From rodizio with a water view at Texas de Brazil’s Miami location to piano music with dinner at Churrascaria Plataforma in New York City, all of these Brazilian steakhouses make sure that you won’t go home hungry.
At a Brazilian steakhouse, you won’t see a traditional menu. This type of steakhouse is better defined as a churrascaria, essentially a barbecue, and is a carnivore’s nirvana of prix fixe all-you-can-eat meat selections, served tableside in succession. This method of serving, called rodizio, originated in southern Brazil’s Pampa region in the 1800s but has begun to infiltrate the United States much more recently.
The rodizio serving style harkens back to the fireside roasts of the Brazilian cowboys, or, gaúchos. Nowadays, these gaúchos make for a highly attentive, customer-focused team. At a churrascaria, they come to the table with knives and skewers with grilled beef (picanha is a signature cut of beef), chicken, pork, lamb, and sometimes seafood, continuously circulating the restaurant. To give an idea of the volume of food, diners are given little discs — usually green on one side, red on the other—to indicate to the gaúchos if selections should keep coming, or if a break is needed from the continuous stream of food. As if that’s not enough, they’ll also bring traditional Brazilian side dishes of polenta, fried bananas, rice, mashed potatoes, and the popular pão de queijo: cheesy little tapioca-based rolls.
But there is more appetizing news, even for those who may not favor a dinner that looks like something out of a Flintstones cartoon. The flip side of churrascarias is that large salad bars (and usually a hot buffet) are important features that get (nearly) equal attention. These have vegetables and fruits, to be sure, but also give diners a chance to try dishes such as feijoada (black bean stew), empadinhas de palmito (bread stuffed with a hearts of palm filling), macarrão (a pasta dish), and yucca dishes, plus there are usually plenty of non-Brazilian selections.
We ranked the churrascarias by the most authentic Brazilian fare, the most stellar service, the best variety in the side dishes and salad bar, and interior design of the restaurant. The best of our picks excel in all of the categories.
Some churrascarias are more upscale than others, and many are part of chains, but they are all family-friendly and known for their tradition of customer service. To find out about restaurants around the country that offer rodizio service, read on — and if it's your first time at a churrascaria, the best advice is to show up ravenous!