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.
Brazilian native Ivan Utrera came to the United States with a stack of family recipes and an idea for serving bottomless portions of rotisserie-grilled meats. That style of eating, similar to that in a churrascaria, has been popular in Brazil for many years. Rodizio Grill has since expanded to several locations, where servers armed with giant skewers of marinated pork loin and beef saturated in garlic travel around the dining room, carving off the meat tableside. The chefs also slow-cook on the grill and expertly season Brazilian sausages, lamb, chicken hearts, and pineapples. Much like a list of terrible babysitters, the selection of adventurous meats often includes rattlesnake, bison, and wild boar.
You'll never feel more like a Brazilian cowboy than the moment you take your seat at Copacabana Steakhouse. As you tuck in, fork and knife in hand, waiters pass by carrying 14 different styles of slow-roasted meat still sizzling on their skewers. Upon your signal, they shave portions of top sirloin, Brazilian sausage, leg of lamb, and barbecue chicken straight onto your plate. This meat parade, or rodizio, mimics the communal feasts of the 20th-century gauchos who settled in the grasslands of Southern Brazil with their massive herds of Carnival parade floats. As they eat, diners sip bold South American red wines that complement the flavors of the steak. For guests who aren't looking for an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord, the churrascaria also serves single portions of its meats paired with hearts of palm and fresh veggies from the salad bar.
A caravel—“caravela” in Portuguese—was a 15th-century ship used by the country’s explorers. The vessel’s small size made it easy to navigate along the coast of Africa and into the Atlantic Ocean. The ship not only gives Caravela its name, but also represents the eatery’s menu, a transatlantic meeting of Portuguese and Brazilian fare. The majority of the selection comes from the sea, too. Shrimp caravela, for one, has jumbo prawns swimming in a lemon-cognac butter sauce. The grilled swordfish is drizzled with a spicy baiana sauce derived from Brazilian cuisine. Of course, there are options for those not craving seafood: chefs fire pork chops, racks of lamb, and filets mignons. The staff serves all of this in a dining room with a nautical theme modeled after Captain Hook’s room at the retirement home.
At Akita Japanese Steak House, hibachi griddles sizzle with proteins from scallops to sirloin. The artfully plated sushi that arrives at tables also shows the pride chefs take in their work. Diners can expect the unexpected from fusion creations such as the Spicy Girl and Akita Roll. Signature sushi creations of black peppered tuna and tri-color tartar dazzle both eyes and palates. Guests can also wash down grilled Chilean sea bass and other dinner specials with glasses of wine.
An unlimited parade of palate-pleasing platters greets diners from Churrascaria Braza's Rodizio prix fixe dinner menu, a tasty Brazilian steakhouse tradition ($29.95 adults, $14.95 children under 12). Fill your digestive Trapper Keeper with loose-leaf lusciousness from the stacked salad bar, or cast a tongue trap to reel in a haul of the peel-and-eat shrimp. When you're sufficiently appetized, a friendly tableside server commences the main protein procession, carefully and continuously slicing as much of the seasoned, slow-roasted, and skewered meats as you desire. The assortment of 12 meats changes nightly, yielding such savory selections as the roasted pork loin, bacon-wrapped filet mignon, or Perna de Carneiro (freshly sliced leg of lamb). When you're nearly full, flip the table's circular dual-sided chip from green to red, which signifies the start of dessert. Hang a sweet fang on the decadent layer cake ($7) or spongy and succulent tres leches cake ($7).