Salvador, Brazil, known for its cuisine, music, and 17th and 18th-century colonial architecture, was once the capital of Portugal’s New World colony. Another important thread woven into Salvador’s culture dates from the colonial era when African slaves were brought to Salvador, which was the first slave port in the Americas. As a result, descendants of those slaves have kept alive the African ingredients and cooking techniques handed down for generations.
It is the blending of Portuguese and Afro-Brazilian influences that have contributed to Salvador’s unique cuisine and restaurant scene. The cuisine of Salvador is known as Bahian, named for the state of Bahia, of which Salvador is the capital. Bahian dishes are spicy and seafood-based, prepared using African ingredients and cooking techniques. The most common ingredient is azeite-de-dendê, an oil extracted from a palm tree, originally brought from West Africa to Brazil during colonial times, and the heart of Bahian cuisine.
If you’re traveling to Salvador and looking to indulge in some of the local favorites, take along this list of the 7 best restaurants in the city and you’ll be sure to make the most of your visit to this culinary wonderland.
1. Paraíso Tropical
Known as a “little tropical island” in Salvador, the Paraiso Tropical Restaurant is located in a rustic house, far off the beaten path, in the residential neighborhood of Cabula. It has become an icon of Bahian cuisine and foodies don’t mind making the trek for their traditionally prepared cuisine with a gourmet twist.
They come, in particular, for moquecas, a Brazilian saltwater fish stew, with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and coriander, that is cooked slowly in a terracotta casserole. The fresh fruit that is used in many of the recipes comes from their orchard on the premises. The restaurant has received high accolades from the Commanderie Des Cordons Bleu de France and was named as the best food in Brazil, by Guia 4 Rodas.
Opening Hours: Tue-Sat, noon to 2 am; Sun & Holidays, closed at 5 pm; Closed Mon.
Address: Rua Edgard Loureiro, 98 - B - Cabula, Salvador - BA, 40342-100, Brazil
Website: Paraiso Tropical (in Portugese)
A favorite of locals, Cafélier is a quaint cafe in the Santo Antonio neighborhood, spectacularly perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean. The cafe is small, furnished with antique furniture and a resident cat, who can be found walking around.
The menu is simple, but satisfying: coffee, cappuccino, chocolate cake, snacks and wines by the glass. Favorite times to visit are at lunch and during evening sunset. It’s a one of a kind spot with one of a kind views.
Opening Hours Sun-Tue & Thu, 2:30-9:30 pm; Sat, 2:30-8 pm; closed Wed.
Address: R.do Carmo, 50 - Santo Antonio, Salvador - BA, 40301-380, Brazil
3. Caranguejo de Sergipe
A local beachside favorite, Caranguejo de Sergipe is known for its fresh crab, platters of grilled seafood, vegetables and moqueca. Try the maracujá caipirinha (passion fruit cocktail), possibly the most delicious drink on the beach. It has a laid-back atmosphere with generous servings for a reasonable price.
Caranguejo de Sergipe
Opening Hours Tues-Sat, 11 am-1 am; Sun, 11 am-12 am; Mon, 4 pm-12 am.
Address: Av Oceânica & Fernando Luz
Facebook: Caranguejo de Sergipe
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4. Casa de Tereza
Casa de Tereza is situated in a beautifully restored colonial building, in Rio Vermelho, a beachside community south of the city. The rustic interior has exposed brick, whitewashed stairs, and colorful, wooden furniture. There are different dining rooms, each with their own ambiance and unique furnishings and works of local artists are featured on the walls.
The restaurant practices environmental sustainability, using organic foods and locally caught fish. Specialties of the house include bobo de camarao, (a creamy shrimp stew), capoeira chicken with palm oil, shrimp with cream of saffron, acarje, (peeled peas, deep fried in palm oil), and mulata assanhada, (a dessert of ice cream, fruits, tapioca syrup and chocolate tuille). Enjoy traditional Bahian flavors while dining in a traditional Brazilian atmosphere.
Casa de Tereza
Opening Hours Mon-Wed, 12-11 pm; Thurs-Sat, 12 pm-12 am; Sun, 12 pm-9:30 pm
Address: R. Odilon Santos, 45 - Rio Vermelho, Salvador - BA, 41940-350, Brazil
Website: Casa de Tereza (in Portugese)
5. La Taperia
The interior and menu of La Taperia reflect chef Jose Morchon’s native Spain. Stone walls, colored chairs, paintings and photos of Spain, and chalk drawings on the wall, add a Spanish ambiance to this small, intimate tapas restaurant. A balcony with tables and chairs overlooks the ocean, the perfect place to start off with a white wine sangria with Sicilian lemon and strawberry. Then try the potato tortilla with chorizo.
Other favorites are gorgonzola and zucchini, zarzuela of squid, octopus, shrimp and lobster. Finish with a trio of desserts: cheese mousse with red fruit compote, chocolate mousse with coffee liqueur and tiramisu.
Opening Hours Tues-Thurs, 6 pm-12 am; Fri-Sat, 6 pm-1 am; Sun-Mon, closed.
Address: R. da Paciência, 251 - Rio Vermelho, Salvador - BA, 41950-010, Brazil
Facebook: La Taperia
Larriquerri is an intimate, family-owned French bistro with an Italian inspired menu. No surprise, since the owners, Romildo Guerra and his wife Rosa are Italian. Together, Romildo the host and Rosa the chef have created a dining experience that leaves customers with the feeling they have dined at the home of old friends. The bistro only accommodates 16 diners at eight tables, so there is an ambiance of a family dining room, rather than a restaurant.
The decor is simple and the menu is listed on a large blackboard. Main courses include fettuccine with pesto and shrimp, sweet potato gnocchi, salmon crostado, carpaccio with stuffed ricotta, basil, pesto and parmesan, and tilapia papelote with citrus sauce. To finish off the meal, have some coconut ice cream with a reduction of jurubeba liqueur and peanut farofa, or brownie with almond cream.
Opening Hours Tues-Sat, 7:30 pm-11:30 pm; closed Sun-Mon.
Address: Praça Alexandre Fernandes, 26 - Garcia, Salvador - BA, 40100-130, Brazil
Edinho Engel, the owner of Amado, describes their menu as “traditional Bahian dishes with a contemporary twist”, which goes well with the sleek, contemporary decor. The restaurant is located in a spectacular setting, overlooking the Bay of All Saints and the view is even more spectacular from the outside dining terrace.
The fish and seafood are the specialties of the house, with meat and pasta also on the menu. The most popular dish is the pescada amarela, or fish with a puree of banana and wild rice. There is also a degustation menu of five different dishes.
Opening Hours Mon-Sat, 12 pm-12 am; Sun 12 pm-5 pm
Address: Av. Lafayete Coutinho, 660 - Comercio, Salvador - BA, 40015-160, Brazil
The flavors of Salvador, Brazil
The Bahian cuisine of Salvador is rooted in the sea, with spices and ingredients from far away Africa. Fish and seafood are prepared with fruit and vegetables all made even more flavorful with the addition of African ingredients. It is this blend of local and African ingredients that have made Bahian cuisine one of the most unique and popular in the world.
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