During a week in Bonito, we tried all the famous restaurants and discovered other secrets we’ll share here with you. Besides tips for the best restaurants, also check out tips of lively bars and delicious ice cream parlors. Bon Appetit! =P
During my trip to Bonito, another good surprise was the cuisine. I ate VERY WELL there. I feasted on so many delicious local fresh water fish and top-quality restaurants in town (plus the wonderful home-cooked lunches included on some of the tours).
As I stayed 7 days in Bonito and went everywhere I wanted and many others, the post got a little big. So I made a summary here divided into Restaurants, Bars and Quick Bites/Ice Cream, so if you want to go straight to the description of a particular place I went, just click on the name.
If you googled Bonito you may have heard of this restaurant, since it’s one of the most traditional ones in the city. Everyone who goes to Bonito has to stop by Casa do João to taste the famous spineless Traíra, the house’s flagship dish. But beyond that, there’s a wide range of other fish on the menu.
It was the first restaurant we visited in Bonito, and we loved it! Although I was very happy with my choice, I also wanted to come back other times to try all the other options.
Juanita is a restaurant that has been emerging as the new favorite in Bonito, although it’s a tough match with Casa do João. The flagship of the house is the “pacu na brasa”, served on a grill with broccoli and potatoes (in addition to the side dishes). What I liked the most is that, since the fish is grilled, it’s possible to feel the taste and texture really well. The capers gave it a special touch and the pirão (a sort of thick soup made from the water the fish was cooked in and manioc flour) was simply divine (you can order a replacement if the side dish is finished).
Tapera was one of Bonito’s first restaurants and is just at the start of the main street, close to the main square. I found it very cool that they offer free dessert and have nice tables on the sidewalk for those who want to see the movement about town (you can start your night here and then go to La Bonita Bar, which we’ll talk about throughout this post).
We ordered a fish made on the tile that was very tasty. It’s not actually baked on a tile but is served in one, as pictured below. We enjoyed it a lot, and I was particularly missing some sort of food with a more intense sauce, but couldn’t help but ordering fish, so it was a hit. I found the food of Casa do João and Juanita most striking, but the Tapera is not behind in quality.
By the last day of the trip we had already tasted most of the restaurants on my list, but I realized that I hadn’t tried Bonito’s symbol fish: piraputanga. Talking to the owner of our hotel, I asked where we could go and she suggested the Sale and Pepe restaurant.
Sale e Pepe is a Brazilian, Chinese and Japanese restaurant (it’s really all that mix… haha) that enchanted us. Piraputanga is, of course, a delicious fish and so we strongly advise you to try it at some point in your trip. I wish I had an extra day to eat the fish again (maybe at Casa do João or somewhere else). Our experience at Sale and Pepe was very pleasant, the fish preparation was very good, so we leave it as a recommendation.
During my trip to Bonito, I took the opportunity to visit some hotels I wanted to later write about on the blog. One of them was the Santa Esmeralda Hotel, which is part of the Roteiro de Charme hotels (a prestigious national hotel association aiming to select, in their own words, ‘hôtellerie that combines quality of service and social and ethical responsibility) and is located at the riverside of the Formoso River, about 10 km from the center of Bonito. I used my visit there to eat at the hotel’s restaurant (guests who stay here have breakfast and dinner included in their rates).
The food was really well prepared, fish perfectly cooked, crunchy fried cassava, and all other goods. The atmosphere is beautiful in the common area of the hotel, surrounded by green and near the river. But honestly, for those not staying there, I find it a bit of an unnecessary effort to walk more than 10km to go to the restaurant as there are great options in the town itself. This is a tip for those who have a lot of time or have visited Bonito several times before. And if you are staying at the Santa Esmeralda Hotel, rest assured that the food will be very good (if it maintains the standard of the a la carte fish we tasted).
Taboa Bar is famous in Bonito for several reasons. One of them is because the production of cachaça and beer is local, made in Bonito itself, a few meters away from the bar that is on the main street. The other one is that their walls are all signed by the thousands of customers who have already been there – and you, too, can leave your mark!
When we went there we ordered two different types of cachaça, a self-produced lager and a dried meat with cassava appetizer. I didn’t particularly like the cachaça very much and ended up just having a couple of beers. I heard and read a lot that the bar was super lively, but I didn’t get that impression because, during the time I was there, La Bonita Bar was much fuller while Taboa had some few tables (I have to consider that Taboa was much bigger and had more tables too). I believe that in high season or during the holidays this changes.
This recommendation is more for the atmosphere and excitement than for the food itself. La Bonita Bar is a bar of the Devassa Brewery, a famous brand of beer in Brazil, and besides having tasty draft and bottled beers, there’s always live music and a lot of people. It’s a super nice place to go at night and snack while having a drink, and it was the liveliest in town on the weekdays we were there.
It’s right next to the square, in a nice corner. As I said at the beginning, the food was not what caught my attention. We ordered a pizza and it wasn’t baked in a traditional wood oven and the dough looked pre-made (although the filling was very tasty), but still the experience of enjoying live music and drinking a couple of beers after a long day exploring the natural beauties of Bonito was great and we highly recommend it to anyone looking for a nice place to go for a night out in the city.
This ice cream parlor and cafe is a must go in Bonito, in my opinion. The ice cream is delicious, and the owner went to Italy to study how the famous gelatos are made before setting up Allegra in Bonito. Besides the ice cream, there are several snacks, salads, and light foods, ideal for those who have eaten their own weight for lunch and want something lighter at night (this happens a lot). We only had the ice creams and strongly recommend it! It’s located in front of the city’s main square.
Pastel Bonito is another well-known point in the city. Next to the Tapera restaurant and almost in front of La Bonita Bar there´s a little glass door that gives access to a small lounge. But the best thing is to sit at one of the sidewalk tables and order your pastel, a stuffed, deep-fried Brazillian delicacy, to eat while sipping a beer at the end of a busy day of sightseeing. The most famous pastel is made from alligator meat, but I confess that I didn’t find anything great about this flavor, which is more like a shredded chicken with a slight taste of fish (alligator, right? Lol). Anyway, the pastry is completely fried and is dry and crispy on the outside, with a good and juicy filling inside.
This name may not be uncommon for many people, because the Delícias do Cerrado ice cream parlor is already present in several cities. There are ice creams made from various fruits, typical of the Brazilian biome “cerrado”. The attendant was extremely cute and let me practically taste aaall the different flavors I´ve never heard of before such as like jaracatiá, mangaba, buriti, and many others. Then I just got a couple of scoops from my favorites and that’s it.
But besides the normal popsicles or ice cream, you can also taste Bonito’s famous roasted ice cream. I end up not facing the bowl with fruit salad or sponge cake, flavored ice cream of your choice, finished with marshmallow or whipped cream topping. All of this is baked and becomes Bonito’s famous roasted ice cream. Although the original recipe is from Palácio dos Sorvetes, Delícias do Cerrado also sells this exotic mixed dessert.