Brazilian Challenge Day 74: Restaurante Churrasco

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.

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18 Responses to Brazilian Challenge Day 74: Restaurante Churrasco

  1. ha. I always figure they make money on me and lose money on Juan. I am not a big fan of filling up on the meat either.

    • They definitely make money on the foreigners too. The place was packed with foreign corporate visitors filling up on the wrong stuff! Of course, I’m sure they were all eating on the company’s dime, perfect model for the restaurant. Place must be a cash cow.

  2. megalagom says:

    Makes sense! Now you know for next time!

  3. Lolla Moon says:

    i am brazilian and couldn’t care less for the meat. i always, always fill up on the cheap carbs first. i love them. i am exactly the kind of customer this place wants, and they’re not the sort of restaurant i should be going to. but hey, here i am, living in the uk and *still* going to brazilian churrascarias. for the salgadinhos. 🙂

  4. Andrew Francis says:

    Don’t feel too bad, lots of Brazilians fall for the same tricks and yes, the salad bars can be impressive. The way I figure it, salads are fair game because they are not very filling but I definitely stay away from the rice and fries.

  5. Those sneaky restaurants. Fill up on cheap crap…lol….for what- R$40 some o aspargo an pāo?

    • This place was more like R$100, but we had a two-for-one coupon… so even more painful to fill up on pao, although I don’t know how it is where you are, but asparagus is wicked expensive in Sao Paulo.

  6. Alex says:

    Tricky jerks….all those salty things will definitely make you order more drinks.

    Mais uma caipirinha p’favoh.

  7. anna says:

    i love barbacoa!! I love their special rice and farofa. I love meat but I also go to the buffet . I always eat a little bit of everything. some people I know only eat meat others eat everything but meat. Some of the stuff at the salad bar are even more expensive than the meat. You can avoid the cheap stuff if you want to and only get the costly ones. I think its democratic : )

    I also like Fogo de Chão – same style but I still prefer barbacoa.
    if you want a la carte you can try Varanda Grill. (Rua Gal Mena Barreto, 793 Jardim Paulista)

  8. Alice Sopik Steyn says:

    So true and sweet – Frank mentioned just this evening that he needs a protein binge! We liked Grill Paulista – used to charge 35 reais per person and they had a FAB buffet – then they sold out top Bovinus and last we saw they were still not open – 1+ year after renovations started. We used to eat there very often and became like family clients, now sadly we hardly go to a churrascarria anymore – I like Vento Harragano BUT cannot eat 96 reais worth of food. BUT we also -had the same experiences and would then decide like ‘tonight’ meat and salad and Alix would sat sushi and meat – and we would help each other stick to the ‘diet’ was hilarious! Btw where is this Barbacoa?

    • HA! You definitely need a buddy to help stay away from the “wrong” stuff. Barbacoa is just as expensive, but we got a two-for-one coupon from Diners Club. They have a couple restaurants in malls, but we went to the one in Itaim at Rua Doutor Renato Paes de Barros, 65, right next to the big KPMG building.

  9. I am Brazilian and took me to learn, but I learned from my father, we have to pick two dishes, one meat and one for food, do not eat much rice, and NEVER eat spaghetti because it is eaten at home. Learn which are the noble Carner and if you like mutton always wait for it worth it.

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