Updated on March 14, 2013
Belo Horizonte, capital of Minas Gerais, is known as the bar capital of Brazil and therefore as one of the best places to savour the Brazilian version of pub fare – comida de botequim, or bar food.
In 2000, Belo Horizonte stepped up to the forefront of culinary events in Brazil with Comida di Buteco, an annual bar contest that starts in April, lasts about a month and closes with a big celebration. Dozens of bars participate, showing off their best tira-gosto, or the hearty food they serve with beer and cachaça.
Although bar food is the great star of the contest and accounts for 70% of the total value attributed to each bar, Comida di Buteco is officially a best bar contest and so 30% of vote value is shared by the categories hygiene, beer/drink – including beer temperature, which Brazilians usually prefer icy cold – and service.
There are many words in Portuguese for bar – including bar itself – but CdB Produções, the creators of Comida di Buteco, spelled the name of the event to make it sound closer to the way a Brazilian says bar food (boteco is short for botequim). Humour underlines the names of many of the entries, with puns and regional references.
Comida di Buteco also hosts contests in Rio de Janeiro, Goiânia, Salvador, Fortaleza and other Brazil cities (see 2011 information, below).
Brazilian Bar Food
Like its pub fare counterparts in other countries, Brazilian bar food is of the belly-patting kind that doesn't do well in calorie counts. Bar food staples in Brazil, traditionally served in generous portions, are a mix of regional and immigrant influences, resulting in a wide gamut of hearty combinations. Some of the favorites are codfish, lamb, potatoes, sun-dried beef and typical Brazilian finger foods such as pastel, a kind of turnover, fried cassava and farofa.
In Brazil, food this plentiful and with this little concern for hip or diet is usually referred to as baixa gastronomia, or low cuisine. Rio de Janeiro deserves to be considered a Brazilian honorary champion of the style due to the excellent fare served in the city’s botequins and to an undeniable tradition – at least one bar in Rio, Bar Luiz, is older than Belo Horizonte, a relatively young city founded in 1897.
However, according to many different sources, Belo Horizonte boasts the highest number of bars per capita in Brazil. Local patrons don't seem too concerned about statistically accurate counts as they go around town bar-hopping to their heart's content. Beagá (BH) has a guaranteed niche in the national food scene, enhanced by Minas accents such as pão de queijo (cheese rolls) and torresmo (fried pork rind) and confirmed by the success of Comida di Buteco.
How Winners are Chosen
The voting system in the Belo Horizonte bar contest attributes 70% of the vote weight to patrons and 30% to a panel of judges. Votes are proportional to the number of patrons that visit each bar and the process is managed by an impartial organization.
To vote for your favorite dish, request a form, fill it out, and place it in the ballot. You can only vote once at each bar. Ask for help with Portuguese, as questions must be answered for your vote to be valid.
Comida di Buteco 2013
Comida di Buteco 2013 will take place from April 12 to May 12. The contest will kick off in all the participating cities at the same time.
The cities are: Belo Horizonte, Uberlândia, Montes Claros, Ipatinga, Poços de Caldas, Juíz de Fora, Manaus, Belém, Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Preto, Campinas, Ribeirão Preto, Fortaleza and Goiânia.
The 2013 theme ingredients are linguiça and manioc; all entries must include them.
Saideira, a Brazil slang term for the last round of drinks at a bar, is also the name of the celebration that closes month-long Comida di Buteco. Music shows, food and drinks by contestants and guest bars and the award ceremony fill up two or more days of Brazilian botequim-style fun.
2013 updates will gradually be published on the contest's official site (www.comidadibuteco.com.br)
Recent Comida di Buteco BH Winners & More:
2012 Winner: Patorroco
2011 Winner: Bar do Zezé
2010 Winner: Bar da Lora
2009 Winner: Café Palhares