In order to make Brazil feel like home, it was important for me to develop a routine. Living on Oscar Freire Street in Jardins was such a treat, I decided to round up some of my favorite local spots:
I would consider Santo Grão to be the best café on Oscar Freire Street. Their variety of seating and relaxed, trendy music sets a cool and comfortable vibe, while the servers are attentive but chill (bonus that many of them speak English). Lucky for me it’s located right across the street from the hotel I stayed at, so grabbing a coffee or some breakfast here became a staple in my day.
Santo Grão serves an amazing latte and it’s one of the few places I’ve found where you can order a “typical” iced coffee. I’ve visited my fair share of local cafés and coffee shops and most will either put some ice in a hot coffee (cough, Starbucks) while others will literally blend together coffee and ice (frappuccino?). So, for an avid iced coffee drinker, Santo Grão has been a bit of a saving grace.
But the goodness doesn’t stop at their caffeine-infused beverages! They also have a great brunch (Eggs Bene- not pictured), incredible smoothies (Piña de Coco), and some really tasty cocktails (Tequila Punch- not pictured).
Aragon is a trendy Meditteranean restaurant in Jardins located right off the very popular, Oscar Freire Street. A hot spot for Jardins’ elite and great for daytime dates, this restaurant is a small representation of how the other half lives in Brazil. The crowd at Aragon is anything but the gym clothes and messy buns type. Here you will find fashionable men and women wearing the latest from high-end brands, sipping champagne and gossiping. In fact, the restaurant is owned by a young guy who happens to be dating a famous Brazilian soap opera star named Bruna Haru. The couple frequents the restaurant but the crowd is relaxed and never cause a stir.
Our good friends who we met in Brazil introduced us to this place on a Saturday afternoon at its peak hour. They’re open each day at noon (closed Mondays) and are open through dinner time. When we went around 2 o’clock the wait was an hour long, but we snagged a bar table outside and were able to order apps and a pitcher of sangria while we waited.
Let me tell you, it was worth the wait. At Aragon, Nate and I were served the most amazing Prime Rib for two I have ever had. Cooked to the chef’s preference, served with chimichurri sauce, and sided with broccoli-rice and potato chips, this meal makes me drool just thinking about it. We made a point to eat here at least once a week and ordered the same thing every time.
Manhattan Beauty Lounge
I should probably start this one by saying that manicures and pedicures in Brazil are not like the ones you get in the U.S.
The first time I got a mani-pedi in Brazil, I found the closest place to me and decided to try it out. It was a total disaster. Not only did they have a limited selection of colors, but all of their polishes were old and crusty. Feeling too awkward to just turn around and leave (no one spoke English so it would have been difficult to explain myself), I stuck it out and went through easily the worst mani-pedi I have ever received.
They had me soak my feet in cold water, didn’t rinse the scrub off of my legs (I think she forgot?), filed my nails short and uneven, cut one of my cuticles until I bled and then proceeded to glob my nails and toes with polish (got it all over my skin too) before “cleaning the edges.”
I’ll be honest, I was a little traumatized by this experience and worried that all salons in Brazil were like this. It wasn’t until I walked by Manhattan Beauty Lounge that I gained some hope back. Not only did it look clean and professional, but I was greeted at the door by the owner, a young woman named Anelize.
It didn’t take long for Anelize to realize I didn’t speak any Portuguese so she quickly switched to speaking in English. She told me she started this salon a few years ago with help from her mom after spending a few years in the U.S.
It only took one visit for me to realize I’d found my place. From what I can tell, they have a consistent client base and do very well, and I’ve always been happy with my experience here.
I’ve always resented paying for a manicure because the polish ends up chipping within a day or two. My last manicure from Manhattan Beauty Lounge lasted me a week without a single chip. The best part? The whole thing, including my pedicure, cost a little less than 20USD.
MG Hair Design
You know that moment when you realize you desperately need a haircut and it starts to become all you think about? The day before you’re drifting by without a care in the world and suddenly you realize you accidentally let your hair grow into a butchered and somewhat ombré mess?
Imagine my panic when I came to this realization while in Brazil. I still had a few weeks before I would be home to see my usual hairdresser, and I just couldn’t wait that long.
On a whim, I asked the hotel concierge for a recommendation and she said MG Hair Design is one of the best, and a few of the stylists there speak English. With no plans to actually get my hair cut that day, I decided to check it out and see if I could schedule an appointment for later in the week.
I was in the salon for no more than 5 minutes before I was dressed in a cape and ready for a trim. Insert stylist Diego Marcsant (@DiegoMarcsant on Instagram), who I quickly learned spoke perfect English and spent years working at the salon Tête-á-Tête in Newton, Massachusetts. I’m someone who gets really nervous about trying a new salon (especially in a foreign country) so knowing Diego’s Boston-area background made a world of difference for me.
While I will admit that it was the most money I’ve ever spent on a cut, it was well worth it. Not only did Diego cut all of the dead ends while maintaining a length I was comfortable with, but I rarely like my blow dry at the end and I was more than happy not to mess with his work when I got home later.
I also feel I should mention that I walked into the salon thinking I was going to have to get my color touched up, which I was not eager to spend the money on. When my cut was all done and blow-dried I asked Diego what he thought and he told me quite honestly that he loved my color and wouldn’t touch it. Not only was this a relief for me to hear, but I realize he could have suggested color and benefited from the extra business, but instead gave me his honest opinion.
Staying at The Hotel Emiliano has been a dream, but the price to use their laundry service adds up pretty quick when you’re basically living there, and the dry cleaners nearby aren’t much better.
Nothing drives me crazy like letting dirty laundry build up, and between Nate and I, it needs to be done at least once a week to avoid getting out of control. When we first settled into our hotel, we let it go about 2 weeks before Nate messaged me the name of a laundromat he happened to walk by, ultimately saving my sanity.
Laundry Deluxe is by far the coolest laundromat I have ever been to. The first time I walked in, I was sure I had the wrong place as what I was looking at was a small barbershop and café bar. Head upstairs past some insane art, and you’ll find a lounge area complete with a bar and a wall lined with washers and dryers.
The great thing about this place is you can pay a 15BRL service fee (a little less than 5USD) and the staff will take care of switching over your laundry and folding it for you. Anyone who has ever spent 3+ hours at a laundromat understands what a game-changer this is.