One of Rio de Janeiro’s hidden treasures is tucked away in the Zona Norte, far from most traditional tourist attractions (with the notable exception of the Quinta de Boa Vista, a gorgeous park constructed in the 1800s by the Brazilian imperial family, and today home to the National Museum). A gastronomic delight and paradise for shoppers, culture lovers and people watchers, is the CADEG (KAH-deh-gee) market, the biggest wholesaler in the city.
CADEG, or the Centro de Abastecimento do Estado da Guanabara (Supply Center of Guanabara State), isn’t exactly tourist friendly. The 100,000-square-meter (more than one million square feet) behemoth market is primarily a wholesale outlet with more than 350 shops supplying Rio’s restaurants and hotels.
It opens early, with trucks starting to unload at 3am to present their farm-fresh produce, flowers, meat, fish, more to crowds of chefs, hoteliers and bargain hunters. Many more shops sell everything from wine and cheese to kitchen equipment and uniforms within a warren of covered alleyways packed with people. Don’t worry if you can’t beat the roosters; most shops stay open until 4pm, and the real reason you’re here is probably for lunch.
Many of the covered walkways are packed with plastic tables and chairs, fronting at least 35 restaurants selling very traditional Brazilian cuisine made with the freshest ingredients possible. Most are very inexpensive; others, like the renowned Barsa, offer fine family-style cuisine as good as any in the city, for prices that are still an excellent deal. You’re more than welcome to purchase a bottle of wine at one of the wholesalers and uncork it at the table.
On Saturdays, CADEG becomes even more festive, as live chorinho troupes take the stage with their colorful accordions and guitars. It’s quite a party, and well worth stopping by for a bite or a beer. Come early, to peruse the market beforehand—you won’t find better deals anywhere else in Rio.
Note that CADEG is in a rough neighborhood, surrounded by favelas. While several public bus lines serve the market, most travelers will find it more convenient to take a R$50 (US$25) taxis from the Zona Sul. CADEG’s Portuguese-language website has maps, buses and lots of other information.
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