Wrapped in the aromatic embrace of Zona Sul Churrascaria’s smoldering barbecue pit, up to four friends gather over unending portions of Brazilian meats, rice, and vegetables. Diners pile thick slices of meat onto their plates as they gaze in wonder at the crackling sirloin steaks and pork sausages skewered on spits over the flames. Beef ribs line up in rows as foursomes hammer out xylophonic bossa nova songs with their forks, and chicken thighs strut to samba beats on palate dance floors. A bountiful salad bar complements the orchestra of sizzling proteins with rice, green vegetables, and whole onions painted to resemble soccer balls.
Most chefs tend to specialize in a particular cuisine, such as Italian or sushi. Prezo Grille & Bar's executive chef, Tim Vaillette, however, prefers to specialize in a little bit of everything. His main menu runs the gamut from classic American burgers to Barcelona-style swordfish served with rice pilaf. He also draws inspiration from Italy, topping the house-made dough of his thin-crust pizzas with ingredients such as buffalo mozzarella, ricotta, meatballs, and caramelized onions. Tim even dabbles in sushi, preparing specialty rolls such as the bad boy maki, which he coils with spicy salmon, avocado, and spicy mayo before serving it atop a revving motorcycle. To complement Tim's far-reaching menu, Prezo's bartenders serve an extensive selection of cocktails and craft beer, as well as more than 20 wines by the glass and 50 by the bottle.
Feasts unfold in Prezo's upscale, romantically lit dining room or in its similarly lit bar, where four plasma televisions stay tuned to the latest sports game.
Though churrasca restaurants are popping up everywhere, Ivan Utrera is generally recognized as the first bold soul to open a Brazilian steakhouse in America, bringing family recipes from his native city of Sao Paulo. For nearly 20 years, Rodizio Grill's teams of gauchos have presented three-foot skewers of rotisserie-grilled meats tableside, giving guests the opportunity to sample as much as they can shake their fork at. The selection of seasoned meats includes picanha com parmesao—sirloin encrusted with parmesan—and frango agri-doce, chicken glazed in a sweet and spicy sauce. The gauchos also present skewered fruits and vegetables, including Rodizio's signature grilled pineapple.
The menu keeps it simple with only a few other embellishments, but they certainly share the spotlight with the churrasca. Unlimited appetizers include polenta and banana poppers, and a gourmet salad bar features whipped potatoes, Brazilian black-bean stew, and grilled veggies with parmesan cheese. Everything is homemade, including the desserts and the specialty limeades concocted from fresh limes and sweet cream. Because the menu is centered on meat and vegetables, 90% of the restaurant's dishes are gluten-free and wouldn't know the first thing about how to approach a carb at a dance party.
The concept behind Samba Steak & Sushi House started to take shape in the early 20th century, when Japanese immigrants in Brazil and Peru began mixing local culinary influences with food from home. Simple, health-conscious Japanese cooking techniques mixed with spicier South American flavors, producing dishes seen in Samba's menu of wild-caught seafood, locally sourced produce, and organic sushi rice.
Hibachi chefs roast lobster tails, calamari, and sirloin steak on tabletop grills while diners watch this time-honored practice. In contrast, the sushi chefs incorporate more fusion elements by packing nontraditional ingredients into the specialty maki, such as coconut flakes, marinated red onions, and melted mozzarella cheese.
The hibachi grills' occasional bursts of flame complement the high-ceilinged dining room's predominantly orange- and red-hued walls and the glowing eyes of the head chef. To keep this space full beyond mealtimes, the restaurant also hosts regular events, including DJ performances, karaoke nights, and sushi-making classes.
It seems almost structurally impossible: eleven ingredients, including Chicken, bacon, calabresa sausage, hearts of palm, and mozzarella. It’s a lot for one thin crust pizza to handle, but Chef Zach Chaves pulls it off with his namesake Extravaganza pie. Built from housemade dough and sauce, his other 18 specialty pizzas likewise test the limits of dough with mountains of toppings, from steak tips and hardboiled eggs to Brazilian favorites such as malagueta pepper and catupiry cheese.
Other never-frozen Brazilian ingredients spice up Chef Zach's menu, including cuts of Brazilian steak and the X-Nervoso burger, two beef patties topped with catupiry, ham, bacon, and potato sticks. He balances his Brazilian flavors with more traditional American tastes, such as BBQ chicken sandwiches and turkey clubs. Feasts unfold inside a spacious dining room decorated with hand-drawn murals of famous American and Brazilian figures, such as Elvis and Brazilian Elvis impersonators.
To create their traditional Brazilian churrasco barbecue, Oliveira’s Steakhouse’s chefs slow cook juicy cuts of pork, beef, and chicken to accompany the greens and veggies of their vast salad bar. Offering an all-you-can-eat setup, the restaurant lets guests fill plates from the buffet before they're weighed for pricing at the end. The eatery also hosts all-you-can-eat dinners where kids younger than 4, adults older than 100, and sleight-of-hand magicians eat free.