We chat to Brazilian chef Edinho Engel, who reveals the best bars and restaurants in sultry Salvador, Bahia.
While most people think Rio is the party capital of Brazil, it’s sultry Salvador that really sets the pace. The birthplace – and still home of – the carnival, this lively city certainly knows how to throw a jamboree.
It’s also a dream destination for foodies, with a smorgasbord of eateries ranging from high-end restaurants to authentic street barbecues. But where are the best bars and restaurants in Salvador?
To find answers, we chatted to award-winning chef, Edinho Engel, who heads the kitchen at the much vaunted Amado Restaurant. He’s an expert in local cuisine and knows exactly where the party’s at.
What are your favourite restaurants in the city?
Amado (Avenida Lafayete Coutinho 660, Comercio)
Of course, I have to include my own restaurant, as one of my favourite restaurants in Salvador. We produce top quality Bahian recipes that are well priced. The Pescada Amarela (fish with puree of banana and wild rice) is our most popular dish and sums up our style – traditional Brazilian dishes with a contemporary twist and quality ingredients.
Al Mare (Avenida Tancredo Neves 2915)
Located in Salvador shopping centre, Al Mare is a trendy, contemporary restaurant headed by Le Cordon Bleu trained chef, Fabricio Lemos. The seafood restaurant is loved by tourists and locals alike. The lobster salad is Al Mare’s biggest success.
Paraiso Tropical(R. Edgar Loureiro 98-B, Cabula)
This is a remarkable restaurant due to its use of delicious local Bahian ingredients, including tropical fruits and fresh clams. The place is full of trees and shrubbery and the chef, Mr Beto Pimentel, is one of the nicest guys in Brazil.
Casa de Tereza (Rua Odilon Santos 45, Rio Vermelho)
Situated in a beautiful old colonial building, this restaurant has a terrific ambiance and delicious food. The traditional dishes, including acarajé (peeled peas deep fried in palm oil) and large moqueca (salt water fish stew in coconut milk) draw locals every night of the week, so this is the place to come for travellers looking to soak up Bahian flavours and a lively Brazilian atmosphere.
Mistura(Rua Prof Souza Brito 41, tapũa)
This Mediterranean style restaurant is a must-visit for seafood lovers, winning numerous awards for the quality of its fresh fish. Try the linguine with calamari and pesto or the Badejo da Pedra que Ronca (fillet of whiting with Moroccan couscous, lobster and shrimp).
And what about for more modest budgets?
La Taperia (Rua Da Pacencia 149)
Famed for its cosmopolitan, chilled-out vibe which draws in people from across Salvador. It’s not all about the atmosphere though; the Spanish chef is a wizard in the kitchen and serves excellent paella (best accompanied with a glass of homemade sangria). The helpful waiters will happily assist with tips on the best dishes according to your preferences.
Moreira (Largo do Mocambinho 488, Carlos Gomes)
A busy restaurant favoured by Bahian locals having their affordable almoco (lunch). The simple decor of the place means tourists tend to overlook Moreira, but those feeling brave will be rewarded with fine examples of regional cuisine like muqueca (fish stew), xinxim (lime chicken in a crayfish and peanut sauce) and cozido (traditional meat and vegetable stew) all for affordable local prices. It gets very crowded on the weekends.
Dona Mariquita(Rua do Meio, 178, Rio Vermelho)
This is a very good, clean and simple little restaurant in the Rio Varmelho district of Salvador that remains firmly off the tourist radar. Pull up a wooden deck chair and order the Moqueca de Camarão com Maturi (shrimp stew with cashew nuts) along with a side order of Caruru (okra, smoked shrimp and cashew nuts with dendê oil).
Pasta em Casa (Rua Professora Almerinda Dultra 65, Rio Vermelho)
Pasta em Casa is another tiny place in the Rio Varmelho neighbourhood – in fact it’s so tiny that it only has three tables, so get there early.Order some of the homemade pasta with meat so succulent it dissolves in your mouth. The Brazilian owner allows you to bring your own wine.
Brazilians like their meat, right? Where’s best for a good steak?
We certainly do! Salvador has plenty of popular churrascaria, or barbecue restaurants to choose from. Some of my favourites include Fogo de Chao (Praca Colombo 4, Rio Vermelho), Boi Preto (Avenida Otavio Mangabeira) and Pobre Juan (Avenida Antonio Carlos Magalhaes, 3363), which all serve excellent quality meats that are cooked right in front of you – that’s the Brazilian way.
And to wash it down? Where are the best bars in Salvador?
Pereira(Avenida Sete De Setembro 3959, Porto De Barra)
Another beachside bar located on the white sands of Praia do Porto. It’s more up-market than the other bars along the beachfront, but as a result the wine choice is excellent. Enjoy a glass of Shiraz on the outdoor terrace overlooking the bay’s blue waters.
Piaui (Rua Piaui 16, Pituba)
A great example of a traditional boteco (simple bar), Piaui is a grocery store by day and a makeshift bar by night. The few simple tables and chairs outside fill up quickly, so arrive early to reserve a seat, mingle with locals and enjoy what many claim to be the best crab dishes in town – washed down with a refreshing chopp (light beer) of course.
Barraca do Loro (Rua Desembargador Manoel de Andrade Teixeira, Praia do Flamengo)
A local-hangout situated right on Praia do Flamengo beach, Barraca do Loro is the perfect spot to enjoy a cold beer and escape the midday sun for a few hours. The bar also has live music some afternoons. It’s the simplicity of the place that really gives this place its charm.
Boteco do Franca(Rua Borges dos Reis 24-A, Rio Vermelho)
Squeezed into a tiny alleyway, this bar is perfect if you plan on having a couple of drinks, and then a couple more. Well priced with a friendly local atmosphere, this bohemian bar with its plastic tables and chairs is a real hidden gem, perfect for a humid Brazilian evening. Order the octopus rice, it comes as a huge portion and is surprisingly delicious.
DOC Casual Dining(Rua Das Dalias 584, Pituba)
This has the best chopp (light beer) in town, which arrives at the table in a frozen glass. This American themed diner – complete with booths and cheeseburgers – gets lively at the weekend and draws a mix of tourists and locals.