Every four years, the World Cup erupts to the joy of millions around the world, some of whom converge on the host country to join the month-long festivities. Although only a fraction of fans manage to attend a match, they all come to celebrate football – and there's no better way to immerse yourself in the Brazil World Cup than by savouring the specialties of some of the competing countries in immigrant-centric São Paulo. Here are nine places to indulge in the eclectic food and drink scene of Brazil’s biggest city.
SPAIN: Sancho’s Bar y Tapas
This classic pintxos bar sits just off Avenida Paulista near the top of unpretentious Baixo Augusta, and caters to an eclectic crowd keen on the wide selection of beers and sangrias, the Flamenco guitar shows on Mondays and Wednesdays, and the tapas or bocadillos (sandwiches) like manchego cheese and jamón serrano (mountain ham). Sancho’s exposed brick, dim setting and decorative touches, including bullfighting posters and dangling black legs of jamón de bellota (acorn-fed ham), make it an easy place to get comfy – little consolation for those longing to stumble into another tapas bar nearby, as is customary in Spain.
Rua Augusta, 1415
Something of a city institution, this no-frills diamond in the rough is a brisk ten-minute walk from downtown’s prominent Estação da Luz, cutting through the exuberant Parque da Luz and ending in the immigrant neighbourhood of Bom Retiro, making it an ideal stop for a lazy lunch and stroll on a sunny day. The blue-and-white tones manage to brighten up Acrópolis’s faded decor, but the real payoff – aside from the ouzo and 600ml bottles of ice-cold beer – comes when you zig-zag your way to the kitchen, where you can peruse the typical fare, such as moussaka and calamari, or point out the home-made dish of your choice to the chef. Opa!
Rua da Graça, 364
FRANCE: Le Jazz Brasserie
Cut from the same cloth as Paris’s tucked-away bistros, the secret has long been out on Le Jazz, and eager patrons bide their time beneath the awning or further out along the sidewalk, pairing their long waits with glasses of wine. It’s well worth the trouble though, with or without a reservation, as the food and service rarely disappoint. With the full repertoire of bistro classics to choose from, the real problem lies in deciding what to order. But with starters like the sublime breaded Camembert with honey, and wines priced around R$50, there’s no reason to rush.
Rua dos Pinheiros, 254
© Volodymyr Plysiuk/Shutterstock
CHILE: El Guatón
Owned and operated by a Chilean family – El Guatón himself, and his wife Doña Elba, to be exact – this neighbourhood restaurant serves simple, home-made Chilean dishes like baked empanadas, ceviche and pastel de choclo (chicken pie topped with corn purée). The result is a revolving door of satisfied regulars, who come back time and time again for the reasonably-priced comfort food and a hearty helping of hangover remedies to soak up yesterday’s booze. On second thought, the pisco sours may be just the hair of the dog you need to kickstart your day. After all, the games must definitely go on.
Rua Artur de Azevedo, 906
This eight-seat, hole-in-the-wall gem keeps a low profile, just like its soft-spoken sushi chef, Keisuke Egashira. No matter, as Egashira lets his authentic kappo cuisine – where the sushiman doles out dishes made on the spot as his diners look on – do the talking. The inconspicuous restaurant blends right in to the shopping corridor it calls home, and a simple white curtain veils the sliding-door entrance even further – perhaps to discourage random passers-by from peering in with no reservations, or at all, if the Japanese-only menu offers any hint. But if you manage to dodge all the disqualifiers, the executive lunch or dinner is astounding value, while the elaborate tasting menu is a culinary spectacle with over twenty dishes and a blowtorch as a utensil.
Rua Manoel da Nóbrega 76
COLOMBIA: Sabores de Mi Tierra
Tucked away in a crammed garage on a dead-end road up the hill from the bustling Praça Benedito Calixto weekend street market, Sabores de Mi Tierra churns out their own brand of street food – mainly arepas and patacones (fried, smashed plantains) with a slew of toppings – as fast as they can to keep up with the steady flow of Latino-heavy customers. If you don’t mind the bottleneck, drop down at one of the communal tables and soak up the chaotic, Latin American scene over a beer.
Rua Lisboa, 971
USA: BOS BBQ
Affording themselves no shortcuts, this cosy Southern barbecue-style joint slow cooks its succulent ribs and briskets in a firewood oven for between six and thirteen hours. You’ll want to get there early on busy weekends to guarantee you’ll have the full menu at your disposal. Decked out with an array of Americana, including a smoke-stained painting of the co-owner’s home state Texas flag, BOS is an expat favourite thanks to rare finds like chicken wings, Thanksgiving turkey and authentic barbecue sauce made from scratch. And with mint juleps, Jack Daniels, Brooklyn Lager and weekly live music shows to go with the inviting atmosphere, there’s very little to dislike about this gringo haven.
Rua Pedroso Alvarenga, 559
THE FIELD: Butantan Food Park
Belgium’s waffles, Argentina’s wines and empanadas, Brazil’s acarajé and England’s fish & chips are all part of a rotating lineup of street food staples that represent many of the remaining World Cup countries at the new Butantan Food Park. Stemming from a series of successful street food events – from the ambitious O Mercado, to the weekly Sunday Feirinha Gastronomica (from the same creators) – this food truck and stall park has become an instant hit and opens daily. Nestled in a former parking lot with a dozen or so picnic tables to squeeze onto, it’s the perfect place to taste an array of cuisines in one sitting.
Rua Agostinho Cantu, 47
Top image © Vergani Fotografia/Shutterstock