This is one of the most common questions I’m asked by food-obsessed visitors. I get it – when I first got here I was the same. I wanted to try that thing I’d heard about where you get a never-ending supply of juicy grilled meats, brought to the table on huge skewers. Well before I get to my recommendations, first let’s cover some terminology:
- Churrasco [shoo-HASH-ko] – this is a “barbecue”, like when you go around to a friend’s house and they’re having a barbecue in the back yard.
- Churrascaria [shoo-hash-ka-REE-ya] – this is a barbecue restaurant; any place that specialises in the delights of grilled meat.
- Rodízio [ho-JEE-zee-yo] – this essentially means ‘all you can eat’ – it doesn’t necessarily mean meat. There are places that offer rodízios of pizza, soup or even sushi.
So putting that all together, what most of you are looking for is a churrascaria which offers a rodízio option. A couple of words of warning here. Firstly, don’t overdo it! I usually end up in the back of a taxi groaning about how I should have stopped earlier. Secondly, if you’re there for the meat, don’t waste valuable stomach space on buffet filler – stick to light items that will complement the meat (salad, condiments, salsas).
Finally, I’ll confess that I’m not a huge fan of the rodízio format – I’d far rather go for quality over quantity. Maybe I just don’t have the self-control to know when to stop! In any case, I’ll list of few of the top rodízio places and then I’ll list some of my favourite meat specialists that don’t offer rodízio but do have incredible meat.
NOTE: I have recently removed Assador Rio’s (the end location of my piece with the Netflix Somebody Feed Phil show) from my recommendations because I’ve heard multiple reports of horrendous service and really bad food. I’m really sorry to hear this as it was a certified excellent place before the pandemic, but I can’t ignore this many reports.
NOTE 2: If you’re on a tight budget but still want to try the rodizio option, Carretão is not a bad idea. Just be aware that you may suddenly find a massive group of tourists, straight off a tour bus, come trooping in – it’s a favourite of the big tour agencies.
Churrascaria Palace (rodízio)
Situated just around the corner from the famous Copacabana Palace hotel, Churrascaria Palace generally makes it to the top or close to the top of most people’s lists of the best rodízio places. It’s expensive, and not exactly a beautiful space (to me it lacks a bit of soul), but the quality of the meat is really excellent (as is the buffet) and it’s very rare to hear any complaints. If you want to try excellent examples of all the different cuts of meat in one sitting then this is right at the top of the heap.
Everyday from noon til midnight
Fogo de Chão (rodízio)
Visitors from the US are often reluctant to visit Fogo de Chão here in Rio as there are branches of this chain in North America and so they feel that they can get it back home. It’s a fair point but all the same, this is considered one of the best rodízios in town. It also offers nice views across the water to Sugarloaf Mountain.
Everyday from noon until 11.30pm (Sunday until 10.30pm)
CT Boucherie (non-rodizio)
‘CT’ stands for Claude Troisgros, a French chef who came to Brazil eons ago and is now a much-loved celebrity chef who appears regularly on Brazilian TV. He also happens to be a lovely bloke and an amazing chef and all his restaurants are fantastic (he has several here in Rio). CT Boucherie is his place which specialises in meat and it’s been one of my favourite places for years. The format is also very close to my heart – you choose one piece of meat (the Prime Rib Especial is absolutely amazing) and then they bring the delicious vege side orders on a never-ending rotation (rodizio). The service is very professional, they have an excellent selection of wine. Consistently excellent. Go to the one in Leblon, not Barra (unless you’re staying in Barra).
Monday-Friday noon-4pm and 7pm-midnight; Saturday-Sunday noon-midnight
I have a soft-spot for Majórica – it’s pretty ancient and looks it. It’s like no one here has the remotest interest in trends or fads or anything other than the traditional way they’ve always done things (and all the better for it in my opinion). The interior is muted and rather old fashioned (the same could be said of the waiters who are friendly but have that old-school formality about them): wood panelling and white-washed walls, heavy wooden furniture and drab old paintings – but did you come for interior decoration or for meat?
Start with a linguiça (sausage) served with molho a campanha (a mild salsa of tomatoes, onions, peppers and olive oil), then get yourself a monster steak (many of these are big enough to share between two). The other obligatory orders are the batata suflê (puffed up hollow pillows of potato) and the totally decadent espinafre ao creme (creamed spinach). This is a proper locals’ place.
Monday-Saturday noon-midnight; Sunday 11.30am-11.30pm
Other notable mentions (all non-rodizio)
There are so many other meaty places that are worth checking out (Google these for locations, websites and opening times):
- If it’s picanha (Brazil’s most famous cut of beef) you want to try then the one served at the awesomely gritty and traditional Galeto Sat’s is totally delicious (start with garlic bread, chicken hearts and a chopp). Go to the one in Copacabana, not Botafogo.
- Newcomer, Maria e o Boi, offers all kinds of varied meaty treats including tutano (roast bone marrow) and an excellent steak tartare.
- Cachambeer is way up in the north zone neighbourhood of cachambi – they offer monster platters of all kinds of meaty goodness/naughtiness. The place is pretty legendary, especially the ribs. A great spot if you really want to get down with the locals.
- Another fancy, fairly new place is the Malta Beef Club. Weird name I know – if you’re in the Jardim Botânico neighbourhood with money to spend (you should have if you’re in that neighbourhood) then it’s a very good option.
- If you want to skip all the fancy stuff and just get a big fat steak topped with yummy crispy-fried garlic then head to Adriano (on Rua Real Grandeza in Botafogo). It’s not actually a churrascaria, but the Filé à Osvaldo Aranha is epic. For the full experience, have a fried egg on top by asking for it a cavalo (pictured).