Dedicated carnivores will be in their element in Rio de Janeiro – not only is Brazilian beef famous the world over, but this is a city where you can feast on every cut of meat imaginable until you can literally eat no more.
Rio de Janeiro’s churrascarias (grilled meat restaurants) are the stuff of legend, and with good reason. Most operate on a rodizio (all you can eat) basis, whereby be-suited waitstaff flit from table to table, bring slab after slab of meat until you finally buckle.
If pigging out of all-you-can-eat meat feasts sounds a little unsophisticated, prepare to be pleasantly surprised. Rio residents take their meat seriously, and the city’s churrascarias are very often smart affairs, with formal service. While you won’t be expected to don a jacket and tie or little black dress (the heat dictates that Rio restaurants adopt a less stuffy approach to dress codes), you may not be allowed through the doors of better establishments if you turn up in shorts and/or flip flops.
Vegetarians needn’t dismiss churrascarias out of hand either – along with the meaty treats, these restaurants also have buffet tables that groan under the weight of side dishes that range from salads and sushi to pasta dishes, risottos and a staggering array of vegetables. Not only that, but the waitstaff also bring over breads, cheeses and the like to your table, so even the hungriest of vegetarians should leave a Rio churrascaria feeling sated.
While there are bargain-basement churrascarias in Rio, it’s worth paying a few extra reais for a better quality experience. The restaurants work on a fixed price basis (desserts and drinks are usually extra) and generally represent excellent value for money.
Considered by many to be the quintessential Brazilian churrascaria, Porcão (the name means ‘big pig’ in Portuguese, but don’t let that put you off) is the place to come if you want the full experience – fine meat cuts, excellent buffet choices, a smart enviroment and impeccable service – and it won’t blow the budget sky high.
For the equivalent of just over US$50, you can feast on some 30 types of meat, and pile your plate high from the biggest buffet imaginable, with seafood and poultry taking their place among a vast array of non-meat options. Each diner is given a place card with a green side for ‘go’ and a red side for ‘no’ – if you’re showing green, waiters will offer you offer you each cut as they bring it out, while if you’re flipped over onto red they’ll give you a rest until you’re ready for more. Feel free to flip between sides as often as you like, and don’t be tempted to fill up too fast, as the best cuts (including the trademark picanha) are usually left until later on.
While there are branches of Porcão in Ipanema and Barra da Tijuca, it’s worth paying the few reias extra to dine at the branch in Flamengo, known as Porcão Rio’s. This branch stands out for its location, with floor to ceiling glass windows taking in a stunning view of Sugar Loaf mountain.
You’ll find Porcão Rio’s at Avenida Infante Dom Henrique, (no number), Aterro do Flamengo. The adult price is R$96 (other branches are R$87), children are half price and under-fives eat free.
Photo courtesy of Porcão