Adega do Timão (Rua Visconde de Itaboaraí 10, Centro, tel. 21/2224-9616, 4 p.m.–midnight Tues.–Sun.) is a small, charming little bar decorated with nautical gear and a fancy crystal chandelier thrown in for good measure. Its proximity to the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil and Espaço Cultura dos Correios has made it a beer stop obligé for the culture crowd.
Founded in 1887, Bar Luiz (Rua da Carioca 39, Centro, tel. 21/2262-6900, www.barluiz.com.br, 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Mon.–Sat.) is a classic old Carioca botequim with a German accent—and menu, including a famous potato salad with homemade mayo, as well as various grilled sausages and schnitzels. Whatever you choose, it will invariably go nicely with the creamy chope on tap, considered one of the best in town.
Both for people-watching and monument-gazing, its hard to beat Amarelinho (Praça Floriano 55-B, Cinelândia, tel. 21/2240-8434, www.amarelinho.com.br). Cinelândia’s most famous yellow-tiled outdoor bar offers views of the Theatro Municipal and Biblioteca Nacional and hundreds of Cariocas parading back and forth. The frango a passarinho (chicken nuggets doused in sautéed garlic) is a happy-hour favorite.
Close by, Villarino (Av. Calógeras 6, Loja B, Centro, tel. 21/2240-1627, noon–10 p.m. Mon.–Fri.) doesn’t serve chope at all, but whiskey. It was a favorite haunt of a midcentury bohemian crowd that included Tom Jobim and Vinícius de Morais, who used it as their private clubhouse. Today the retro uisqueria (whiskey bar) with its scarlet banquettes and elegant marble tables attracts a suit and tie crowd who alternate whiskey shots with bites of delicious prosciutto and brie sandwiches.
In 2004, Trapiche Gamboa (Rua Sacadura Cabral 155, Gamboa, tel. 21/2516-0868, www.trapichegamboa.com.br, 6:30 p.m.–1 a.m. Tues.–Thurs., 6:30 p.m.–3:30 a.m. Fri., 8:30 p.m.–3:30 a.m. Sat., cover R$12–20) was a pioneer when it opened its doors in the otherwise louche and deserted port zone of Centro. But when it started offering some of the best live samba performances in town, music lovers took notice—as did other risk-taking entrepreneurs who, feeling that trendy Lapa has become saturated, slowly began moving into the neighborhood. As a result, it’s home to a progressive and hip scene. For a change from the classic lime caipirinhas, try one made with fragrant red pitangas.
Gafieiras were originally ballrooms where Rio’s working classes came to dance the night away. They began springing up in Centro during the 1920s, and a few have survived. The oldest and most famous is Nova Estudantina (Praça Tiradentes 79, Centro, tel. 21/2232-1149, 8 p.m.–1 a.m. Thurs., 10 p.m.–4 a.m. Fri.–Sat., cover R$15–25), whose decor conjures up its beginnings in 1928. Aside from live orchestras playing traditional ballroom ditties, live bands play forró, soul, and rock. The crowd is very mixed with people of all ages, and because there’s room for 1,500 dancing fools, you certainly won’t feel claustrophobic.
On Wednesday and Friday evenings master sambistas and their bands perform outdoors (behind the Museu de Arte Moderna) at the Clube Santa Luzia (Av. Almirante de Noronho 300, Centro, tel. 21/9426-6456, 8 p.m., cover R$8). In terms of the enchantment factor, it’s hard to surpass samba-ing in front of a moonlit Pão de Açúcar.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition