Eat List: São Paulo, Brazil
The ultimate guide of where to eat and drink in the Brazil’s capital.
With 22 million people in the metropolitan area, just edging out Mexico City, São Paulo is the largest city in the Americas, and it has a culinary scene to match its seemingly never-ending sprawl. While the surrounding state of São Paulo has its own unique, rural character, the city’s cuisine is a mish mash of every region, from the jungles of the Amazon to the European inflected Paraná, paired with the influences of a dizzying array of ethnic groups.
In terms of influence and celebrity, São Paulo is the center of Brazil’s culinary scene. Most of the nation-spanning food publications, conferences and television shows are based here, as are many of the most internationally recognized chefs, such as Alex Atala, Helena Rizzo and Rodrigo Oilveira. The sheer variety available in a city of this size make it hard to box in. There are both old school Brazilian eateries and an infinite stream of new restaurants and culinary projects that explore Brazilian cuisine in new formats or the latest global trends. Do you want to see a humble neighborhood eatery that is considered on par with the world’s best fine dining restaurants? How about a zero waste kitchen that makes its own flour and doesn’t use plastic? An all pork tasting menu?
São Paulo the epicenter of Brazil’s regional foods, and recipes and ingredients from every part of the country can be found in one form or another. Amazonian ants. Fruits from the Mata Atlântica forest. Beans from Minas Gerais. Yet, São Paulo is also a city of immigration, with sizable number of its inhabitants tracing their ancestry to Italy, Japan, Africa, the Middle East and beyond. Entire neighborhoods, and the food being cooked within them, have been shaped by these immigrants, resulting in a kaleidoscope of flavors not seen anywhere else in Brazil.
As I have mentioned before in these guides, this isn’t a list of what restaurants are hot right now. I look for the restaurants, both new and old, that have a sense of place. That help you understand the breadth of city’s cuisine and represent its people in the best possible light. If you are looking for churrascarias, this isn’t for you.
As it is so long, I added a list of 10 starred establishments of can’t miss things to eat for those visiting on shorter trips.
Here is my guide to eating and drinking in São Paulo: