Bar Getúlio

Bar Getúlio is one of Rio’s most famous botecos. In 2010 it relocated from Catete (this is where the photo is taken) to a modern and perhaps less charming setting in Copacabana.

The botecos or botequins of Rio are traditional places Brazilians frequent to enjoy beer, snack food and good company. The history of the existence of these type of establishments can be traced back to the 19th century.

What is a boteco?

I first arrived in Rio de Janeiro in 2003, I was instantly charmed by the drinking establishments referred to as botecos and botequins. A place where friends and family could meet up for a drink and some delicious snack food. Conversations were loud and the laughs were many. As I spent more time in the country I came across the notion that boteco had been a place a bit frowned upon, a simple place for the people. That was very hard to understand since the people I saw in these places always seemed quite affluent. In this article I will discuss the history and development of these and explain why the botecos I visited were quite upscale.

In the beginning

The term boteco (also buteco) comes from the portuguese word botica which refers to a type of general store, during the 19th century these had become local meeting points around Rio de Janeiro. In the beginning of the 20th century these started to offer drinks to their clients which soon would prove to be an excellent idea, the first decades of the 1900’s saw a literal boom of these drinking establishments. The preferred drink was beer and often chopp which is draught beer cooled down in an iced serpentine, Bar Luiz on Rua da Carioca 39 in Centro boasts to be the first boteco to offer this to their clients. Over the decades this term would spread and become a description for a simple establishment offering drinks and snack food. This development mainly took place in Rio de Janeiro which then was the capital.


With time a separation of terms started to take place. The term botequim (also butequim) was used to refer to larger establishment with tables, a menu and waiters. The boteco would describe a smaller bar, often family owned and with a very local clientel. The boteco many times was the hangout for the local drunkards and thus evolved a quite bad reputation. The lowest form of boteco was probably the pé-sujo (means dirty feat) which I have discussed in another article. The term was so frowned upon it was rarely included in the name of the establishment (which sometimes botequim was), the more neutral name bar was often preferred.

Recent trends

A trend over the last decades is that the names boteco and botequim have been marketed as more traditional places, food and cold draught beer is served in a classic setting which cater for a more upscale clientele. These days more modern establishments that break the pattern also use these terms to define themselves, this is especially the case in Zona Sul; Boteco da Garrafa on Rua Prudente de Morais 1838 in Ipanema can serve as a good example ,a very chique place with a long menu, and high prices. The development can also be seen in other parts of the country, in Belo Horizonte, a visit to Buteco Chic on Avenida Raja Gabaglia 2985 in São Bento is a modern twist on a traditional concept. At some point boteco became interchangeable with botequim. The terms are fluid, there are yearly surveys made to name the botequim of the year where most establishments that serve beer and snack foods are included. The reason for my original confusion was that I visited these new more upscale places that market themselves as botecos and botequins, what I failed to grasp was that the corner bar also was a boteco.

A good place to experience Rio de Janeiro’s culture

Just like you have pubs in London, bistrôs in Paris the Cariocas (people from Rio de Janeiro) have embraced their heritage and continued their water-hole tradition. They are great places to meet up with friends, your wife or your brother. Just like all good waterholes they often can be extensions to your living room as well as an escape. On the televison you can follow your favourite soap opera or your football team. On your birthday the waiters will deliver the cake your friends brought and the hole place will sing for you. Politics, love and sports are discussed and argued. When picking the boteco to visit it is like choosing an ice cream flavour.

My real passion is with the pé-sujo variety, the simplest form of boteco where rich and poor always have met. For me the corner bars and hole-in-the-walls are the only true democratic bars in Rio. Psychologists rub shoulders with street vendors, lawyers and petty scoundrels. It is where the famous mix of Rio finally comes together. Read my article about pé-sujos by clicking this link.

If you have some good places to recommend and at least 20 words to share, please comment this article!

Sources and for further reading:
– Goldenberg, E. “Meu Lar É o Botequim” (2005)
Article by Dé Comber from 2011

Pé-sujo Carolice

Carolice located on the corner of Farme de Amoedo with Barão da Torre is a typical pé-sujo.

Some large cities have developed quite defined eating and drinking establishments, Rio de Janeiro is one of those. Perhaps the most interesting and special is a variety in the local vernacular referred to as pé-sujo which translates to “dirty feet” in English.

Rich and Poor

Rio de Janeiro has been part of my life for over 10 years and nowhere I feel that the myth of rich and poor living side by side becomes more true than in a pé-sujo. Countless evening I have spent with friends enjoying their good company and the unique atmosphere these places can offer, on a hot evening in the tropics what can be better than a cold beer and the drama of the street right in front of your feet.

The Boteco

The general term for drinking establishments in Rio is boteco, it is used quite loosely to describe anything from chique and modern bars to the simplest hole-in-the-walls. These type of places started to develop in the late 19th century and can these days be seen on most corners in the city. The pé-sujo is the colloquial term for the simplest form of these, the dirty feet you get from standing or sitting on the actual street.

Daytime in a Pé-sujo

Many of these open in the early morning and offer simple breakfast alternatives like filled pastries and coffee with milk. As the day goes on the place turns into a lunch place that cater for blue collar workers as well as retired doctors. The prato feito is the big seller which most often is rice, beans and french fries served with sausages, chicken or beef. At times a few fresh vegetables gets lost and end up on the plates as well.


In the afternoon a transformation takes place, people have a beer after work and talk about favourite topics like football players and corrupt politicians. At night food is still served but it is more common to order a plate of sausages with onions or a steak sandwich to go down with that beer. On the obligatory tv-set people gather around football games and soap operas, for many people it becomes the living room extended. As the night goes on it becomes a more pure waterhole as more beer is sold to a growing crowd. It is at this time the unique mix of people starts to happen, street vendors sell peanuts to journalists and house wives; petty scoundrels can rub shoulders with politicians.


On Saturday and Sundays the rhythm is different, at 9 AM in the morning it is not uncommon to see a team of construction workers having their first beer before work, in areas that are close to the ocean it becomes the finish to a day on the beach. On weekends it is common to have semi-improvised barbecues where friends chip in, a simple grill is loaded with meat and sausages bought in the closest super market. Perhaps a group of people will start to play some Samba music around a table; Plates, spoons and glasses would join with instruments brought from home. On that Sunday afternoon a group of old-timers would put on the green tablecloth and start shuffling the cards in preparation for the weekly session of sueca.


Each pé-sujo has its own atmosphere and schedule, the clients that come are most often living or working closeby. Each bar can have their special mix of people made up of criminals, police officers, doctors, actors and lawyers. The choice of the bar can be made from convenience, preference or just coincidence. They are perhaps like ice cream flavours, you pick out of preference. If you ever go to Rio de Janeiro why not try to find one that is to your fancy? It is a true experience of life in this city.

If you have some good places to recommend and at least 20 words to share, please comment this article!

Sources and for further reading:
– Luz, M “Botequim de bêbado tem dono“ (2008)

feijoada meal

A feijoada meal. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

In Brazil the heavy meat and bean casserole known as feijoada is considered a national dish with roots in the time of slavery, left-over meat was supposedly utilized by slaves to make this dish. Of late this idea has been challenged as untrue.


Feijoada is a hearty stew made with black beans and meat, before I came to Brazil I had read how this stew made with left-over meats had become the national dish. Freshly arrived in Brazil in 2003 I of course had to try it, I liked it, heavy and very rich. Over the last few years I have read a lot about food history and the notion that feijoada originally would be slave food seemed more and more strange, up until 100 years ago pretty much all parts of the pig and cow was considered good to eat and dishes rich in any meat not food for serfs and the poor. I have also across some texts that suggests I could be right. Let me explain.

Feijoada Has European Roots

To begin with, the meat and bean stew does not have Brazilian origins, a French dish called cassoulet has been around since at least the 14th century, it is a bean and mixed meat casserole which is popular until today in southwest France. Originally it was made with fava beans but since a few hundred years the white bean, endemic to the Americas, has become the most common choice. Other types of bean and meat stews existed in Europe at least a couple of centuries earlier, the cassoulet is very similar in preparation and taste, it is easy to see the connection with the Brazilian dish.

The Portuguese Brought It To Brazil

A type of feijoada was already in Portugal before the discovery of the Americas, the Portuguese version most often today (just like the cassoulet), include white or red beans, different types of sausages, beef- and pork-parts together with vegetables – it is popular in Portugal until today. The Portuguese brought the dish with them to their colonies like Angola, São Tomé and Brazil. The black bean, which is the main ingredient in most Brazilian versions, became popular with the Portuguese already in the 16th century. The black bean is easy to grow and nutritious, to be able to digest it you have to cook it for hours or use a pressure cooker. The bean stew feijão is eaten on a daily basis by many Brazilians. Together with rice and manioc it would become a mainstay for the whole population, from rich to slaves. The feijão was often enhanced with vegetables and tubers.

How Brazilian Feijoada Evolved

The habit to mix in sausages, bacon, pig’s ear, tail and trotters, bacon and beef jerky the Portuguese already had (as I have explained). Exactly when the feijoada brasileira became a defined dish is uncertain but by the mid 19th century there are written sources proving its existence in Brazilian high society. To use tail, ears and other obscurer parts of the pig was common, at this time it is doubtful that even the King of Brazil would have frowned upon that since our more selective behavior towards which animal parts we eat is a quite recent behavior. Without the inclusion of the fatty “unnoble” parts of the pig the dish would not get its distinctive taste. Of course there might have some left overs cooked into a bean stew for the slaves, but most likely it would bear little resemblance to the rich tasting dish we see today since ingredients like sausages and bacon would probably have been left out – Perhaps you had something you could call a slave-feijoada. For me I always saw feijoada as a kind of feijão-de-luxe, something for special occasions, with my new knowledge it seems like it also could have been on the menu of the rich quite often.


When the idea that this would be some kind of left-over slave food sprung is unknown, perhaps some time during the 20th century. My unfounded guess would be that when the population started having ample access to meat they became more selective to what they ate, many of the parts that is included in the feijoada were not eaten anymore and became considered as lesser. From this development the idea perhaps came. In Brazil the most common bean in use became the black variety, ingredients vary a lot with region: Onion, garlioc, bacon, dried beef, pig’s ear, kale and okra are examples. Feijoada is often eaten with manioc flour, rice, fried kale and sliced orange.

Sources and for further reading:

Bacalhau Rio.

Bacalhau on display in a Casas Pedro shop in Copacabana.

Bacalhau, dried and salted cod is the core ingredient in many dishes most treasured by Brazilians. Today it is a quite expensive ingredient and mostly reserved for special occasions, that was not always the case.

Arriving in a new culture can sometimes present you with culinary challenges, for me bacalhau was one of those. The dried and salted cod did not agree with my palate, until today I pretty much can only liked it when the taste is hidden in fried batter and chili sauce. This is the story about bacalhau.


Scandinavian Vikings discovered how you could dry air dry cod. The tradition to dry and salt the cod dates back at least 500 years and was initiated with the discovery of huge shoals of cod outside of Newfoundland, the result is referred to as stockfish (bacalhau in Portuguese). Initially most of the fishing vessels came from the Iberian peninsula, they would catch, salt and dry the cod before bringing it back to Europe. In the 17th century better salination methods made salt cheaper, coupled with better equipment volumes went up and the price down. Dried and salted fish became a mainstay in many European countries, in Portugal and Atlantic Spain so much it became a part of culture. It is by most considered the national dish of Portugal.

How Bacalhau Came to Brazil

The Portuguese would bring the cod to their colonies, this is how it came to Brazil. Since meat was expensive and bacalhau cheap it became a very important food. So cheap that slaves and poor were more likely to eat it rather than the meat rich feijoada considered by many as the typical slave-dish (read my article Brazilian Feijoada for more on this topic). The Brazilian saying “Para quem é, bacalhau basta” (En: “For who it is, bacalhau is good enough”) can serve as an indicator for how this was originally a cheap food.


In time large quantities of cod would also be caught off the coasts of Iceland and Norway. Today the shoals outside of Newfoundland are almost depleted, most of the cod comes from Norway. Since the Second World diminishing catches have made prices go up drastically, for Brazilians it is an exclusive food these days and only eaten on special occasions. For many the Christmas dinner would not be complete with out some dried cod.
In Brazil stockfish is prepared in various fashions, it can be baked it in the oven, used as ingredient in fritters or casseroles.

Sources and for further reading:
– Kurlansky, M “Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World “ (1997)

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