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.
In keeping with the 300-year-old Brazilian tradition of slowly roasting skewered meats over an open flame, Picanha Churrascaria overwhelms diners' appetites with never-ending servings of 15 different proteins. Throughout each meal, servers approach tables with long, sword-like skewers of top sirloin, garlic chicken, and leg of lamb, then slice freshly grilled portions directly onto plates until guests signal them to stop. Between platefuls, diners can visit the restaurant's buffet, which features more than 40 salad fixings, a spread of traditional Brazilian side dishes, and cutthroat guards that see to it that no one scoops with their hands.
You could argue that every meal at Gaucho's Village includes live entertainment—servers are constantly visiting tables with humongous skewers of meat and slicing off choice pieces with a sword-like knife. To summon such a show to your table, all you need to do is turn a small marker over to display its green side, or turn your "Bring on the Meat" t-shirt right-side out. Then, you select from an array of flame-roasted cuts, ranging from the traditional picanha, or sirloin cap, to tri-tip and filet mignon wrapped in bacon. The blazing churrasco fires backstage also cook lamb, pork, and sausage, and the menu suggests a proper wine pairing for each cut.
Though these meats have been featured on the Travel Channel's Tastiest Places to Chow Down, they aren't the only impressive spectacle at the restaurant. The real show occurs on weekends, when samba dancers and DJs rev up the always-festive atmosphere. Guests who would rather kick back than shimmy along can visit the attached lounge. There, a separate lounge menu boasts empanadas and coxinha—fried balls of chicken and cheese—as well as flavored hookah on a back patio fenced with live bamboo.
Servers hoisting skewers circulate continuously through Samba Brazilian Steakhouse, pausing tableside to carve mesquite-grilled morsels of brazilian sausage, bacon-wrapped chicken, and sirloin steak. Clusters of mod white couches stand out against glowing orange walls, which contain plenty of nooks for groups to squeeze into. Brunch hours offer a consortium of all-you-can-eat meats such as marinated beef and pork. The main course is complemented by unlimited trips to the salad- and Brazilian side dish-buffet, as well as your choice of mimosa, champagne, and sangria. At night, a chorus of smooth-limbed showgirls catalyzes the party with a slight assist from the caipirinha bar's more than 20 versions of Brazil's national cocktail.
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.