Carnivores, prepare yourself for some serious gluttony. Brazil is famous the world over for its quality cuts of meat, and you’ll have no end of opportunity to sample them during your trip to Rio de Janeiro.
Cariocas, as natives of Rio are known, need little or no excuse to host a churrasco (barbeque), and indeed no house party is considered complete without some meat sizzling over hot coals.
If you are lucky enough to be invited to a churrasco in Rio, don’t miss the opportunity. These Brazilians take their barbequeing very seriously, so expect your meat to be tastily seasoned and timed to perfection – no charcoal sausages here.
Barbeques are a source of great pride to Cariocas, so don’t be shy about praising the quality of the meat you’re eating, any praise will be lapped up as quickly as the cool beer that accompanies the carnivorous delights.
Churrascos in Rio are about more than just tossing a few frozen burgers onto the barbeque.
You can expect to try any number of types of meat, including that Brazilian favorite, chicken hearts. As a vegetarian, I can’t vouch for its tastiness, but meat eaters assure me it’s delicious. (I’ll take their word for it…)
Rio de Janeiro is also famous for its churrasco restaurants
, and these are indeed a true paradise for meat eaters. Restaurants that specialise in serving grilled meat in all its myriad forms, these range from cheap and cheerful to chic, sleek, and super-expensive. Whatever the price, you’ll be guaranteed good value for money, with diners paying a set price for an all you can eat meat feast. You won’t even have to leave your set, as waiters bring over slab after slab of everything from chicken and sausage to prime steak. Feel free to say yay or nay as often as you like – if you don’t like the look of one cut, just say no and wait until the next waiter comes along with something different.
In the pricier restaurants, diners are given a ‘green for go, red for no’ card, which you can flip onto red when you’re starting to feel full and flip back to green when you’re ready for more. If it’s on red, the waiters will leave you in peace until you’re ready for more.
If all this sounds like a vegetarian’s nightmare, happily this isn’t the case. Churrasco restaurants in Rio de Janeiro also boast vast buffets, and diners are able to help themselves as often as they like to everything from risotto and pasta dishes to cheeses, sushi, salads and a whole lot more. Generally speaking, the pricier the restaurant, the better quality and more extensive the buffet. Trust me, it’s perfectly possible to dine like a big pig at a Rio churrascaria without touching a scrap of meat.
Set prices start at at around R$25 and spiral up to around R$130, with quality rising accordingly. Prices are usually a little cheaper at lunchtimes and on weekdays than evenings and weekends.
At the top of the price range is Marius Carnes, at Leme in Copacabana. If you feel like a splurge, this is the place to do it, as you can feast on lobster and other luxuries as well as enjoying organic meats of the highest quality.
If that sounds a little too extravagent, Porcao is a Rio institution and famous for the quality of its meat and buffet. There are branches across Rio, the best of which is Porcao Rio’s, in Flamengo. Here you can feast your eyes on a stunning view of Sugar Loaf mountain as you tuck into your own mountain of food. At around R$70 per head, Porcao Rio’s is a few reais more expensive than the city’s other branches, but worth it for the view alone.
Travelers on a budget, meanwhile, should make a beeline for Carretao, which has branches in Copacabana and Ipanema. For less than half the price of Porcao, diners can feast on good-quality meats in a vast, air-conditioned restaurants, and help themselves to all kinds of additional delights from the buffet. Waiters will also bring round cheeses, breads, olives and the likes, so vegetarians will have plenty to nibble on in between trips to the buffet cart.