From right to left: All in Salvador, Bahia
Suco 24 Horas
Rua Miguel Burnier 108
Rua Miguel Burnier 110
Fábrica de Sucos
Rua Miguel Burnier 114
It seems that each new country we visit has an everyday snack treat that comes to us as something of a revelation. In Greece it was Yogurt and Honey, and in Brazil it must be the açaí bowl, known here as Açaí na Tigela. Açaí fruits, the product of a species of palm tree well-known in Brazil, has been making the rounds in the United States since about 2004, advertised by the health-conscious for its “antioxidant” properties (which has no factual basis, sorry to say). So why do we like açaí? Because its dark, sweet, rich pulp makes for some darn good eats, especially when – Brazil style – you blend it, ice it, top it with fresh fruit and granola, and serve it up in a plastic 700mL bowl all for around R$10 (about US $5.50). Yes, please!
Luckily for us, three great açaí bowl establishments are just down the road from our apartment in Salvador: Fabrica de Sucos (“Juice Factory”); Bom Sabor (“Good Flavor”); and Suco 24 Horas (“24 Hour Juice”), winner of nine consecutive “Best Açaí” awards from the annual food issue of Veja Salvador. We decided not to trust the food critics – isn’t that our job, anyway? – and try all three to determine the ETW Best Açaí in Salvador.
We should state now that between the three places we tried, we found no substantial taste difference between the actual açaí. It all came down to the extras. First up: Suco 24 Horas, the longtime reigning champion. Pluses: the açaí, like the others we will review, was ice-cold, with a rich, velvety flavor. Our server separated our order into two bowls (always helpful), and the free granola topping was a solid touch. We left very happy with our purchase: R$10.00.
Second: Bom Sabor. We initially felt bad for Bom Sabor, since everyone was sitting at Suco 24 Horas, and the nice front-of-house hostess there seemed unable to convince anyone to stop by. But the second time we came back, there were a few people, probably because Suco 24 was full. That said, we left very impressed: though the serving size (700mL) was the same size as at Suco 24, it sure looked like more to us. Our toppings – banana and strawberry – were both fresh, and the granola at Bom Sabor was also free (and the same variety, Tia Sonia). Total cost: R$10.50, and an extra point for having a festive orange bowl (as opposed to the bland ones at Suco 24h).
Last up: Fabrica de Sucos. Note, savvy readers, the lack of photo. Fabrica de Sucos was out of the running as soon as they decided to charge us for granola. When the two places next to you are giving granola away for free, you had better be producing so darn good – ney, damn good – açaí for us to consider you. But your taste was no better, if not slightly worse, and the granola was exactly the same as at your two competitors. Sorry!
For us, the winner was pretty clearly Bom Sabor. We thought their portion was more generous, we like their toppings better, and frankly, they had a more enjoyable bowl. We’ve made two trips back since our initial taste tests, and we are still confident in our decision. And after a hot and humid day of walking around Salvador, there really is nothing more refreshing than a good açaí bowl from Bom Sabor.