Fortaleza is famous for its pulsating nightlife. You’ll find tons of bars in the beach neighborhoods of Iracema (particularly around Rua das Tabajaras) and Meireles. There are also scads of places where you can listen and dance to live music, especially forró, which Cearenses claim is more popular here than anywhere else in the Northeast (no mean feat).
Praia de Iracema
Back in the ’50s, when Fortaleza’s original port was located at Iracema, this neighborhood was boho central for local journalists, artists, and literati. A few of their old-time haunts still survive, but many more have become rather tacky beer halls, pack-’em-in restaurants, and mega clubs. Lively and colorful, but also somewhat seedy and overblown, Iracema’s nightlife is at least worth checking out (even if you then decide to go elsewhere).
Begin the evening by watching the sunset at one of the barracas along the Ponte de Inglês, accompanied by cold beer and fried shrimp. Then stroll along lively Rua Tabajaras, home of the famous Bar Pirata (Rua da Tabajaras 325, Iracema, tel. 85/4100-6161, www.pirata.com.br, 8 p.m.–3 a.m. Mon., cover R$30), whose vertiginous Monday forró nights have been luring visiting gringos ever since The New York Times called them the wildest Monday nights on the planet.
The Centro Cultural Dragão do Mar, and immediate vicinity, has a bustling happy-hour scene that continues late into the night. Buoni Amici’s Sport Bar (Rua Dragão do Mar 80, Iracema, tel. 85/3219-5454, www.buoniamicis.com.br, 4 p.m.–close daily, cover R$5–15) is an always happening spot. Housed in a restored early 20th-century warehouse, it boasts soaring ceilings and lots of soccer paraphernalia. During the week, futebol fans gather to watch games and scarf down pizza and beer. From Friday onwards, the bar hosts lively dance parties commanded by DJs who play an intoxicating mix of samba, MPB, and carimbó, a local musical style that mixes indigenous and African elements. Check for topnotch shows of Brazilian music as well.
O Chopp do Bixiga (Rua Dragão do Mar 108, Iracema, tel. 85/3219-7690, www.choppdobixiga.com.br, 4 p.m.–close daily) is another favorite gathering point. Live music is performed nightly and, on weekends, the second floor of this converted mansion becomes a sizzling disco. Aside from classic chope de cerveja, Bixiga’s gimmick is chope de vinho (wine on draft), which is truly an acquired taste for gringos. Easier to succumb to are the gargantuan sandwiches such as the Trem de 11 (11:00 Train), which consists of filet mignon, bacon, ham, peas, matchstick potatoes, and mayo, all piled on top of a baguette.
Praia de Meireles
Compared to Iracema, upscale Meireles and the adjacent bairros of Aldeota, Dioníso Torres, and Varjota offer quieter nightlife options. Fafi Bar e Galeria (Rua Norvinda Pires 55, Aldeota, tel. 85/3261-3049, 6 p.m.–close Wed.–Sat., cover R$3–4) is an arty little bar/gallery space with funky decor and subtle lighting. A great musical selection, ranging from blues and jazz to samba and indie-rock, accounts for the diversity of the clientele that often spills out on onto the sidewalk.
Bar do Arlindo (Rua Joaquim Nabuco 2186, Dionísio Torres, tel. 85/3286-1436, 3 p.m.–close Mon.–Sat.) is a great place to soak up some authentic Fortalezense atmosphere. This classic boteco, decked out with plastic tables and chairs, is a favorite hangout for locals intent on enjoying frosty beer (or fiery cachaça) and chatting up a storm. After last call, die-hard regulars always punch out at the time clock that’s part of the bar’s decor. Tuesday nights are reserved for live chorinho and Saturdays are for samba. To nibble on, there are lots of homestyle petiscos such as feijão verde.
For a taste of Ceará’s Interior, head to Arre Égua (R. Delmiro Gouveia 420, Varjota, tel. 85/3267-2325, www.arreegua.com.br, 8 p.m.–close Tues.–Fri.), a cultural space whose architecture replicates the typical structures and materials of the Sertão. At the bar, you can feast on Sertanejo delicacies such as shredded carne-de-sol with gratinéed cheese and lamb rice (a dish that feeds four). The house cocktail is a potent mixture of cachaça and cointreau, which is served on fire. The real fun begins at 9 p.m. when Dona Zefa’s band breaks into traditional forró.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition