If you yearn for variety and an authentic South American food culture, look no further. Take a 10 hours flight from New York to Sao Paulo and you will be at the heart of South America’s largest city and passport to 52 nations.
Whether you prefer Arabic, German, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Brazilian or Moroccan – Sao Paulo’s 12,500 restaurants and thousands of street food markets and cafés serve every budget and taste.
“Sao Paulo the food city of South America?”, some may ask. Seriously the city has more pizzerias (over 1,500 pizzerias) and all sorts of pizza toppings imaginable. It is a city where diversity, innovation and originality of food go hand in hand.
How to get there?
Sao Paulo is one of the most accessible cities in South America. It is served by about 40 airlines from around the world. There are five direct flights from New York City, one from Los Angeles, CA and three from Miami.
The airport in Sao Paulo is Sao Paulo-Guarulhos International Airport (GRU), which has international and domestic flights to other parts of Brazil.
When is the best time to visit Sao Paulo?
If you dislike crowds and paying high prices, avoid the high season in Sao Paulo. High season is one week before Christmas to the Carnival, Easter and July (Brazil’s school holidays). You have to reserve air tickets and accommodation in advance if you are traveling during the high season.
For the best deals, go after the Carnival (usually early to mid-March) or in September and October.
Currency used in Sao Paulo
Brazil’s local currency is the Real. At the time of writing US$1 is 2.35 BRL.
Credit cards are widely used in Sao Paulo’s major hotels and restaurants. It is important to have the local currency for street food, certain local restaurants, pizzerias and local transportation.
Places to go:
One: Sao Paulo’s Mercado Municipal
When in Sao Paulo you must try the mortadella sandwich and pastel. One of the best places to try both is at Hocca Bar inside the Mercado Municipal.
Mortadella sandwiches have its origin from Bologna Italy. Inside the sandwich is mortadella sausage (like bologna made with pork and lots of black pepper) and provolone cheese.
Pastel de bacalhau (cod fish pastel) is another must try food at the Mercado Municipal. These rectangular pastries are filled with shredded pieces of pure cod, onions, garlic and mashed potatoes bathed in olive oil.
The Mercado Municipal is filled with fresh local fruits, cheeses, sausages and cooked and uncooked seafood like oysters. The vendors at the Mercado distribute samples of fresh local fruits, cheeses and sausages. If you have a strong stomach try the fresh oysters at Casa das Ostras. The tiny eatery by the side door entrance of the Mercado serves lobsters, shrimp and cooked oysters as well.
Location: Rua da Cantareira, 306
Two: Sao Paulo’s pizza
Sao Paulo has the highest concentration of Italians in Brazil. There are over 1,500 pizzerias in Sao Paulo. To a Paulistano “the Italians invented pizza but the people of Sao Paulo perfected it!”
One pizzeria to try Brazilian pizza is at one of the Braz Pizzaria. Braz Pizzaria has three locations in Sao Paulo including one in Higienópolis. According to Braz, they use authentic Italian imported peeled tomatoes, old-style dough passed down from generations and a traditional woodstove that reaches 400-450 degrees.
Information: Braz Pizzaria
Three: Japanese and Chinese food in Liberdade (Japantown)
Sao Paulo has the largest Japanese population outside Japan. Liberdade, also known as Japantown has many noodle and sushi houses with authentic Japanese food. In recent years Chinese immigrants also moved to the area and started many cheap eateries and restaurants.
For a taste of Japanese noodles head over to Lamen Kazu. This popular restaurant usually has a line of diners waiting for lunch and dinner. Lame Kazu serves all types of ramen in soup including ramen in shoyu or miso soup.
Chinese food is also readily available in Liberdade. You can try Chi Fu Chinese Restaurant at Praça Carlos Gomes, 178 – São Paulo. Cantonese dishes of noodles, vegetables and meat are served just like those found in New York City’s Chinatown.
Location: Lamen Kazu- Rua Tomáz Gonzaga, 51 – Liberdade
Four: Downtown Sao Paulo
Sao Paulo’s downtown lunch crowd moves really fast in every restaurant. Lunch workers in all restaurants are fast and efficient. You really don’t have to wait for a long time to get a shared table or your own table for lunch.
For a quick sandwich Sao Paulo style try Café Bom Gosto. Café Bom Gosto has a variety of sandwiches and salads.
They serve hot dogs in Sao Paulo too. Pedrinho Hot Dogs serves hot dogs for over 15 years on baguettes.
A quieter environment for dining would be at one of the Salve Jorge restaurants. Salve Jorge restaurant in downtown Sao Paulo serves great feijoada, farofa (toasted manioc flour) and pork chop. Don’t forget their icy cold beer.
These three restaurants are places for lunch and within walking distance from each other in downtown Sao Paulo.
For great coffee and pastry you must go to Casa Mathilde. Try the pasteis de belem, a Portuguese dessert made of egg yolks, cinnamon, sugar, flour, vanilla, butter, salt, water and milk.
Café Bom Gosto- Rua São Bento, 525, São Paulo
Pedrinho Hot Dogs- Rua São Bento, 487, São Paulo
Salve Jorge – Praça Antônio Prado, 33 Centro, São Paulo
Casa Mathilde – Praça Antonio Prado, 76
Do you have a favorite place to eat in Sao Paulo? Please share.