When Ben Googins met Rio de Janeiro native Elias Martins while teaching English in Brazil in 1998, he couldn't have guessed that the two would wind up making p?o de queijo?cheese bread?on an episode of the Cooking Channel's FoodCrafters with celebrity chef Aida Mollenkamp. Their journey began as Googins learned more and more about the Portuguese language and the generous, hospitable Brazilian culture via Martins's family and their flavorful cooking. The duo eventually moved to Austin in 2006, bent on realizing their dream of opening their own restaurant. After their handmade foods gained popularity at the downtown farmers' market, their all-natural malagueta sauces appeared in Austin's flagship Whole Foods store. They finally opened Rio's Brazilian Caf? in 2010, where the staff makes caipirinhas and creates contemporary and traditional Brazilian recipes from scratch. The last Saturday of every month, diners can enjoy feijoada, a classic Brazilian stew made with pork, beef, sausage, black beans, and the juice of one soccer ball.
The restaurant still, of course, makes its renowned cheese bread. The basil variety was the favorite of Fearless Critic, which noted that the restaurant is "one of the few places where carnivores, vegetarians, and gluten-intolerant diners can all happily coexist." The restaurant was also a Critics' Pick for Most Charming Brazilian Outpost in the Austin Chronicle's Best of Austin 2011, and has appeared in numerous publications and on TV shows such as Good Day Austin and Fox 7 News. According to Eater Austin, celebrities Ryan Gosling and Rooney Mara have noshed at the cozy eatery, whose bright yellow and green exterior and outdoor patio give way to a similarly vibrant and eclectic dining area.
You may see the word “unique” tossed around in many restaurant descriptions, but Fogo De Chao truly, truly, is. At this Brazilian steakhouse, sit down, visit the salad and sides bar, and then flip the card on your table from red to green: you are ready to select your meal. Meats are grilled in traditional Gaucho-style: on large vertical spits over open flames. You may choose from several cuts of meat including filet mignon, pork loin, lamb, chicken, their signature “Picanha” top sirloin, or seafood. Flip the card to red once you’re through ordering. And back to green once more if you’re in the mood for one of their signature desserts! Fogo De Chao is an experience you are unlikely to forget, as the food, presentation, and atmosphere are truly unique.
This Brazilian steakhouse in the popular, upscale Arboretum at Great Hills is not just a restaurant, but a cultural experience. The dining room is large, with white tablecloth-covered tables surrounding an extensive central salad bar buffet. Walls covered in frescoes of Brazilian life add to the ambiance, as does an extensive collection of wine bottles. Of course, with any good Brazilian churrascaria, the dining experience consists largely of skewered meats, though simple side dishes like polenta and fried plantains abound, and much of the meal is tinged with a South Texas spice profile that makes Estancia distinctly Austin. Carnivores swing by for the fourteen different cuts of meat, each grilled to order and served in abundance.
Texas de Brazil blends the steak-centric cuisine of Texas with the traditional churrasco method of slow-roasting meat over an open flame grill to form a luscious meaty mélange. The full dinner ($39.99) marches out a cavalcade of choice cuts, allowing diners to welcome continuous windfalls of flavorful proteins. Brandish your table's provided card, green on one side, red on the other, and it will function as a meat traffic light that summons servers to either send stacks of seasoned beef, pork, or lamb skewers or halt plate traffic like a decorated culinary crossing guard. Or feel free to substitute greens for the grill by stepping into the sprawling salad-bar conga line ($24.99), two-stepping through toothsome goodies such as imported cheeses, steamed asparagus, and dozens of other hors d'oeuvres.
Chama means flame in Portuguese, so it should come as no surprise that Chama Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse specializes in flame-seared meats. Servers carve everything from lamb to filet mignon off skewers, but the house specialty is a prime cut of sirloin known as picanha.
Main Streets are often the most historic parts of town, their storefronts changing over the years as the generations visiting them evolve. And Main Street Grill is no different. Since first opening as a general store in 1877, it has also served as an opera house, a bank, an auto-supply shop, and a TV and radio store.
Traits of these past lives are still visible throughout the restaurant; for example, a private dining room is housed in an old bank vault, and on weekends, musicians here fill the space with soothing music, just as the bankers used to jam by shaking bags of coins.
Main Street's menu is equally nostalgic, though its classic, elegant dishes are updated with contemporary ingredients and Texas flair. Rainbow trout is encrusted with crab and sunflower seeds, the southwestern pork tenderloin is rubbed in chili, and duck breast is smoked over green-tea leaves and then plated in blackberry-wasabi sauce. The wine list integrates reds, whites, and sparkling varietals from around the world, and various digestifs pair perfectly with dessert.