Many of them may have been smartened up into sleek, glass bars and restaurants (‘Now with toilets!’ ‘Viva the beach!’) back in 2007, but the Copacabana kiosk (or quiosque in Portuguese) still holds a certain magic for the informal drinker whether old-school and wooden or sharp and shiny. Changing hands more often than some locals change their speedos, it may take a little while until the carioca mindset turns far enough to consider them viable dining options, but a journey from end to end reveals options aplenty for discerning diners and casual crews of caipirinha sluggers alike.
Standing proudly (sort of) at the far end of Leme, with a stunning view off the rocks and out across the full sweep of Copacabana Beach, the 'first' kiosk (it isnt actually number one according to the powers that be, let's call it 0) is a rough diamond. The (mostly) cheerful service is no doubt a by-product of the location, a constant shuffle of fishermen heading past on their way along the rocks adds to the sense of escape, as does the blue water of this end of the strip. Cold beer (R$3/can) and fried fish are about the limit, but its the simple pleasures that such places do well.
The first four official kiosks are decent remodelled spots, the surrounding volleyball courts offering action aplenty to divert the attention, but number five goes by the name Antonios and stands out for the reasonable pizzas (R$7) that are churned out to order, while the surrounding palm trees help create a little atmosphere all of its own. Passion fruit caipirinhas as well as the usual lime version (R$9) are on offer and while the chopp (R$5) isnt cheap, it does come served in a satisfyingly chunky glass tankard. The beach wi-fi connection was also at its fastest here.
Skipping the two basic and scruffy Skol affairs at numbers seven and eight, two Coca-Cola sponsored ones that follow may look the part but seem long-forgotten outlets; the service was less than friendly and the chopp machines were broken, meaning bottles of Skol only (R$4.30).
At number eleven stands another Skol standard by the name of Manabeira, but opposite the Windsor Atlatica hotel the unlikely-named Ray e Sarah is a pleasing break from the norm for the traditional huts. Named after the owners' first two children (of ten!) it’s a cans-only affair (R$3.50) but the range of spirits is impressive for those looking for something more adventurous. The star turn is the burger, with the X-Egg (R$5.50) a no-frills little hunger-killer, while the sardines (R$20) are decent enough, albeit fried to within an inch of their life.
Leme finishes not with a bang, but with two corporate kiosks Nestle (13) and TNT (14), but of more interest here is the Lixometro – or rubbish metre – reminding us of our duty to the planet with the news that (at time of writing) 541g of rubbish are generated per person per day in Rio alone.
Copacabana proper begins with the simple Gabi and Sococo huts before the posto two lifeguard tower looms into view and a well-placed Skol hut just before Copacabana Palace. Fortunately, given the nearby clientele, the standard of the caipirinha is high and you can get a portion of fried sausage with lime (R$15) with your can of super-chilled beer (R$4), but the bar is cash only. There is also a huge pile of coconuts (R$3) for those after something a little more thirst quenching.
Directly opposite the Copacabana Palace is the Rainbow Pizzaria, so while you wait for Justin Bieber to return from Sushi Leblon you can enjoy a glass of Francesinho (R$9) – a surprisingly pleasing coupling of cassis with chopp R$9. The Piña Colada (R$12.50) is also pretty tasty, and while the fabled outrageous drag queens aren't always present, the cocktail list is diverting enough to be going on with.
The Brahma kiosk (10) has a nice open terrace and serves a decent selection of beers including a half-litre glass (R$6.70) and the rich escuro (dark) draught chopp (R$6.50), then for whatever reason the Band TV people have a base at number eleven, and the one next door is currently abandoned. Copa e Arte Creperia and China In Box’s very own effort are also nothing to get too excited about, though the red-hot spring rolls (R$7.90) may have you hopping about wildly.
Riotur's tourist information point and the Banco do Brasil are rather more useful kiosks than the Habib's fast food one they sandwich, but Trés (18) is an absolute find. French owned since the middle of 2011, the food is well thought out and the drinks list substantial. Boeuf Bourgignon, pancakes, pasta and killer sandwiches are all on the menu, showing what can be done in the new outlets. Neighbouring Brahma, meanwhile, have occasional live music but not much else to draw the eye.
The welcome sight of the Champagneria (23) is another more upmarket touch, where a post-beach glass of sparkling wine (R$14) is a pleasing break from the norm or a bottle of Veuve Clicquot (R$223) gets things going nicely. From here to Maré e Mansa there is little to get excited about, though this duo have been known to have impromptu DJ-led parties and are usually livelier than your average kiosk.
The bizarrely-titled Pizza in Cone’s (37) signature foodstuff (R$6.50) works surprisingly well, even if it, too, serves more as a mouth singeing tool than actual food. Calming the sensation is a good passion fruit caipirinha (R$8) and a decent chopp (R$4.30), though next door's Brahma has a rather wider selection of draught beers.
Rounding things off and taking advantage of a great location infront of the Sofitel and looking back along Copacabana to Sugarloaf, Posto 6 is the more 'complete' restaurant option, taking advantage of next-door's fish market to deliver a strong menu of Brazilian classics and fresh seafood, something that, surprisingly given their location, so many of those before it fail to do.