Jan 12, 2009

Barra Grande, Bahia: all the best beach bars and restaurants

Barra Grande, in Bahia state, is one of the hottest New Year's destinations in Brasil.

This year the party was hotter than ever. The trio Beto Riginik, Juzinha Ferreira and DJ Duty set up their usual HQ, the Beach Club, which was bigger and nicer than ever. That's where all the good parties happened, even on the nights pre and post New Year's. It had big day beds for chilling out, a serious DJ booth, huge dance floor and more.

This year there were people for all parts of Brazil, and not just the usual São Paulo crowd. Thumbs up for a much-improved party set-up. Thumbs down to São Paulo-style pricing. Absolut shot at 12 reais, anyone?
Apart from resident DJ Duty organizers flew in Jody Wisternoff (Way out West) and Shur-I-Khan, ensuring the party ended only at 7 in the morning.

Best beach bars in Barra Grande:

  1. Bar das Meninas, on Taipus de Fora beach. During low tide, pools form and coral is everywhere. Beautiful, but crowded with tourists. To get there, you must ride a truck for half hour on bumpy dirty roads. Try to get there early to make sure you get a table there or at next-door neighbour Bar do Francês.
  2. Lagosta Azul: Walk from the town píer towards Ponta do Mutá/ Três Coqueiros, where the calm Camamu waters meet the open sea. Great tunes: jazz, beach house, vintage rock. Ombrellones and oversize cushions on straw mats make for a comfy day at the beach. Bad food, bad service.
  3. Bar da Rô: Departing from the píer turn left and walk until the point where the Carapitangui river meets the sea. Rô has the best setup of all the beach bars. You can go swimming in the river or the ocean, then rinse off under a big open shower. Caipirinhas are served on floating tables in the middle of the river. Lunches have to be pre-ordered, and arrive at the set time without a glitch. And the food is delicious! Great badejo fish with pesto.
  4. Bar Deck: The newest of the bunch, located next to the pousada Barrabella. As the name implies, it has a deck with incredible sunset views. The owner hails from Barcelona (which explains the delicious tortillas) and has other businesses in town. Two DJs take turns on the pickups.

Best restaurants and bars:
  1. Tubarão: For those (rare) days when you're not at a beach bar at lunchtime, Tubarão is your best bet for lunch. Right next to the pier, ultra-simple, it serves a grilled octopus that is hard to beat - absolutely the best in town. As an appetizer, try the casquinha de aratu: a stir fry of aratu (a blue crab-like shellfish) with palm oil and spices, served in a shell and au gratin. Have it with farofa (toasted manioc flour) and drops of hot pepper. The tunes vary from Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews to Chet Baker no fundo.
  2. Don'Ana: A classic. Wonderful fish stews and moqueca (fish and shrimp stew with coriander and coconut milk). The setting is a cute fisherman's house with tables in the garden. The service is very very slow.
  3. A Tapera: Another classic. Fish with fruits done on the grill is the specialty. The best tables are under the shade of a mango tree. Very pleasant ambiance.
  4. Matatauba: A pizzeria owned by an Italian couple. Pizzas have a thin and crunchy crust and pastas are also made in-house.
  5. Macunaíma and Mediterrâneo: these nextdoor neighbours are both right by the pier. They share the same style: straw mats, big cushions for lounging, hip ambiance. Macunaíma serves Asian cuisine, while Mediterrâneo is known for the pizzas.
  6. Café do Mar: A bit out of the beaten path, but you can find it by asking around. The detour is more than worth it. This is where the golden youth comes to drink, flirt and party. A huge screen serves as impromptu movie theater. Movie nights are alternated with live music nights. Here, too, you'll find great pizzas.

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