Few things define Brazilian cuisine as distinctly as a love for steakhouses. But for me, a born–and–raised Brazilian, a “churrasco” is much more than a meal—it’s a culinary spectacle. In it, an array of meats is expertly skewered or placed on a spit, resembling a delicious rosary of flavors charbroiled to perfection. It's an art form unto itself. Over the years, I've enjoyed numerous churrasco meals with loved ones, whether indoors or outdoors, and it has always been a joyful celebration.
In recent years, the Brazilian churrasco experience has transcended borders and is now widely cherished in many parts of the world, including the United States. Brazilian steakhouses, often referred to as "rodízios," have found a dedicated following among food enthusiasts in the United States An example of the popularity of this food in Philly is Picanha Brazilian Steakhouse. With locations in Center City, Northeast Philadelphia, and even one in New York, it features over a dozen rotisserie grille meats and signature items served right at your table by rodízio gauchos.
The appeal of Brazilian steakhouses lies not only in the mouthwatering offerings but also in the unique dining experience. Picanha preserves Brazilian barbecue skills and culinary techniques, reproducing genuine Brazilian hospitality and the overall experience of an authentic churrasco. When you visit the restaurant, you can expect to be treated to a continuous parade of succulent, skewered meats, such as sirloin, filet mignon, lamb chops, and sausages, expertly carved and served tableside.
Guests are provided with a small disc, typically green on one side and red on the other. When you're ready for more, you turn the disc to green, signaling to the servers that you're ready for another round of meaty delights. When you've had your fill, you simply turn it to red. Alongside the meats, there is a long buffet filled with Brazilian traditional food. At Picanha, you can encounter farofa (toasted cassava flour), vinagrete (Brazilian tomato slaw), white rice, beans, and even feijoada (a black bean and pork stew). And of course, don’t forget to order Guaraná, a typical Brazilian soft drink, to accompany your meal. This all–you–can–eat style of dining allows you to savor a variety of flavors and cuts, ensuring a new gastronomic adventure with every visit—the combinations are endless.
The churrasco experience is about savoring every bite at your own pace while enjoying the conviviality of those around you. Picanha Steakhouse, open every day of the week, provides an ideal setting for celebrating various occasions with family and friends. The restaurant boasts a spacious, well–lit interior adorned with a wooden bar and a wine cellar. Adding to its charm, the decor features road plaques adorned with the names of famous Brazilian streets and states, creating a comforting and elegant atmosphere at the same time.
What sets the churrasco experience apart is the interactive and communal aspect of the meal—it’s meant to be shared. Upon entering Picanha, you're greeted by a Brazilian mural adorned with the Brazilian flag and the word "HOME" below it. This, to me, encapsulates the essence of the food—it feels like home. Conversing with the Brazilian waitstaff, speaking Portuguese, and savoring dishes that remind me of Brazil, it's an experience that immediately transports me back home.
Churrasco is a celebration of food, friendship, and the rich culinary heritage of Brazil. Whether you're indulging in a classic churrasco feast in Brazil or at a Brazilian steakhouse in the United States, you're in for a memorable culinary journey. So, raise your fork, prepare to turn the disk, enjoy the amazing flavors, and revel in a delightful celebration. Here's to the taste of Brazil, no matter where in the world you may be.
TL;DR: Hit up Picanha with your besties to feast on festive and traditional Brazilian fare.
Location: 1111 Locust St.
Hours: Monday–Friday, 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m.; Saturday 11:30 a.m.–10:30 p.m.; Sunday 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m.