There are great Brazilian spots all over NYC, and most offer menus that run the gamut of the country’s well-known dishes. But considering those dishes range from cheese bread and fried chicken croquettes, to seafood stews and spit-roasted meats, it’s no surprise that some places do certain things better than others. To help you cherry-pick the very best, we’ve come up with nine non-negotiable, must-order Brazilian dishes in NYC.
Just as someone can only be nominated once per category at the Oscars, restaurants can only be highlighted for one dish in this guide. And just like this rule prevented Leo from a The Departed nomination in 2007, it’s keeping Berimbau from occupying multiple spots here. With that said, if you only order one dish at this West Village spot, it should be the feijoada. The slow-simmered bean stew is packed with pork, which has the pull-apart texture you’d expect from stewed meat, and the bark and smoke rings you’d find after a slow-cook in a smoker. Top it with some of the bacon-studded farofa that comes on the side, and you’ll have NYC’s best version of Brazil’s most famous dish.
Leg of Lamb
Opt for the rodizio (all-you-can-eat) option at this Hell’s Kitchen steakhouse, and the barrage of grilled meats will continue as long as you leave your coaster green-side-up. Fight the temptation to hoard meats like hibernation awaits on the other side of the feijoada bar, at least until you’ve had a chance to try the juicy, incredibly gamey leg of lamb.
Xinxim de Galinha
The different elements of this xinxim de galinha don’t need each other to be successful, but you know what? Neither did Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, and yet put in the same garage, they formed the birthplace of Silicon Valley. When combined at Casa, the tender stewed chicken absorbs flavors from the rich shrimp sauce, the tomatoes and cilantro make the jumbo shrimp taste like a beachside appetizer, and the dende oil-based stew with vegetarian farofa turns a side of white rice into one of the best dishes on the table.
The moqueca at Favela Grill in Astoria is made with as much tender fish, juicy tomatoes, and bright herbs as any version of this fish stew in the city. But what lifts this one above the others is the pirão served on the side. With some rice and farofa, the thick blend of cassava flour and fatty pan drippings is as delicious as what you scoop out of the big stone pot next to it.
If you try all 20 or so of the brigadeiro flavors at this Soho bakery, two things will inevitably happen. First, you’ll have an Augustus Gloop-level chocolate-fueled reckoning, and second, you’ll conclude that the coconut truffles (beijinhos) are best. Inside the bite-sized sphere coated in sweet coconut flakes, there’s a blend of condensed milk and butter that changes from solid to liquid the instant you take a bite.
Wagyu NY Strip
Our table was split. Some people opted for this Midtown steakhouse’s rodizio experience, while others were willing to forgo the promise of endless roasted meats in exchange for some Wagyu New York strip. The rodizio crew scoffed at paying twice as much for 20 ounces of steak, and they said it was “style over substance” when the servers carved the meat tableside, sprinkled salt from overhead, and presented it all on a sizzling salt block. When we all tasted the Wagyu, we immediately fell into agreement - this NY strip is the best thing here. That meat is so rich that 20-ounces seems like 40, and is better than anything you’ll get with the rodizio.
Pão de Queijo
Baked cheese bread isn’t in the business of tasting bad, and Brazil’s version is no exception. But considering most pão de queijo is some degree of delicious, we’d hesitate before sending you out of your way solely for that. That is, unless Santo Bruklin in Carroll Gardens happens to be out of your way. The outsides of the two baseball-sized rolls crack when you pick them up, and despite dense and cheesy insides, they pull apart like freshly baked croissants. What really separates this version, though, is the side of soft, ground, spicy ’nduja that’d be a must-order snack on its own.
Burlington Coat Factory undersells with its name. After all, electric coffee grinders and ornamental soap holders don’t exactly have a lot to do with outerwear. Rice ‘N’ Beans takes a similar approach. You should go to this small spot in Hell’s Kitchen expecting great rice and beans, but you’ll be very pleasantly surprised when you find that they’ve absorbed a ton of flavor from the five types of meat - bacon, sausage, pork ribs, pork shoulder, and carne seca - that they’re served inside of the feijoada.
Your meal at Beija Flor should start with salgadinhos. Now that we’ve saved you a bit of time, use it to decide how you want to construct your five-piece appetizer sampler. The good news is no matter how many cheese, chicken, or cured beef fritters you choose, you’ll pat yourself on the back for a situation well-handled, especially if you douse them all in the bright, herb-filled mayo that comes on the side.