By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The culinary scene in Rio has changed a lot in the last five years, since sprinting into the global spotlight by hosting international mega events like the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. Yet arguably, no gastronomic area has been more improved than the art of the hamburger in Rio.
While there will inevitably be some excellent options omitted from this list, our research has uncovered a group of eateries where the discerning burger enthusiast will certainly be satisfied.
Perhaps the ‘home of the hamburger’ is the United States, and so it is no surprise that American expatriate in Rio and owner of Gringo Café, Sam Flowers explains, “[We are] so serious about burgers because we know our customers want food that is authentically American.”
“There are lots of good burger options now in Rio but often they are interpretations with specific flavor characteristics (special sauce, spices, etc). The ‘best’ burger for any person is the one they can personalize and this is our specialty.” Flowers explains, “We start with authentically American basics and then offer customization.”
Adding some detail to their new, revamped burger focus, “We grind chuck steak in-house which is Americans’ preferred meat for a burger and not the typical meat used in Brazil. We bake fresh buns, offer real, imported cheddar cheese and then offer homemade sauces and toppings to make ‘your’ best burger.”
British expatriate living in Rio, Tom Le Mesurier of popular food guide Eat Rio shares, “My top burgers are: Ex-Touro (it’s in CADEG in Benfica), Botero (Laranjeiras) and Comuna.”
Explaining, “Yasser Regis (the man behind Ex-Touro) uses seriously high quality beef in his burgers. In fact Ex-Touro doubles as a high-end butchers, stocking amazing wagyu beef and other luxurious cuts of beef. The patty itself is loosely formed so that all the tender, juicy meat melts in your mouth – no hockey pucks here!”
The Comuna in Botafogo doubles as a hipster nightlife mecca, but the artisan burgers are excellent and if the small dining area is too packed they can be ordered to go and enjoyed on the street. The high quality beef is lightly handled and not overcooked to allow for a tender and juicy experience.
The burger power-house in Rio for the last few years is TT Burger, with a highly successful location in Arpoador, Leblon, Barra and Botafogo. These order first and sit locations do just about everything right and standard ‘salad’ includes a delightful picked onion that is both unique and unforgettable.
A relatively new option is the one-year old Australian-owned Kraft Cafe, and Duncan Hay tells how the name of their burger, the “Drunken Aussie” came from one of his favorite haunts in Perth with “The Lot”, which consisted of a burger, fried egg, bacon, lettuce, tomato and pickled beetroot.”
Hay explains, “Our burger [has all that] plus our special Kraft sauce which a secret mix of BBQ, Worcestershire, Dijon and a few other things. We also get our meat from the meat supplier who won best meats in Brazil for the last few years. We go for only 100 percent Angus beef as it doesn’t need any nasty extra flavoring to make it tasty.”
There are surely other amazing options in Rio for burgers now, including at the many food truck fairs and some up-scale eateries. Yet if one is in need of a big, fat juicy burger and nothing else will do, any of the above are bound to satisfy.