If you're spending New Year's Eve in Rio, you're not alone if you're planning to pass up on the city's paid parties. Even more so if your hotel is in Copacabana, which places you within walking distance of the stupendous (and super crowded, but peaceful), free celebrations with fireworks on the beach.
The question is, where to have a somewhat reasonably-priced New Year's Eve dinner, if not at the parties with their all-inclusive menus, at a time of even more inflated prices than usual for Rio?
Starting with restaurants in Copacabana -- which spare you the logistics of getting back and forth between neighborhoods in this busy night with many alterations in traffic -- I've been calling and asking about ceias de Réveillon, or New Year's Eve suppers.
Unfortunately, some restaurants stop serving their regular menus for New Year's Eve dinners, and some of the area's best deals won't be available because the restaurants will close early. Such is the case with some kilo restaurants or places like Alfaia, which will close at 4 p.m. on New Year's Eve, according to the person I spoke with on Friday.
Other Copacabana restaurants which confirmed that they will NOT open for dinner on Dec.31 are beachfront Brasileirinho (Avenida Atlântica 3564), Azumi (R. Ministro Viveiros de Castro, 127), and La Trattoria.
I must say that Francisco, the courteous person who spoke with me about the Réveillon dinner at Adega do Cesare, is likely to be right when he says their price is unbeatable for the neighborhood. The difference between the R$95- and the R$140-menu (per person; includes appetizers, main dishes and dessert) at this family-friendly spot is in more expensive foods such as codfish or shrimp as opposed to turkey or lamb.
Monaco (Rua Miguel Lemos 18, phone 55-21-2521-0195), a no-frills seafood restaurant, will serve their regular dishes besides a special seafood menu (R$400 per person).
Prices are higher at restaurants in Copacabana beachfront hotels such as Forno e Fogão at the Golden Tulip Regente (R$380 per person, but with caipirinha and non-alcoholic drinks included and a glass of sparkling wine at midnight). The hotel will also have a rooftop pool party with full beach views, a DJ, an open bar and a cocktail menu (R$550 per person).
In the area known as Baixo Copa - a part of Copacabana with very casual bars and an eclectic crowd sort of like in Lapa, Galeto Sat's (which you might have seen on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations) tells me that they'll probably close before midnight instead of staying open all night as they usually do (because of the excessive crowds). There might be some turkey or another special dish besides their famous galletto.
Photo of Réveillon in Copacabana by Guto Costa/courtesy of Ascom Riotur.