Brazilian fare covers a wide range of styles and flavors, and fortunately many Miami restaurants have taken note. From Brazil's northeast, there are seafood dishes spiked with coconut milk and cashews. In the cities and near the pampas, the rodizio (endless rounds of barbecued, skewered meat and poultry that is sliced tableside), is most popular. And everywhere, especially on lazy Sundays when families gather to celebrate the business of living, the national dish of feijoada, black beans stewed with meat and served with white rice, collard greens and farofa (toasted and ground cassava) is served.
For rodizio in Miami, there's a plethora of options, as these steakhouses dot the city, from Texas de Brazil in the Dolphin Mall to Fogo de Chao on South Beach. For Brazilian-style stroganoff and burgers that are served in a less leisurely fashion, try Giraffas, fast-casual dining where the staff takes your order at the counter, then delivers it to the table. Not particularly hungry? Hit up the botecos like, well, Boteco, a neighborhood-style, football (soccer) bar for some snacks and cachaca, the grassy, rum-like alcohol pressed from sugarcane. However you choose to celebrate Brazilian cuisine and culture, you're bound to have a Rio good time.
If you're looking for an all-you-can-eat Brazilian-style meal without overspending, you can't do much better than Camila's. This Downtown Miami eatery is perfect for businessmen and women on their lunch break as well as tourists exploring the area who don't feel like wasting too much time at a regular sit-down restaurant. Just jump on in and pile on the picanha on to your plate, then add some rice and beans or feijoada, plus some farofa, or maybe a bit of potato salad, and be on your way. It gets busy, of course, so start seeking out your table while you're still making your way through the line. Best of all, it'll only set you back about $12. (305-375-0992)
Brazilian Taste Grill's exterior may be modest, but once seated inside, you'll understand why they boast rave reviews all across the board. Located on the outskirts of Doral, the BTG offers various options for lunch and dinner, including a la carte, buffet, and rodizio--which entails servers coming to your table with huge slabs of tender meat, sliced right off on to your plate. Their a la carte menu items range from picanha (prime sirloin) to baked salmon, and come with two sides; but meat-lovers will find much more to enjoy from the rodizio selections, which include linguica (pork sausage), frango com bacon (chicken rolled with bacon), costella (beef ribs), plus full access to their unlimited salad bar for just $19.95 lunch or $29.95 weekends and dinner. For this type of cuisine, it's hard to beat these prices. ((305) 592-9800)
Giraffas Brazilian Steaks & Burgers
Located just south of Wynwood in Midtown, this fast-casual concept from Brazil, where its eateries number more than 400, launched in winter 2011-12 in North Miami and is growing exponentially, with a fourth location in Pinecrest. Order at the counter and the high-quality burgers, grilled chicken and steaks, with a choice of sauces (and with or without farofa garnish) will be delivered to your table. Two choices of sides include fries, yuca, rice, beans, grilled veggies and salad, and by the time you're done with all your options, you're left with a pretty hearty plate. They've got daily specials as well, so make sure to check before ordering. (305-672-7111)
A "boteca" is a neighborhood bar, the kind you go to where you don't necessarily want everyone to know your name, but where you do want the bartenders to know your fave brand of beer. At Boteca, you get the familiarity of being a regular even if you're a newcomer. Sit inside, where there's usually some kind of live entertainment--a dancehall band, conga lines, carnival queens doing samba steps, even karaoke--or outside on rustic chairs and benches. Either way, the experience is the same: a packed house of ex-pats mulling over the results of the latest football matches as they much on moqueca, mahi-mahi and shrimp cooked with bell and sweet peppers, onions, tomatoes, dend� oil and coconout milk--or picanha fatiada na chapa, grilled sirloin with a side of fried yuca. Caipirinhas (made with cachaca) and caipiroskas (made with vodka) come traditional (lime and sugar) or with fruit (strawberry's the best). Just beware if a big game's going on--you might not be able to squeeze your way in. ((305) 757-7735)
Texas de Brazil
