens, olive oil and salt added to a hearty broth – is served. And every two weeks, an outstanding feijoada, the flavorful stew of beans and pork, attracts people from all over the favela as well as from other parts of the city.
“We wanted to offer a meeting point for the people who actually live here, in the favela”
Because of its famed ocean view, Vidigal is home to several bars designed with foreign tourists in mind. Mania de Boteco is not one of those bars. “At our place, we thought about offering a meeting point for the people who actually live here, in the favela,” says Carolina. “We wanted to show them that it’s possible to have good food and drinks without having to pay a lot on fancy places down the hill.”
One look at their drink menu illustrates that they’ve put their philosophy into practice. As a professional bartender, Carolina serves excellent cocktails that go beyond just capirinhas. Her Negroni is fantastic, as are her Aperol spritz, manhattan and gin and tonic. All are created with top shelf ingredients but served at relatively affordable prices (no more than US$5 per cocktail). For those who want something a bit more local, they also serve top quality cachaças, providing an informal lesson to Vidigal locals about how complex Brazil’s national spirit can actually be.
(Note: Whatever magic happens inside this tiny spot, Mania de Boteco is still a bar in a favela. Vidigal is one of the safest favelas in town and frequented by tourists, but those unfamiliar with it should consider visiting with a local guide. It’s not easy to get there, but Mania de Boteco is worth the effort.)