There are dozens of options up and down the ocean fronting beaches, virtually all of them only open during the day, and some only at weekends and on holidays. Menus vary a little, but fish dishes, shrimp/prawn and chicken are the most common items offered, often served with rice, beans and fries, although steak, lobster and other specialities are available in the better ones.
The most expensive (but not by international standards!) beach bars are found on the little island of ‘Coroa de Avião’ (since all supplies have to arrive by boat), followed by those on Fort Orange beach, although quality at all of them can be surprisingly good.
All serve ice cold beer, caipirinhas, spirits and soft drinks, but do not expect wine. Apart from the locations above, some good individual options include Barriga’s (Fat Belly’s), Coco Loco (Crazy Coconut), Lual Bar (Moonlight Bar) and Célia Bar (Celia’s Bar), but everyone has their favourite, so ask around!
In NE Brazil traditionally lunch was always the main meal of the day, and so many restaurants only open during the day. Slowly, as western influences permeate Brazilian culture, this is changing (particularly in major cities), but not yet on the island. So if you want to dine out in the evening, there are less options especially during the week.
Orange Praia Hotel
Located near the Fort, the island’s only true hotel offers very good quality breakfast, lunch and dinner, 7 days a week, in an air-conditioned restaurant or at tables located round the pool or under cabanas, all at very reasonable prices.
A full a-la-carte menu, snacks menu and buffets are offered, and decent wine is available, as is a very good selection of beers and spirits. The service is very friendly and efficient and this is probably the best restaurant on Itamaracá. Many of the staff speak some English – not usual on the island.
Yacht Club (Iate Club)
Open all day (not evenings) at weekends, holidays and throughout January, the Yacht Club is a members club, although it is possible for foreigners to be able to use the restaurant facilities by arrangement through the expat group.
An enviable oceanfront location gives fantastic breezes and views while enjoying steak, chicken, salmon, fish or shrimp dishes, all good quality and at reasonable prices. Full bar service also available, and there are frequent buffet options.
Barao da Ilha (Baron of the Island)
Located towards the Fort, and a favourite watering hole of the expat group at 6.30pm on a Friday night, this restaurant offers huge meals to share for 2-4 people, with cold beers and a selection spirits, and is open Friday and Saturday nights, as well as Tuesday to Sunday daytimes.
Sabor da Ilha (Flavour of the Island)
Open for lunches only, offering similar dishes to the yacht club (but even more extensive), in open air surroundings but not on the beach. Good quality, good service, good prices.
Chales da Bela Vista (Beautiful View Chalets)
A stunning location up in the hills behind the town of Pilar affords fantastic views over the ocean, while enjoying lunch here at weekends - and evenings during the high season. Good menu selection and quality, with the choice to eat indoors or outdoors, and with a large pool.
Praça de Camarao (Prawn Square)
Located in Pilar town square, and open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner, this restaurant offers similar fare as can be found in the beach bars. The garlic prawns are very good here.
El Dorado (The Golden) Kilo Restaurant
Typical Brazilian fare open only for lunch, in air conditioning, where you help yourself and just pay for the weight of the food on your plate. Although a simple place, the food is good and great value, and the juices are delicious!
Tapioca da Dona Idalice
Hailed by many as the best tapioca in the region, it is definitely worth a visit when you go to Vila Velha. Dona Idalice also prepares nice desserts at weekends.
Other Island Restaurant options:
The island is dotted with other options particularly on the road between the Fort and Pilar, and in the town square. All are open-air, some are simple and all are inexpensive – and many of these are open day and night. Options include eat-in or take-away pizzas, burgers, etc.
Itapissuma: just over the bridge, on the waterfront, try the town’s famous signature dish – Caldeirada. Made from various shellfish, crab and other fish, served with rice and pirão (a thick seafood sauce), it is flavoured with coconut, turmeric and tomatoes plus each individual restaurant’s own secret flavourings. Lunch only.
Igarassu: several options within 20 minutes’ drive of the island, including Caminho da Ilha (Route to the Island) serving a la carte menu and rodizio do churrasco (all-you-can-eat BBQ meats) options at lunch, and pizzas or pastas at night.
A little further is the excellent Natrielli restaurant with full a la carte menu and rodizio de pizza (excellent all-you-can-eat pizzas) option at night, plus an excellent seafood buffet at lunchtimes plus their a la carte menu.
Virtually over the road from Natrielli, about 30 mins from the island, is the very good Boi e Brasa BBQ Churrascaria (all-you-can-eat BBQ) restaurant. The classic Brazilian restaurant…
Abreu e Lima: for a kilo BBQ option try the Catarinense Restaurant for lunch, specialising in food from South Brazil, just pay by the weight of the food on your plate.
Recife: too many options to mention just an hour or so away, from the best cuisine to all you can eat Brazilian steak restaurants, French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese and American restaurants, fine dining or fast food… Continuously voted the 3rd best city in Brazil for dining out, after Rio and Sao Paulo.