By Candy Pilar Godoy, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Carnivorous Cariocas are known for their love of carne-filled feijoadas, sizzling churrascos, and meat on a stick. Yet according to a 2011 survey by the Brazilian Institute of Public Opinion and Statistics, nine percent of the Brazilian population identified themselves as vegetarian. The growing number of meat free diets, up four percent from a survey done seven years prior, accompanies an array of vegetarian restaurants that have popped up around Rio.
Refeitorio Organico, a small vegan spot in Botafogo, is the best of the best, according to many. “It’s not just good vegan food, it’s good food period,” remarked Micaela Browning, a Rio transplant and former vegetarian. The restaurant offers a buffet of Brazilian and International cuisine, including sushi, miso soup, and faux meats, as well as a selection of fixed plates.
Be sure to try the salad bar, which is always stocked with goodies such as fresh watercress and arugula. They are located down a passageway and up some stairs on Rua Dezenove de Fevereiro and open for lunch on Monday – Saturday from 10:30AM to 4:30PM.
For those looking for early dinner options, head to the Vegetariano Social Club. Located in Leblon, which offers a lunch buffet and a la carte dinner of savory dishes such as stroganoff, mushroom risotto, and quinoa salad. On Wednesdays and Sunday they offer a feijoada made of half smoked tofu, crispy cabbage and thin sliced kale. Be sure to try one of their freshly made juices, such as guarana with mint and ginger or rose-petal.
If you’re strolling around Centro, try Restaurante Tempeh in Praça Quinze. The per-kilo eatery offers a vegan buffet of tofu, salad, and unique staples such as brown rice sushi. Rustic wooden chairs and exposed brick help spice up the ambiance and the list of organic wines hits the spot.
Fontes, in Ipanema, is always a crowd favorite. The small low-key restaurants menu changes daily, offering up meals of roasted eggplant and shitake mushroom filled salgados. Their website provides recipes of popular dishes, as well as a calorie and quantity list, so daring readers can attempt to indulge their palate at home.
Last by not least is Universo Organico, a vegetarian staple back in in Leblon that is good by even a carnivore’s standards. The pricey restaurant offers raw options and has a small grocery store that sells organic goods and does home delivery. Be sure to stop by the juice bar and sample one of their fresh shakes.
Despite a large range of vegetarian eateries, there are also plenty of viable options for devout abstainers in Rio that cater to both meat and non meat eaters alike. Per-kilo restaurants offer buffet style meals that let customers pick and choose food and opt out of meat.
Pizza rodizios are also a safe bet, with plenty of vegetable, fruit, and dessert pies. For the more traditional, there’s always a snack of pão de queijo or queijo coalho on a stick that will satisfy the stomach.