The crowds stake their claim early on the streets of Rua Aspicuelta as Vila Madalena limbers up for the weekend, but just a few blocks from the hubbub the bohemian neighbourhood’s flipside shows its face, where the locals find refuge from the invasion.
Mercearia São Pedro is the place to start, a classic local establishment a ten-minute walk uphill from Vila Madalena Metrô station. Straightforward and buzzing, this city institution doubles as a bookshop and video rental – shelves are stacked with old VHS tapes, dust-covered books and erotic manga comics.
From behind the bar, owner Marcos recounts how the Mercearia (going strong for more than forty years) was around before Vila Madalena become so popular: ‘We’ve always been busy – our friends are artists, journalists and writers, and have always come here.’ The beer is cheap, but the service is slow and the queues are long so, unless you’re prepared to wait over an hour for a table, enjoy the atmosphere over a swift couple at the bar and move on.
A five-minute walk away, Sabiá reopened this May after a couple of years out of action and is a gem, already being welcomed back by the locals like the return of an old friend. Inside, look out for icons of the city skyline in the black and white mural covering one entire wall of the charming interior. Order an unusual caipirinha combination (the lime, lemon and lima da persia was delicious) with some home-cooked comfort food to keep you going, like the escondidinho (beef pie topped with manioc purée), or the tender fried tongue.
Next, head down steep Rua Purpurina and take a right on Rua Delfina, until you reach what looks like someone’s garage. In fact it's Bar do Cesinha, whose simple charm won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but for some it will be love at first sip. Chilling inside are an incredible 65 types of artisanal beer: we drank Newcastle Brown Ale, Colorado Ale, Spitfire and Bishops Finger, drawn to the latter by one of the beer posters plastered up on the wall showing a lusty serving wench and the slogan ‘Nothing satisfies me like a Bishops Finger’. Cesinha also serves a great choice of reasonably priced cachaças (try the Claudionor, at R$5) and a delicious roast-beef sandwich (R$10).
Moving on (Cesinha shuts around 11pm), round off the night at the bright and cheerful Platibanda, where you can satisfy any remaining munchies with a plate of mini coxinhas (avoid the roast beef canapés, though). And if you just can't call it a night yet, and you’re in the mood for some live music, head on into the dark and intimate Piratininga, for some late-night jazz.
Bar do Cesinha is at Rua Delfina 66 (3032 0058). Read more on Bar do Cesinha
Mercearia São Pedro is at Rua Rodésia 34 (3815 7200, merceariasaopedro.com.br).
Piratininga is at Rua Wisard 149 (3032 9775).
Platibanda is at Rua Mourato Coelho 1365 (3034 5812).
Sabiá is at Rua Purpurina 370 (4508 3554).