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:
- 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.