Few restaurants can compete with the atmosphere – and, yes, the cuisine – of this colorful chain of Brazilian-style churrascarias. A family-friendly ambience pervades as diners enjoy a feast for the ages, one that features gaucho-wearing servers circling the South American-themed dining room with mouthwatering skewers of seasoned beef, chicken, lamb, pork, and Brazilian sausage. Just pick what you want, and they're happy to serve it up until you flip your green card over to red, signaling them to stop. Added temptations are Texas-sized side dishes like garlic mashed potatoes and sweet fried bananas – the extravagant salad bar has been known to turn heads as well. (305-599-7729)
Varanda's Brasil Café
Varanda has self-proclaimed to be Miami's oldest Brazilian cafe, serving three square meals per day, and who's going to argue? Lauded by Food Network and other authorities for its simply delicious grilled fish and its picanha in garlic with Brazilian sausage, this ambitious restaurant, with a handful of outdoor tables, is the little cafe that could. Varanda represents Miami enough so that celebrities also call in here occasionally for its thoroughly authentic feijoada, though you might have to fight for a seat during prime hours on a Saturday, the only day that it's served. Indeed, every item from its pastel de carne ou queijo (meat- or cheese-filled pastries) to its moqueca de peixe is the real, yummy thing. (305-867-2929)
Cool, color-drenched SushiSamba dromo has shed its NYC roots and made the transition to sunny South Beach quite well. A hit with the stylish set, the undeniably chic eatery gets a rhythmic kick with high-energy Brazilian tunes. The food is a seductive mix of Peruvian, Japanese and Brazilian dishes: sushi, churrasco, ceviches, tiraditos and anticuchos. A successful fusion is evident in creations like the Green Envy Roll, which joins a wasabi pea crust with tuna, salmon, asparagus and aji amarillo-key lime mayo. Wash it all down with a well-made caipirinha. Or perhaps some sake. Or even some gluten-free beer, brewed from rice or sweet potatoes. (305-673-5337)
Area Code 55 Brazilian Steakhouse
Perhaps the most northward-located churrascaria in Miami, Area Code 55 is otherwise very similar to the other rodizio restaurants in the city. With spaciously set tables; a salad bar featuring cold and hot items; waiters dressed as gauchos wielding skewers of bacon-wrapped chicken thighs, lamb chops, sausage and picanha; and a well-stuffed wine list; it's a veritable feast for the carnivore. Start with your card flipped to the green side and you'll soon be swarmed with offerings; flip it to red to take a break. Excellent for a group, it's also out-of-the-way enough for those looking to avoid the traffic in South Beach, Brickell/Downtown or Aventura. (305-947-6202)
Fogo de Chão
The first Fogo de Chão was opened in Porto Alegre in 1979 by Southern Brazilian--Gaucho country--brothers who had worked their way up from busboys to churrasqueiro chefs. Today, the prix-fixe steakhouse has more than half-a-dozen locations in Brazil and more than twice that in the States. After starting your meal with all you can eat from their enormous salad bar (filled with more than 30 items both imported and local--hot and cold), you're saturated with 15 cuts of beef, pork, lamb and poultry, sliced tableside from skewers, until you've had your fill. And then, of course, there's dessert--perhaps flan, or strawberry cheesecake--if you can still make room, that is. (305-672-0011)
Little Brazil Restaurant
Located in the section of North Beach on Collins Avenue that is sometimes referred to as "Little Argentina" because of all the Latin cafes that dot it, Little Brazil fits right in. Pull up a seat at this indoor-outdoor, lunch-dinner bistro and nosh on coxinha or bolinhos de bacalhau (croquettes made from chicken or codfish). A wide selection of main courses includes plenty of grilled steaks and classic stroganoff, feijoada and moqueca dishes. More interesting for the connoisseur, shrimp is a big ingredient here, starring in Camarao no Abacaxi (shrimp sautéed with pineapple, mushrooms, light cream sauce and herbs, topped with melted mozzarella cheese and served in a pineapple shell garnished with mashed potatoes) as well as Camarao com Catupiry (baked shrimp stuffed with catupiry cheese). A kids' menu and sweets such as Brazilian flan make this a casual yet tasty affair for the whole family. (305-397-8215)
About Priscilla Blossom
Pris Blossom is a freelance writer and feminist mama with a love for travel, writing, music, film, craft beer, yoga, museums, cultural anthropology, and her awesome kid.
She spent the bulk of the past decade taking trips on a whim, falling in love with and in such places as New York City, New Orleans, and a large portion of Nicaragua.
In 2011, she took off on her own and traveled around the U.S. via bus, bunking with strangers thanks to the power of CouchSurfing. She is currently writing a novel about this.
Read her words at PrisBlossom.com.
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