As a new foreigner, one of the first questions the locals will ask you is if you’d been to a restaurante churrasco, or more commonly known as a Churrascaria. When you answer in the negative, you will receive a shake of the head and a look that says “Why bother coming to the country if you don’t indulge in our meat?”
This will happen every time you meet someone new until finally you break down and demand to know where the nearest churrasco is.
Sure, there are vegetarians in Brazil. You’ll find them hiding out in underground cafés or in the downward dog position in a yoga studio. Yep, you can count on the fact that the majority of Brazilians are Catholics and carnivores.
The basic of a Churrascaria is the meat. Specialty cuts of meat. The establishments operate on a rodizio basis and gentlemen walk around offering a variety of beef cuts, lamb, chicken hearts and some sausages. You pay one price and you get all the meat you can eat. Simple, right?
If you are a meat lover, your goal is to eat as many prime cuts of meat as possible. But that is not the goal of the restaurant. The goal of the restaurant is for you to eat as little prime cuts of meat as possible, but order as many drinks as possible.
I will outline the strategy of the restaurant by example.
Last night I met my husband at Barbacoa, a Churrascaria. He was sitting in the lounge waiting for me and drinking a beer. In front of him a waiter had placed a collection of complimentary appetizers.
How nice, right? Wrong. This tactic is designed to fill you up so that you eat less meat. Eating these snacks will also make you thirsty, so you order more drinks.
I, however, was quite hungry when I arrived at the restaurant because I had been eating sparsely all day in anticipation of this dinner. So unfortunately, I gobbled some up, thinking that I’d have plenty of room. I also sucked back my delicious caipirinha de caju way too quickly.
Resist the temptation to indulge in this tactic.
Next we were seated. The first thing our waiter did was slam a basket of these goodies on the table:
Yep, more filler snacks.
Of course, our waiter then suggested that we first go to the salad bar. But the better places don’t just have simple salad bars.
Not just salad do these salad bars contain, but also all sorts of delicacies.
Foolishly, here is what my plate looked like when I got back from the salad bar. And I held back.
If you want to eat meat, resist this tactic as well.
Finally come the guys with the skewers of meat.
I only had room to consume three half pieces of meat.
Here is the thing. I’m not a huge meat fanatic. In fact, I spent most of my life as a vegetarian, even went through a vegan period. So truth be told, I’d rather fill up on fish and vegetables. But I was hoping to try a bit more of the meat.
So while I did try and approach this restaurant like a good meat-eating Brazilian, I still filled up on the wrong stuff. (Although the salad bar was pretty awesome.)
Perhaps I’ll need another try at this one.