Everything happens in São Paulo first. If there is a trend across Brazil or Latin America, chances are it began or was adopted early in São Paulo. Like the culinary worlds of New York or Paris, São Paulo’s food scene sits at the cutting edge.
Few Latin American cities can compete with São Paulo’s cultural melting pot. New Lebanese and Syrian immigrants have renewed interest in old-school Middle Eastern restaurants like Brasserie Victoria. Koreatown, in the Bom Retiro neighborhood, is home to many international transplants who laud haute Korean restaurant Komah. Italian food is omnipresent in every corner of the city, but it gains new life on the tasting menu at Evvai. Brazil is even home to the largest Japanese population outside Japan, much of it in São Paulo, where it’s easy to find Japanese pastéis and supreme izakayas.
Chefs have flocked to the city as well, bringing Michelin-starred techniques from culinary capitals in Europe to Brazil’s extensive native pantry. Ingredients like manioc, cashew fruit, jenipapo, and even Amazonian ants not only enthrall guests from abroad but show off the country’s edible bounty.
Just as the city has diversified ethnically, it has evolved geographically. For decades, the best restaurants clustered in neighborhoods like Pinheiros, Itaim Bibi, and Jardins, but street traffic has helped spur change. In one of the most populous cities in the world, getting across town is a serious challenge, incentivizing restaurateurs to set up shop in new areas with captive audiences. Eaters can find exciting new restaurants in Barra Funda, where Korean restaurants mix with hipster shops, and the nostalgic Tatuapé community, which rarely registered as a blip on the gourmand radar until recently.
With a sprawling, traffic-clotted metropolis to explore, you’ll need some help finding the best spots to eat. Here are the essential eating experiences you need to have in São Paulo now.
Editor’s Note: Eater is not updating international maps at this time given disruptions to global travel during the COVID-19 crisis.
Price key per person, excluding alcohol:
$ = Less than R$ 50 (Less than $12 USD)
$$ = R$ 50 - R$ 100 ($12 to $22 USD)
$$$ = R$ 100 - R$ 180 ($22 to $36 USD)
$$$$ = R$ 180 ($36 USD) and up