Upon arriving in Sao Jose dos Campos (about 2 hours from the city of Sao Paulo), over a year ago, I had my priorities straight and asked the few people we knew where I should go food shopping. It was a rocky start coming to a town that’s not known as a mecca foodie destination though after being here for a while now and upon trial and error I was pleasantly surprised to find a microcosmos of the organic movement in Brazil. Surprisingly, despite the amazing neighboring producers and relatively affluent and international expat population, it still lacks enormously on the dining front… I have been told, by many locals, that the problem with Sao Jose is its proximity to Sao Paulo, which without a doubt is at the very top of global foodie destinations. I find it hard to believe that this is the reason though but I am still searching for an answer. Meanwhile, I have compiled a list of my foodie finds so far and hope that these will be helpful and enjoyable to you as well.
The ‘go to place’ for all your organic needs. The small market carries a wide range of organic and natural packaged goods, fresh produce, meats, and dairy. It is probably the ‘cheapest’ organic/natural market around. They are also one of the very few to carry organic milk and the widest variety of organic buffalo milk products.
A gourmet organic and natural food market with 2 locations and delicious homemade natural and gluten free food and natural fermentation breads. They also carry the widest range of produce and packaged products around. Their breads and gluten free tartlets are amazing. Their zucchini lasagna is also a firm favorite!
The very best artisanal breads in the area made with organic flour and Levain. Thiago bakes a wide variety of breads (including the only tasty gluten free bread I’ve ever tried) with mixed grains, seeds and nuts. Once you try his breads you wont buy bread anywhere else.
Feira do Jardim Esplanada
(an outdoor organic food market every Saturday morning starting at 7am at Praca Sinesio Martins)
-offers a variety of fresh produce and a range of natural and organic products
A fantastic, reliable and good value organic delivery service. The couple who runs this service has a farm and has teamed up with a great group of organic producers around the area to deliver a wide range of super fresh produce as well as artisanal cheese and butter, free range eggs, amazing honey and occasionally baked goods. They sell the best tasting fruit I’ve had in Brazil!
Other organic ‘feiras’ (farmer markets) around worthwhile checking:
Every Sunday from 9am-2pm
Wide range of vendors with fresh produce as well as artisanal food products
Feira agroecológica Vila Ema (no estacionamento da loja Natural Valle)
R. Me. Paula de São José, 330 – Vila Ema, São José dos Campos
Despite this is a very small market, it has a wide range of produce and takes place every Sunday from 7am-12noon
For those days you are too busy to prepare your own meals, here are my recommended restaurants/eateries. The requirements I used to compile this list include local/natural/organic food, unique little places, friendly and knowledgeable service, and the overall taste and meal experience. Please note that none of the restaurants are 100% organic though Nibs and Torta Store use some organic and/or local/natural ingredients.
If you blink you will pass this tiny gem without even noticing it. Behind a tiny black awning you will find a husband/wife run little restaurant serving unique savory tarts with the most delicious rather large side salad! Flavors/fillings change daily and make sure to try their amazing desserts. My favorite is the ‘bolo de coco gelado’ a decadent super moist cold coconut cake.
A cool industrial looking open space with amazing freshly pressed juices and local and organic food directly opposite to the main entrance of Parque Vicentina Aranha. A great spot for a delicious healthy lunch or for a quick juice after a lovely stroll in the park. It has a kids area at the back and welcomes pets as well. Menu changes daily.
Super quaint and unique coffee shop with the very best coffee in town and some fantastic homemade cakes, pastries and savory treats. Feels like you are at someone’s home… Parking can be tricky but worthwhile the effort!
Another unique spot with probably the best food in Sao Jose. A rustic house in a residential area where the owner actively runs a very traditional Italian restaurant. From my experience, the only place one will get ‘real’ Italian food in the area. Menu and wine list is quite extensive.
A modern, Portuguese restaurant, located inside the city’s newest hotel, serving the best seafood around. Service is very attentive though can be quite slow. However, the food is excellent and so are the Portuguese desserts with a great wine list to complement your meal. I really like the week days lunch buffet since it has a wide selection of high quality items without the wait time.
Personally, this is the only Japanese restaurant in the area worth going to. Despite it’s known for their buffet style service, it is far superior and more diverse compared to the many others around. Good attentive service too.
By far the very best pizza in Sao Jose dos Campos! Pizza in Brazil can be quite an upscale experience and Armazem serves outstanding gourmet pizzas using the very best Italian ingredients, fresh produce, amazing extra virgin olive oil, and a great wine list to go with your pizza. Or if you prefer, you can have a ‘Chopp’ (the famous Brazilian draft beer) with your pizza instead. The whole menu is translated to English and I recommend asking for extra thin crust when you order. The ‘Four Seasons’ flavor (zucchini, eggplant, mozarella and tomato sauce) is my favorite!