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.
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.
Dedicated to satisfying seasoned gourmands and casual diners alike, Palmer’s menu offers everything from sizable steaks and chicken dishes to lighter, plant-based victuals and veggie-nestled seafood. Try the grilled ahi tuna steak with chipotle aioli, chef’s rice, and seasonal vegetables (4 oz., $14; 8 oz., $17), or nibble the tenderloin sandwich with tomato and portobello to harness the necessary brainpower to conquer your Sudoku-based home-security system ($14). A comfy atmosphere replete with multiple stone fireplaces colors the eatery’s interior, and a clean-air garden encourages postmeal relay races in the fountain courtyard.
Jeff Blank and his kitchen crew like to joke that other cooks must suffer from a "fear of cooking." That's because, for the award-winning chef, cooking is a kind of alchemy?an ambitious experiment that is sometimes fated to fail. But when it works, Jeff and his Executive Chef Kelly Casey transform fresh ingredients, often plucked from local farms and ranches, into piquant dishes adorned with housemade sauces, such as tomatillo white chocolate, mango jalape?o, and bourbon vanilla praline. Behind the kitchen, a stone smokehouse infuses ostrich, rattlesnake, and venison meats with dusky notes, creating entrees that have won them recognition for the Best Wild Game Dish from readers of the Austin Chronicle.
Diners take in the gustatory array on a patio and in a garden gazebo, surrounded by vegetable plants, flowers, and trees wrapped in petite nodes of light. Even the rustic, upscale decor?characterized by soft candlelight, red tablecloths, and vibrant paintings along exposed-stone walls?has earned acclaim, finding favorable mention in the New York Times' travel guide.