When it comes to Brazilian food, New York is home to some of the world’s best churrascos, cafes, and botecos. From moqueca to pao de queijo, here is a quick guide to getting in the Olympic games spirit with NYC's best Brazilian restaurants.
Tucked into a quiet corner just off the heavily trafficked intersection of Bleecker and Seventh Avenue is Casa, a gem of a restaurant known among New York foodies for serving authentic Brazilian food in an elegant but low-key atmosphere. Most of the menu was created by the nanny to the owner's niece, a woman who is mother to 11 children of her own. And you can taste the authenticity. Pao de queijo and mandioca frita, fried yucca sticks sprinkled with parmesan, are exceptional. The moqueca de peixe, prepared in the Bahia style, is precisely balanced; and Casa’s stroganoff – smoky, creamy, and melt-in-your-mouth delectable – is another must-try. All are made fresh daily in small batches. For drinks, try a cashew fruit juice or a classic caipirinha. Both are delightfully refreshing. And don’t miss the brigadeiros and manjar blanco for dessert.
For more than 36 years, Fogo de Chao has been fire-roasting quality meats in the centuries-old Southern Brazilian churrasco style. Though the meat is the main attraction - there are up to 20 cuts ranging from spicy leg of lamb to garlic-crusted pork to tender filet mignon – there’s also a 200-label wine list, classic and bespoke cocktails, a salad bar serving fruits, charcuterie, and crisp veggie, pasta, and grain salads, and a dessert menu with the best chocolate caramel cheesecake you’ll ever eat. Fogo de Chao also just started serving Sunday brunch, so you can gather the family on Brazil’s fave day for get-togethers and share mouthwatering pão de queijo – traditional Brazilian cheese bread – in breakfast form (e.g. as an egg bake with asparagus, broccoli, sweet peppers, and Swiss cheese). Anybody know how to say “delish” in Portuguese?
A tiny boteco (Brazilian for a bar/coffee shop hybrid) on a little-known Brooklyn street, Beco brings relaxed Brazilian fare to the less-trod path of trendy Williamsburg. The food is straightforward and comforting: the makings of classic feijoada are served deconstructed and housemade gnocchi with lamb ragu arrives steaming in a bowl without so much as a nod to the overplayed and often unnecessary garnish. No pomp. Just pleasure. Also, don’t miss these stellar starters: smoky berinjena (eggplant dip), linguica sausage finished with cachaça, and fried croquettes stuffed with shredded chicken, scallions, and soft cheese.
One word of warning, however: if you’re over 40, want to hear what your dinner companion says, and/or prefer to see what you are eating and have sufficient space to enjoy it, arrive before 6:00pm and close your check within a couple of hours. Beco may be a boteco by day, but it converts without warning to a very noisy hotspot after dark.
New York is renowned for its regional food-specific “neighborhoods”, one of which is Little Brazil in the heart of Manhattan. Located just off Times Square, it’s a convenient place to enjoy Brazilian fare before taking in a Broadway show.
One of Little Brazil’s best is Via Brasil, a cozy spot that’s been serving up Brazilian steaks and other standards since 1978. Start with either of the classic Brazilian soups: caldo verde (chicken broth with potatoes, collard greens, and smoked sausage) or sopa de faijao (black bean soup with garlic, onions and parsley). Both are well-flavored and rich in texture. For mains, the picadinho de carne (diced beef in a red wine sauce topped with a poached egg and served with fried bananas) and the filet of flounder in shrimp sauce are tasty options.
No Brazil restaurant guide would be complete without a churrascaria, and while there are several in the New York area, none compares to Texas de Brazil, whose over-the-top opulence (the open kitchen and panoramic view of Lexington Avenue temper the too-bright décor) and eat-until-you-drop ethos are sure to delight and amaze. Located at Third Avenue and 60th Street, it’s an ideal dining destination for out of town family and friends who will appreciate the resting and refueling it provides between marathon Madison Avenue shopping sprees and hours-long bike rides through Central Park.
Texas de Brazil specializes in meat: specifically, slow-roasted cuts of beef, lamb, pork, chicken and Brazilian sausage served straight from the skewer by a vigilant brigade of servers. The best of the seemingly endless offerings is the rich, candy-like bacon-wrapped filet mignon. Skip the over-salted sausages and have two (or ten) of these instead. Be sure, too, to check out the salad bar, which, surprising for a churrascaria, is exceptionally good. It features artisanal breads and imported cheeses, as well as soups, sushi, grilled vegetables, and a host of fresh salad dressings prepared in-house. Among the favorites here are pineapple carpaccio and a rich, creamy lobster bisque. As for drinks, Texas de Brazil’s wine list is admirable, and features international wines with a focus on California and South America. Be warned, however, that the $59.99 price tag for dinner does not include alcohol, specials, desserts, and beverages.