Churrascaria “Do”s and “Don’t”s


Don’t piss off your waiter… he is armed and dangerous!

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On Sunday, Christian and I treated ourselves to lunch at a churrascaria (Brazilian steakhouse). A churrascaria can be intimidating to the uninitiated, so here’s a primer:

Churrascaria 101

  • There are two main food channels:
    • The buffet, which has a salad bar as well as hot dishes and some pre-prepared meat
    • The meat, which the waiters bring to your table on huge skewers
  • You pay a fixed price and it’s all-you-can-eat. However, the “fixed price” is different for lunch and for dinner, and also from day to day – weekends being the most expensive. Many churrascarias offer a reduced price for “just the buffet,” as well as half price for kids.
  • You’ll get a little circle that’s green on one side, red on the other. If you leave the green side up, it means “Gimme more meat!” – and if you flip the red side up, it’s a signal to the waiters not to come by.

“Do”s and “Don’t”s

DON’T eat the hot dishes. Why waste your stomach space on beans, rice, and mashed potatoes that you can get anywhere?

DO stick to the salad bar, which has yummy things like quail eggs and palm hearts. Keep it light and eat some greens, since you’re about to consume a whole cow’s worth of meat.

DON’T bother eating the pizza or the sushi. They are not the churrascaria‘s specialties.

DO take advantage of the cheeses – particularly queijo coalho, roasted cubes of a salty cheese covered with sweet sugarcane syrup – yum!

The waiter may spin the skewer of meat in front of you. DO point to the part from which you want him to cut. He’ll probably cut halfway, then wait for you to secure the piece with your tongs before finishing.

DO sample a little bit of everything. If there’s a meat you particularly like, you can wait for it to come around again. Three of my favorites are carne do sol, picanha com alho, and costela de boi.

DO feel free to go back to the buffet for more; you should always take less than you think you’ll eat, because…

DON’T take a lot of food and then not eat it. Many churascarias (supposedly) charge a taxa de desperdicio or “waste tax” if you leave a plateful of uneaten food. I’ve never seen this enforced, but it’s better not to risk the extra R$20.

DO plan to spend the entire afternoon sleeping off the meal!

  • hahaah there’s one more rule I learned the hard way: DON’T accept the meat that the waiter cuts off using your hands!! Only use your personal little set of tongs! Bad bad bad cavewoman American

    • Shayna

      LOL! What was the reaction of the waiter / your dining companion(s)?

  • Debbie

    I made the 1st mistake by taking the three boys to Texas de Brazil in Aruba two years ago. I agree with all of your do’s and don’ts. Never thought about not wasting my stomach on the garlic mashed potatoes though. They are soooooooo yummie!
    During one of the visits your father made to Pennsylvania, the boys and I treated him to another Brazilian Steak house called Rios. This was 1/2 the price of the meals in Aruba, which was nice for me and on Thursday it was buy three meals and get the fourth one free! Excellent! We have since visited this little restaurant 2 times and I am thankful the boys have not asked to go back lately. Not only am I happy not to have to fork over the $$ but, the owner of the restaurant must be ecstatic because three growing teenagers can surely eat an enormous amount.

    Love ya,

    • Shayna

      Mmmm, garlic mashed potatoes may be worth it 😉

      You must be a Brazilian steakhouse expert by now!