Brazilian churrascarias—a kind of Portuguese barbeque joint—have their roots in traditional celebrations of a successful harvest. At modern churrascarias, waiters walk around with skewers or roasted meat, cutting off all-you-can-eat portions of steak, pork, and chicken directly onto your plate. Diners interested in rounding out a years' worth of protein can find endless accompaniments at the salad bar and buffet of Brazilian hot dishes or try traditional drinks such as caipirinha or guarana, a Brazilian soda.
Skewered cuts of sirloin, brazilian sausage, and pork ribs rotate slowly over a sweltering grill, their savory juices producing a rhythmic hiss as each drop hits the metal. This is churrasco, Xodó Grill's specialty. Once the traditional Brazilian barbecue has roasted to a tender finish, the staff slices off juicy morsels for customers to pair with 12 types of salads and a slate of hot dishes from the colorful buffet. Heaping plates of fried yucca, picanha, and cheese bread await the scales, which customers use to pay by the pound and Lady Justice uses to smuggle extra cuts of steak.
At By Brazil, gauchos whisk skewers of meat from table to table, carving the choicest cuts of top sirloin, passion fruit-marinated pork loin, and barbecued chicken. This all-you-can-eat churrasco feast is part of the restaurant's rich Brazilian tradition, which guests can soak up during lunch and dinner. Most of the staff is fluent in Portuguese too, so they can help diners learn how to properly pronounce certain menu items.
If you're not up for the buffet, you can nibble on appetizers that include Brazilian sandwiches, polenta, or fried yucca, then wash them down with an assortment of exotic beverages. These range from imported Brazilian beers to refreshing caipirinhas, a cocktail made with sugar cane hard liquor, sugar, and lime, that flows freely down the Amazon river.
Brazilian Steak House | Award-Winning Churrasco | Hot-Food Buffet | Caipirinha Cocktails | Fixed-Price Menu
How it Works: During this all-you-can-eat fine-dining experience, customers are first seated at tables bedecked with white linens. Then, a server parades out a selection of 16 churrascaria meats, carving off a portion of skewered beef, lamb, pork, or chicken. A two-sided, colored coaster—green for "keep it coming," red for "I'm stuffed"—lets the staff know if you'd like seconds or thirds. Diners can also help themselves to the buffet of salad fixings and side dishes.
Inside Tip: Vegetarians can skip out on the meat and pay a reduced price for the salad and sides buffets. The extensive salad bar is filled with traditional choices as well as tabbouleh and pickled shiitake, and the hot side dishes include a "mashed potato so smooth it could pass for crème fraîche," according to OC Weekly.
Caipirinha: a Brazilian cocktail made with the sugarcane-based spirit cachaça and lime juice
If You Can’t Make It, Try This: Amazon Churrascaria BBQ Buffet (1445 S. Lemon Street, Fullerton), more casual—but no less authentic—spot for Brazilian cuisine according to the Los Angeles Times.
Fusion steakhouse Kravings channels Brazilian rodizio-style cooking with an unlimited supply of fire-roasted meat served tableside. Order the rodizio special and display nondiscriminatory nibbling practices on up to 12 premium meat cuts, such as steaks, chicken, pork, and seafood, presented on giant skewers or cedar planks and carved at the table ($16.95 for lunch, $37.95–$39.95 for dinner). Unlimited helpings of flame-licked meats—including tequila-lime chicken, leg of lamb, and filet mignon wrapped in bacon—test stomach storage space, and à la carte dinner entrees, such as lamb chops seasoned with mint-chardonnay sauce ($33.95), set a finite finish on jaw calisthenics. All rodizio specials come with a side and salad buffet that purveys more than 30 mammal-free and seasonal options, including soups, salads, sushi, and smoked salmon.
Centuries ago, formally dressed gauchos—or, Brazilian cowboys—conducted festive fireside roasts, during which they'd use their swords to serve grilled meats to their guests. Today, this tradition carries on at M Grill, an authentic churrascaria restaurant. Here, expert waiters present freshly grilled and skewered meats tableside, slicing off portions for diners while it's still hot.
Upon arriving at M Grill, you needn't scan dozens of menu items to decide what to order. Instead, you pay a set price and eat to your heart's content. All you have to do is flip a card: the green side tells the waiter to keep the meat coming, and the red side indicates you're stuffed with enough protein to bench-press your date. The set price also includes M Grill's expansive salad bar, which is stocked with all sorts of fresh veggies and cheeses, as well as a hot buffet with fried yucca, beef stroganoff, and fried plantains.
In addition to skewers of meat, the restaurant also houses an impressive wine wall stocked with more than 1,500 bottles. But cocktails here are taken seriously, too. For its passionfruit caipirinha, for instance, M Grill buys passionfruit at the pinnacle of its freshness, then freezes it to use throughout the year. Recently, CBS Los Angeles also recognized the eatery's pisco sour cocktail as one of the best in the city for its frothy egg whites and hand-squeezed lime juice.