First Time Eating... Brazilian
FOOD VIRGIN'S FIRST TIME
first time I ever ate Brazilian Churrascaria, I thought
I’d died and gone to heaven. Being what my father calls, a ‘meat-atarian’, having a
bevy of Brazilian men bringing slow-cooked, flame-grilled
meat to slice straight from their skewers onto my plate
seemed like a dream come true.
Churrasco means ‘barbecue’ in Portuguese, but
don’t expect tomato-based barbecue sauces- the different
cuts of meat are so delicious, they’re often flavored
just with sea salt brushed on with herbs
Tell us about your first time eating Brazilian
churracarias typically seem like lively places.
If you look across the whole dining area, you’ll
probably notice lots of busy Passadors- the name for these
meat-wielding waiters- buzzing around the tables.
There will often be an open grilling area you can
see, where all the meats is turning over the spit, and on
the way to your table you might also pass a salad bar
(more on this later).
Seating is at normal restaurant tables, but in
addition to you normal silverware, you’ll also have a
little pair of tongs and a paper disc that has some sort
of ‘yes’ on one side, and a ‘no’ on the other.
Keep these handy- you’ll need them when the first
Passadors comes to your table.
TO ORDER & HOW TO EAT IT
first item to come out will be bread, and at Porcão in
Miami, where I first experienced Churrasco, the theory
that you can judge a cuisine by its bread is proven true;
there, like most churrascos, they serve warm cheese
popovers, known as pão de queijo.
Yum! For gluten-intolerant people, another bonus is that they’re
made from manioc starch, which comes from yucca root, not
wheat or any other gluten grain.
no need to order anything as the whole meal is a set menu,
so soon after you sit down, the Passadors will start to
arrive tableside. Each
one will be offering a different cut of meat, with the
choices being a lot of types of beef ranging from cuts
such as sirloin and filet, to pork, to bacon-wrapped
chicken, (for fish-eaters, salmon is often rolled around
on a trolley). The
‘try it, if you dare’ choice is the traditional
Brazilian offering: chicken hearts, which look kind of
funny, being so small on the large skewer.
will happen is this: The Passadors will first look at your
paper disc. If
you would like them to come to serve you, keep the
‘yes’ side turned up.
They will likely then come over and ask you if you
want whatever specific cut it is they’ve got.
If you say, ‘no’, they’ll go on to other
you say, ‘yes’, then they’ll start to slice off some
meat for you. Now
here’s where the little tongs you have come in: Use them
to grip the meat as it’s being sliced.
Put the meat on your plate, the tongs aside, and
also have a selection of side dishes: onion rings, french
fries, plantain, yucca, black beans, and farofa
(Brazil’s version of bread crumbs that you sprinkle on
the black beans). These
are all fairly plain, starchy options, but tasty.
Some restaurants- Porçao is one- will
automatically bring them all to you, while at others,
you’ll order what you want from a side menu.
where are the vegetables?’ you ask (or maybe your
mother’s asking)? Well,
just when you thought you would never need to get out of
your chair again, someone will walk past with a heaping
plate of hot and cold vegetables, from none other than the
salad bar. That’s right: Virtually all churrascaria restaurants offer
an unlimited salad bar as part of your meal, ranging from
standard salad bar choices, to soup, to even unexpected
things like sushi at some places.
“Usually people go first, but a lot of people who
are meat eaters, or don’t like vegetables, they don’t
go to the salad bar,” explains John Munoz, Porcao’s
Manager. Churrascarias are relaxed about whatever order you choose, so
go whenever it suits you.
the real question with Brazilian churrascaria, is, ‘How
do you keep from exploding from eating too much food?’
The answer comes in that little paper disc that
everyone gets (and can keep if they want to, as a
it over throughout the meal as your plate fills and
like a traffic light so you can manage your plate how you
want,” says Mr. Munoz.
Try to avoid saying ‘yes’ to everything, and
ending up with a huge pile of uneaten meat on your plate.
