New York City is replete with the world’s cuisine – some gracing the city’s streets more commonly than others. Although there are plenty of Italian and Chinese establishments, there’s also a tiny smattering of Brazilian restaurants and churrascarias.
Between the five boroughs, you can find pretty much every cuisine imaginable, including Italian, Greek, Sri Lankan and Senegalese. But the city is also home to a small scattering of Brazilian restaurants. These South American restaurants were once more prominently found in Midtown’s Little Brazil, but many have since popped up elsewhere, showcasing the country’s beloved grilled meats and seafood stews. From rodízio-style restaurants slicing churrascos (grilled meat) to spots emphasizing traditional dishes, these are the best Brazilian restaurants in New York City.
Restaurant, Brazilian, Portuguese, Fusion, South American, $$$
For more than two decades, Ipanema has been serving a combination of dishes influenced by traditional Brazilian and Portuguese cuisine. Chef Ernesto Saude brings together the two culinary cultures in dishes like the Brazilian vatapá, a stew replete with grilled monkfish and shrimp, or in plates that are strongly rooted in Portuguese tradition, like bacalhau (cod) and mariscada algarvia, a Southern Portuguese dish punctuated by jumbo shrimp, clams and scallops swimming in a seafood and vegetable sauce.
Via Brasil opened in 1978 in Little Brazil, a one-block strip on West 46th Street in Manhattan’s Midtown neighborhood peppered with Brazilian restaurants. Here, guests dine among exposed bricks and bright paintings of tropical parrots and toucans as they munch on grilled meat and fish. Via Brasil’s rendition of feijoada completa – Brazil’s national dish – is worthy of a pilgrimage alone; the black bean stew is strewn with beef, salted and fresh pork, bacon, sausage and ribs, and accompanied by rice, collard greens, sliced oranges and farofa (a Brazilian specialty of toasted cassava flour).
Frequently recommended by homesick Brazilians, Berimbau do Brasil borrows its name from a Brazilian instrument, a musical bow employed during capoeira, Brazilian martial arts. The cozy spot in the West Village serves regional specialties like pão de queijo (a baked-to-order cheese bread), as well as classics like salpicão (a salad tossed with chicken, ham, carrots, potatoes and raisins) and picanha tom jobin (top sirloin drizzled with a pepper and onion vinaigrette). One of the house specialties is moqueca à baiana, a traditional seafood stew rife with mahi-mahi, shrimp and calamari.
At Churrascaria Plataforma, things operate a little differently than at other restaurants in NYC. Here, a feast is served rodízio-style, an all-you-can-eat platform that originated in Southern Brazil in the early 19th century. This kind of service means that the diner doesn’t order food in the traditional way. Instead, guests begin the evening at the overflowing salad bar, teeming with vegetables and hot casseroles. Once seated after the first course, waiters will float through the restaurant, shuttling mounds of meat directly to tables; guests pick and choose what they want, watching as waiters masterfully carve hunks of pork, chicken and beef off long skewers and straight onto their plates. Along with these platters of meat, the servers shuttle a handful of sides to each table, including mashed potatoes, rice, polenta and plantains.
Unlike the intense and splashy restaurants in Little Brazil, Casa maintains itself as a low-key, relaxing destination in the West Village to nibble on regional Brazilian dishes. The menu flaunts a large variety of both meat and fish dishes, like filet mignon crowned with whole garlic cloves and kabocha pumpkin carved and filled with shrimp, Catupiry cheese, collard greens and rice. You’d be remiss to not finish the meal off with pudim de leite, a custardy caramel flan.
With its blue canopy jutting out in Little Brazil, Emporium Brasil distances itself from the predominantly meat-committed menus that nearby venues proudly serve by boasting traditional Brazilian dishes infused with African, Caribbean, Italian and Latin flavors. Alongside a classic baked cod are fried cheese empanadas, caprese salads and shrimp sautéed in a yucca sauce. Other highlights include the camarão na moranga: an acorn squash bursting with shrimp, hearts of palm and Catupiry cheese.
Rooted in the Rio Grande do Sul gaucho culture, Fogo de Chão revolves around the traditional gaucho way of grilling meat over an open fire, often referred to as churrasco. With original locations in Brazil, Fogo de Chão later expanded to the US, landing first in Dallas in 1997 and New York City in 2013. Spread across three levels, this Brazilian steakhouse offers an all-you-can-eat experience that starts with a wide choice of vegetables, cheese and cured meats at the seasonal market bar. Then guests plunge into the very important business of meat tasting: choose from pork, beef, chicken and lamb, chopped off skewers by expert slicers. Along with the many cuts of meat, there’s also a seafood menu, peppered with things like a jumbo shrimp cocktail and pan-seared salmon strewn with chimichurri. If you find you’re still hungry, order the papaya cream for dessert.
At Favela Grill in Astoria, Queens, the dining room spills over with cheery Portuguese and English speakers and waiters scampering around carefully carrying trays of caipirinhas and cervejas (bottled beers). Diners graze on beef carpaccio, churrasco and potato soup marbled with smoked sausage and collard greens as the rhythms of samba and bossa nova roar from the live band who play Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons.