The Classic - Porcâo Rio's
Setting the standard for the city’s meat-feast restaurants, Porcão Rio's manages to win hands down on both location, quality of meat and breadth of buffet, which has to be seen to be believed. It doesn’t come cheap at R$92, and avoid the allure of a limoncello or a dessert unless you are feeling particularly flush, but it is an experience. Fans of succulent treats be sure to ask for the pork ribs with barbecue sauce, and the Argentinian bife de ancho is always one of the most flavoursome cuts. A handy video plays on loop describing and translating the different cuts so you have more of an idea what is what. The new sushi bar is just another reason to make the journey.
The Affordable - Churrascaria Palace Copacabana
With a name inspired by its very illustrious neighbour, Copacabana’s Churrascaria Palace is a good option for anyone on a tighter budget but desperate to sample the joys of a rodizio de carne in the city.The buffet may not have the sheer girth of some, but the salads are fresh and seafood and sushi are available. If you have the foresight to register on their website in advance then you receive a R$12 discount, making the R$37.90 entry fee an excellent investment.
The newcomer - Fogo de Chão
Going head to head with the 'Big Pig' (Porcão) is a brave move, but when you have restaurants spread from Beverley Hills to Miami and from São Paulo to Salvador you probably fancy yourselves a little. Deservedly so in many respects. Specialising in fifteen cuts cooked the gaucho way (the folk from Rio Grande do Sul aka cowboy country) for over thirty years, they know a thing or two about steak, and while it perhaps doesn't quite compete with their main rival in terms of the buffet or quality of beef, the setting and pre-feast patio drink beside Sugarloaf Mountain goes a long way toward the trying.
Best location - Carretão Ipanema
Located in the heart of Ipanema right on General Osorio Square, the huge queues outside Carretão at the weekends tell their own story. The service is always exemplary, cheerful and efficient, with the skewer-wielding waiters managing to keep plates full without spraying beef juice all over the table nor getting in the way of you actually enjoying the food, something many of its competitors struggle with. At R$49.90 on weekends and R$45 midweek it also represents good value, with the Copacabana branch (Rua Siqueira Campos 23) a little cheaper still.
Best variety - Marius Degustare Leme
At the top end of the rodizio spectrum sits Marius, a tourist mecca with walls bedecked in all manner of maritime acoutrements that will either leave you cold or lure you right in to the vibe. The meat-only rodizio is a whopping R$92, but does include such delights as kobe beef (under the name wagyu here). The restaurant’s calling card is the seafood, however, so by forking out R$150 you also get the keys to an unlimited supply of lobster, oysters, shrimp and so forth, all impeccably fresh and tasty.