Salvador sits on Brazil’s southern Atlantic coast in the idyllic state of Bahia, home to some of the best beaches in northeastern Brazil. The bustling city was founded in 1549 by the Portuguese as the first capital of colonial Brazil and remained so for two centuries (before ceding the title first to Rio and then to Brasilia), leaving a historical, cultural and culinary impact lasting on the modern country. . With the largest population of Afro-Brazilians and a complex hodgepodge of African, indigenous and European influences, Salvador has earned the local nickname of “Black Rome”.
Portuguese colonizers imposed techniques on indigenous ingredients to form much of Brazilian cuisine, but the enslaved Africans who settled in Salvador also played a vital role in shaping the local cuisine. Substantial, hearty and tropically flavored, cozinha Baiana (Bahian cuisine) is a melting pot of European cooking methods (lots of stews), pre-Columbian ingredients (like cassava) and African spices and products (like dendê oil and okra). Food also plays a vital role in Candomblé, a syncretic Afro-Brazilian religion drawn from the cultures of enslaved West Africans. Candomblé worshipers honor different orixas (deities) with specific dishes, and these foods have blended into the larger culinary culture.
Today, laid-back botecos (bars) and cheerful restaurants serve popular dishes such as moqueca (Brazilian seafood stew with fish broth and cassava porridge), vatapá (seafood stew made with coco) and the ubiquitous acarajé (black-eyed pea fritters). Immerse yourself in the rich culinary heritage and booming modern restaurant scene of Bahia’s capital.
Health experts consider eating out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; this may pose a risk to vaccinees, especially in areas with high COVID transmission.
Prices per person, excluding alcohol:
$ = Less than 106 Real (less than US$20)
$$ = 106 – 266 real ($20 – US$50)
$$$ = Over 266 Real (US$50 and up)
Raphael Tonon is a food journalist and writer living between Brazil and Portugal. He is the author of the book Food revolutions.
To note: The restaurants on this map are listed geographically.