There is no shortage of restaurants in the Pelourinho. For a cheap lunch or dinner with lots of variety, a popular standby for Soteropolitanos who work in the neighborhood as well as tourists is Panorâmico (Rua da Laranjeiras 18, Pelourinho, tel. 71/3322-2013, 11 a.m.–4 p.m. and 5–11 p.m. Mon.–Sat., R$12). This pay-by-weight quilo restaurant located on the second floor of a colonial house is attractively decorated with woodcuts and offers great views of the Pelô’s church domes and red-tiled rooftops. The main draw, of course, is the buffet, which is always fresh and includes plenty of choices for vegetarians, as well as serving up lots of local fare. When leaving, don’t forget to cleanse your palate with a shot of complimentary house tea made from an infusion of tropical fruits.
More touristy, but a terrific option if you want to sample the diversity of Bahian cuisine, is the Restaurante do SENAC (Largo do Pelourinho 13, Pelourinho, tel. 71/3324-4552, 11:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m. and 6:30–10 p.m. Mon.–Sat., R$25), located in a spacious colonial mansion. It’s operated by the SENAC restaurant school, so the (somewhat overly formal) service is extremely attentive and the food—an all you-can-eat buffet featuring over 40 regional dishes—is carefully prepared and presented by professors and students.
A little more expensive and a lot more romantic is the appropriately named Jardim das Delícias (Rua João de Deus 12, Pelourinho, tel. 71/3321-1449, noon–1 a.m. daily, R$30–50), housed in a private, leafy courtyard and accessorized by antiques spilling out from the adjacent antiques store. The varied menu has some standard international fare, but the fortes are the typical Bahian moquecas (try the rare and exotic version made with maturi or green cashew nuts), mariscadas (seafood stew), and bobó de camarão. There are also dishes from the northeastern interior, such as carne-de-sol (sun-dried beef) and maniçoba, a stew of beef, cashews, and manioc leaves. Polish off your meal with delicious cocada de coco verde, made of fresh slivers of coconut. In the evening, live music—usually bossa nova, chorinho, and MPB—ups the romance factor considerably.
Maria Mata Mouro (Rua Inácio Acciole 8, Pelourinho, tel. 71/3321-3929, 11 a.m.–1 a.m. daily, R$50–60) is another much acclaimed restaurant. A favorite with Salvador ’s elite and visiting VIPs, Mata Mouro’s imaginative menu offers innovative twists on regional and international dishes—all featuring fresh, local ingredients. Take note: The best tables are those in the enchanting inner courtyard. And the wine cellar is noteworthy as well.
An Italian bent characterizes the menu at Ristorante Al Carmo (Rua do Carmo 66, Santo Antônio, tel. 71/3242-0283, 5 p.m.–midnight Mon., 11 a.m.–midnight Thurs.–Fri., 11 a.m.–1 a.m. Fri.–Sat., R$20–30) whose tables are spread amidst a high-ceilinged 18th-century mansion. The pasta and meat dishes are flavorful, and the surroundings warm and romantic. The top-floor terrace features a stupendous view of the Bay of All Saints . At night, soft lighting harmonizes nicely with the mellow strains of live bossa nova and MPB.
Facing onto the Igreja e Convento de São Francisco , French-owned Le Glacier Laporte (Largo do Cruzeiro 21, Pelourinho, tel. 71/3266-3649, leglacierlaporte.com, 9 a.m.–8 p.m. daily) serves wonderful sorbet made from local ingredients but that packs a Parisian wallop of distilled flavor.