They say New York is the city that never sleeps. We say it’s not the only one: São Paulo is up there amongst the few cities in the world where you really can eat, drink, and dance 24 hours a day. No matter what time of night it is, you can satisfy any number of food cravings, from after-party munchies and insomniac snacks to late-night working suppers where you’re too tired to even make out the menu properly.
Perched at the top end of the scale is Paris 6, in Jardins, serving French food 24 hours a day, with French wines and all. The ‘6’ in the name is for the city’s 6th arrondissement, encompassing Saint-Germain-des-Prés, and the ornate decoration of Paris 6 is a conscious replication of that trés chic Parisian neighbourhood. But Brazilian touches have snuck their way in, too, from the big-screen TV showing futebol and beach volleyball to the minor celebrities whose names adorn some of the dishes on the menu.
The Steak Tartare ‘Luana Piovani’, for example, is named after the former pin-up model and novela actress, for reason’s we’ve yet to make out. And the clientele? Beautiful enough, for the most part, to be halfway to making their way onto the menu themselves.
In the mid-scale, price-wise – and conveniently in the middle of the city, too – an obvious answer to post-midnight hunger is Bella Paulista, just two blocks north of Avenida Paulista on Rua Haddock Lobo. The restaurant-cum-bakery’s immense menu offers a huge selection of sandwiches, salads and juices, plus hearty cooked meals.
The lights are bright enough for the scenesters who frequent the joint to see and be seen; and there’s plenty of people-watching to be done here. All sorts go to Bella Paulista, from off-duty police officers, to families with small children, and it's a firm favourite with the gay crowd, too. The service, however, leaves something to be desired.
For late-night dining in quieter surroundings, make a stop on your way home at Sujinho, on Rua Consolação, which as its name (‘little dirty one’) suggests, was one of the city’s original insalubrious late-night hangouts. It’s a classic, and is one of São Paulo’s oldest restaurants, with a charming old-school air, white linen tablecloths and friendly service. Open until 5am, the restaurant specialises in porções – dishes meant for sharing – which usually involve meat, cheese or fried mandioca, to be speared with cocktail sticks.
In the old Centro, Estadão is another late-night institution, serving up huge mouth-watering sandwiches such as the classic sanduíche de pernil – a magnificently satisfying hot roast pork sandwich. Not far from the wave-shaped Copan building, and close to some of the city’s grittier bits, too, Estadão has the look of a large boteco, with a warm and friendly feel.
And finally, for a modest, decent meal where you’d be as likely to see a solitary late-night diner reading a paperback as post-club partiers, there’s Fran’s Café, serving salads, pastas and sandwiches at more than 60 locations – most of which are open 24 hours – across the city. The branches on Avenida Paulista near Metrô Brigadeiro and opposite Metrô Vila Madalena are handy spots in which to wait for the first metrô home, just before 5am.
You’ll rarely find these spots empty at any time of the week, day or night – and unlike in New York, where no alcohol can be sold between 4am and 8am, you can order up a cold beer or a glass of red to go with with your meal, no matter what time it is. So soak up São Paulo’s licence-to-party atmosphere, or just settle in and enjoy some of the best nocturnal people-watching the city has to offer.
Bella Paulista is at Rua Haddock Lobo 354, Consolação (3214 3347, bellapaulista.com). Open 24 hours daily.
Bar Estadão is at Viaduto Nove de Julho 193, Centro (3257 7121, estadaolanches.com.br).Open 24 hours daily.
Fran’s Café is at Avenida Heitor Penteado 1326, Sumarezinho (3675 3444, franscafe.com.br). Open 24 hours daily. Read more on Fran's Café
Paris 6 is at Rua Haddock Lobo 1240, Jardim Paulista (3085 1595, paris6.com.br). Open 24 hours daily.
Sujinho is at Rua da Consolação 2078, Consolação (3231 1299, sujinho.com.br).Open 11.30am-5am daily.