Kids are especially prone to having eyes bigger
than their stomachs, so pace yourselves accordingly (one
trick is to flip your disc to ‘no’ early, letting your
kids say ‘yes’ a bit longer because it’s fun for
them, and then what they don’t eat, you can eat for
are quite experienced at what they do, so if you forget
about using your disc like I did, they’ll likely figure
out on their own whether your table is still interested in
more tips of your own ►
on, you’ll be offered a caipiriñha, which is a
Brazilian drink similar to a Mojito, but sweeter and
possibly more potent.
Made from lime juice, sugar, and cachaça-
distilled Brazilian sugar cane juice- if the alcohol
doesn’t give you a kick, the sugar will.
Other than this, Brazil does have its own brands of
beer you might find in some restaurants, or you might want
to order red wine, given all the red meat involved in the
meal- try something Argentinian if it’s on the menu, to
stay with a Latin American theme.
non-alcoholic drinks, soft drinks will be the most typical
choice, although a few places might showcase some exotic
Brazilian fruit drinks.
how do you end a meal that leaves you feeling as bloated
as an Ancient Roman after a bacchanalia?
Why, with a giant dessert, of course!
I’ve honestly never had the space for dessert,
but the offerings will typically include a variety of
cakes, including Crème
de Papaya (a papaya and ice cream dessert), pudim de leite
(Brazilian-style flan), and torta de banana
(Brazilian-style banana pie).
They all look fantastic, so if you’re a dessert
person, you might want to plan to save some space.
Otherwise, if you truly can’t fit it in, you’ll
just have to come back and try again.
I’d love to tell you what they taste like, but
I’ve honestly never saved space.
Normally, it’s all I can do to finish all the
meat on my plate.
Brazil is a coffee-growing country, and that is the
after-dinner hot drink of choice, whether served
American-style or as espresso.
A Brazilian Churrascaria is a great alternative to
a steak house for people who want more variety, a livelier
environment and, well, more meat. Given that they’re typically ‘all-you-can-eat’ and
include top cuts of meat, you can expect that they won’t
be cheap. They
typically are well worth the cost, though.
Bring an empty stomach and a relaxed attitude.
Brazilian Churrascarias are great for families, as
there’s no fuss over ordering, kids can have fun with
the yes/no discs and deciding what meat to try, and the
food starts coming out virtually right away.
It’s unlikely that they’ll disturb anyone else,
as churrascarias are typically noisy places with lots of
people walking around (either customers to the salad bar,
or Passadors with meat).
The food is abundant, and ranges enough that
there’s bound to be something available that every kid
will eat. You’ll
likely see lots of Latin American families enjoying their
meals there too.
BRAZILIAN CHURRASCO FOOD TERMS
(chu-RAS-ka-REE-a) Portuguese for ‘barbecue place’ or ‘barbecue’.
(cai-pee-REEN-ya) Brazil’s traditional drink, made from cachaça, muddled
lime and sugar.
(ka-SHA-sa) a distilled alcoholic spirit made from cane sugar.
de queijo- (pow de kay-EE-ho) cheese buns; made from manioc flour (tapioca)
(PASS-a-door) a meat waiter
(rod-EE-zee-oh) means ‘in cycle’, as in, when
the meat is in rotation around the tables
(fa-ROW-fa) toasted manioc flour.
Use it to sprinkle over your black beans.
Add more Brazilian food terms to the list
DO’S AND DON’TS
to remember to use your ‘yes/no’ disc.
This will help the Passadors know whether to
come to your table or not.
your tongs to hold the slice of meat while the
Passador cuts it.
Otherwise, it will drop onto the table.
the salad bar. It
makes a nice break from non-stop meat and usually is
well worth checking out.
polite to the Passadors.
Remember: These are men wielding swords!
‘yes’ to all the Passadors too soon.
Different cuts of meat come out at different
times, so feel free to be choosy early on.
‘yes’ to every Passador that comes along and end
up with a pile of meat on your plate, uneaten.
Try to pace yourself well, and don’t worry
about saying ‘no’ temporarily to a Passador; they
can always refill you plate later, once you’re sure
you’ve got room for what they’re offering.
to tip. The
best bet is to leave 20% and let them work out who it
belongs to. Typically each restaurant will have a system by which
they split tips.
more DOs and DON'Ts to add
Food (is it easy to find things that American kids will
Level (how different is this from standard American food): 5/10
Rate Brazilian food
where The Food Virgin eats in Miami- Porcao