They began popping up around the US in the late '90s, so you've likely heard of them by now. But if you've never actually been to a Brazilian steakhouse, the workings of these meaty meccas may be a mystery: is it an all-you-can-eat type of deal? What sorts of meats will you get to try? What if you're vegetarian or vegan? How do you pronounce fraldinha? (That last one is fral-JEEN-ya, by the way.)
But working your way through a Brazilian steakhouse meal is actually pretty simple if you know a few things beforehand, which is where this guide comes in.
Think of a Brazilian steakhouse as cross between an all-you-can-eat buffet and a fine-dining experience. Every place is a little bit different, but this is basically how the process goes:
There are (generally) no menus. Everything you see coming out of the kitchen, at the salad bar, or on the appetizer tables is included in the up-front price.
It's all-you-can-eat. Don't go nuts on the appetizers: you'll want to save room for the stuff at the end of the meal, and we're not talkin' desserts.
Green = go. Red = stop. A cube, coaster, or some other small object will signal to the skewer-wielding waitstaff (called gauchos) whether you're done eating or ready for the next round of meat. Put the red side up for the former and the green side up for the latter.
Save room for the back end of the food lineup. The nicer, more expensive, and—if we're being totally honest—tastier cuts of meat are usually served last, so be sure you don't overdo it and tap out before then.
It's obvious, but at a Brazilian steakhouse, the focus is on the dizzying array of grilled meats. The style of cooking is called churrasco, a Portuguese word that simply means "grilled beef" or "grilled meats" in general. You can expect anywhere from 10 to more than 15 different cuts of meat offered when you go. Here are some of the most popular (and uniquely Brazilian):
Picanha, AKA beef-sirloin cap: crescent-shaped cuts of top sirloin with a cap of rich fat on top
Fraldinha, AKA flank steak: marbled bottom sirloin frequently used in dishes like tacos and steak salads
Maminha, AKA tri-tip steak: lean, bottom-sirloin cut
Cordeiro, AKA lamb: varies by restaurant, but generally refers to lamb chops or leg of lamb
Linguiça, AKA pork sausage: mild smoked and cured sausage spiced with paprika and garlic
In addition to the above, you can expect most places to also offer go-tos like filet mignon, chicken, pork and beef ribs, pork loin, and select seafood.
So you get the idea: there's a lot of meat at these places. But what if that's not exactly your thing, or what if your diet demands you don't eat meat? While the whirlwind of skewered meats happening around you might make you think otherwise, it's not a carnivore-only affair, and there are plenty of other tasty foods to be had at Brazilian steakhouses.
Feijoada: a traditional Brazilian black-bean stew served with farofa
Farofa: yucca flour that's toasted or sautéed and served as part of another dish, such as feijoada
Pão de queijo: Brazilian bread rolls made with cheese
Most Brazilian steakhouses will also offer polenta, fried bananas, and typical salad-bar fare, such as fresh fruits, greens, and soups.
The cost of a Brazilian-steakhouse dinner for one varies, even within the same restaurant chain. But no matter where you go, you can expect a typical dinner to run you anywhere from $35 to $65 per person. That might sound a little high, but remember: it's an all-you-can-eat meal featuring unique, high-quality foods.
Speaking of price: we always have a good amount of tasty Brazilian-steakhouse deals on our site. Take a look below to check out some of our top deals for Brazilian steakhouses we're currently featuring around the country. And if you're thinking, "None of those places are Brazilian steakhouses near me," no sweat: click here to search for deals near you.
Lake Tahoe: $68 for a Brazilian-steakhouse dinner for two with coffees at Rafain Brazilian Steakhouse, valid Sunday–Wednesday ($96.98 value)
New York: $44 for a rodizio dinner for two at Copacabana Brazilian Steakhouse, valid Sunday or Tuesday–Thursday ($83.90 value)
Los Angeles: $69 for an all-you-can-eat Gaucho dinner for two at Samba Brazilian Steakhouse ($109.90 value)
Miami: $76 for an all-you-can-eat Brazilian meal for four at Porto Alegre Brazilian Grill and Meat Market ($131.96 value)
Atlanta: $59 for a Brazilian meal for two with one bottle of wine at Red & Green Brazilian Steakhouse ($110 value)
Philadelphia: $49 for a rodizio dinner with juices and desserts for two at Picanha Brazilian Grill, valid Tuesday–Friday ($85.51 value)