On the north side of the Lenheiro stream, on Praça Severiano de Rezende, you’ll find two of the town’s best restaurants: the Churrascaria Ramon, which does a good-value churrasco, and the Quinta do Ouro, whose mineiro food is the best in São João, though fairly expensive at around R$50 per person. On the same praça is the perfectly adequate and cheaper por kilo Restaurante Rex (11am–4pm). Alternatively, a very pleasant place for light meals and excellent afternoon teas is the Sinhazinha (Mon–Fri 1–6pm, Sat, Sun & holidays 8am–10pm), directly across from the Igreja de São Francisco.
The best places, however, combining good food with lively atmosphere, are on the south side, where tourists, young townsfolk and families flock to drink, eat and go to the cinema. Many of the bars have live music at weekends and get very crowded later on when people start spilling out onto the pavements. Almost all of the action is concentrated on Avenida Tiradentes, which runs parallel to Eduardo Magalhães, the avenue that runs alongside the stream. The bars are bunched both at Tiradentes’ western end near São Francisco – where Cabana do Zotti at no. 805 (9pm onwards) is always packed and does good snacks – and halfway along Tiradentes at the junction with Rua Gabriel Passos (the road that runs in from the blue Prefeitura). For a meal, the Restaurante Villeiros at Rua Padré Maria Xavier 132 offers very good comida mineira – a por kilo buffet at lunch and à la carte in the evening.