By Jack Arnhold, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Churrasco (barbecue) is a Brazilian and Latin American institution; and churrascarias are a staple of the Carioca food scene. These culinary institutions offer bountiful selections of every cut, type and quantity of meat to satisfy even the most voracious of carnivores. Here is a selection of five of the best that the ‘Cidade Maravilhosa’ has to offer.
To start off a list of Rio’s churrascarias, why not highlight one of the old established greats? Tom Le Mesurier, from Eat Rio, suggests this charming, traditional churrascaria as his favorite, “Opened in 1961, this place has a real old-school vibe.” He explains.
“Smartly dressed old waiters deliver your meat, cooked to perfection on the huge charcoal grill in the center of the main dining room. They don’t do the rodízio (all-you-can-eat) option, but they have huge steaks, both from Brazil and also imported from Uruguay and Argentina.”
In addition to the meat, they serve up some tasty sides, Le Mesurier suggests to “order the ‘batata soufflés’ (puffed up little pillows of crispy fried potato) and the dreamy ‘espinafre com creme’ (creamed spinach) and you have the perfect accompaniment for your chosen meat.”
Fogo de Chão (Botafogo)
With the closure of the mighty Porcão, Fogo de Chão is perhaps the premier big-venue churrascaria in Rio’s Zona Sul (South Zone). Their restaurant seats up to 400 guests and offers a view of one of the main sights of the city, Pão de Açucar (Sugarloaf mountain).
Belinda Seixas, from Caminhos Language Centre, would recommend Fogo de Chão as a great place for beginners. “Fogo de Chao in Botafogo. It’s the famous one. A lot of people love that one. And all the famous people go there.”
For those who feel a bit overfed reading this, fear not, for there are churrascarias that cater to non-meat eaters too. Belinda Seixas, from Caminhos Language Centre, isn’t the biggest fan of red meat, but still whole-heartedly recommends Carretão in Ipanema.
“To be honest, I don’t eat meat, but I really like Carretão. They have a really good buffet, even for vegetarians. They also do a seafood paella and really good desserts.” Carretão offers both the rodízio (all-you-can-eat) option alongside a great buffet of delicious hot dishes, garnishes, salads, cold cuts, cheeses, plus a Japanese option.
Galeto SAT’S (Copacabana)
Although not strictly a churrascaria, Galeto SAT’S is a firm favorite with owner of Winehouse and Cru Natural Wine Bar, Dominic Parry. “It’s not officially a churrascaria, but I’m really keen on Galeto SAT’S in Copacabana, where they’ve got an open fire pit and they do really, really good chicken hearts and nice bits of beef too, and of course galeto.”
Churrascaria Palace (Copacabana)
Founded in 1951, this is old-school Copacabana, serving traditional churrasco as well as oysters and other delicacies. The prices reflect its pedigree and the place does attract its fair share of tourists, but for a typical churrascaria, this is still the place that Dominic Parry, of Winehouse and Cru Natural Wine Bar, would recommend.
“Although it’s pretty touristy, they do some really good cuts and they have a bit of everything.” Parry adds. Look out for the cuts invented by the house, such as the butterfly picanha cut (rumpsteak), which is now popular throughout Brazil, as well as the lamb shoulder and the prime ribs.