When you think of a Brazilian dinner, you might conjure up visions of ungodly portions of meat and fine-dining prices. The price tag at most Brazilian barbecue restaurants is enough to kill a craving. But there's perfectly seasoned barbecue — along with fried plantains, magical farofa sprinkles, the irresistibly gooey cheese bread pao de queijo and sweet and silky brigadeiro (bonbons) — served all over L.A., sometimes for under $15 a meal.
Radiating outward from Culver City’s “Little Brazil” are tons of Brazilian spots — if you know where to look. Here are our five of our favorites:
Tucked inside the Camaguey Meat Market, a small Hispanic grocery shop in a nondescript shopping center in Palms, is Cantinho Brasileiro, a hole-in-the-wall serving Brazilian takeout food like the kind served in gas stations and markets in Brazil. The meals are prepared in a small kitchen in the back, and though the menu is in Portuguese, the staff is more than happy to explain each item and make recommendations. Go for the Bife a Parmegiana, a breaded top sirloin topped with salsa, olives and cheese and served, like most Brazilian entrees, with rice and beans. If you’re looking for a snack, coxinha, a lightly fried meat-and-cheese-stuffed pastry, does not disappoint. 10925 Venice Blvd, Palms; (310) 815-0101, cantinhobr.com.
Mesa Brazilian Eatery
A favorite among Brazilian exchange students and locals, this Westwood gem serves Brazilian with an Asian twist. The entrees are served rice bowl–style with rice, beans, collard greens, salsa, plantains and a Brazilian protein of choice, like picanha (a cut of beef popular in Brazil) and estrogonofe de frango (Brazil's take on beef stroganoff), for under $9. Mesa also boasts homemade brigadeiro. Owners and chefs Ricardo and Tiago Kim also serve Guarana Antarctica soda, one of the bestselling sodas in Brazil, which tastes like a combination of fruit soda and Mountain Dew. Don’t leave without trying the pao de queijo, the famous Brazilian — and naturally gluten-free — cheese bread. 10917 Lindbrook Drive, Westwood; (310) 824-0240.
Bella Vista Brazilian Gourmet Pizza
When you think of pizza toppings, peas, tuna, hearts of palm, quail and eggs aren’t always the first ones that come to mind. But these are just a few examples of the extensive topping selection at Bella Vista Brazilian Gourmet Pizza. Try the Frango Com Catupiry Pizza, a pie topped with chicken and corn on top of catupiry, the most popular type of creamy cheese in Brazil. And don't skip the famous pizza doces, or sweet pizzas, which include the Brigadeiro Com Morango, an open-faced pie with chocolate, condensed milk and strawberries. For $14.99, you can get your pizza rodizio-style, which means all-you-can-eat slices brought by the waitstaff, who are constantly walking by carrying fresh-from-the-oven pies. 10826 Venice Blvd., Culver City; (310) 558-2374, bellavistabrazilianpizza.net.
Tropicalia Brazilian Grill
When you walk into Tropicalia Brazilian Grill, you’re immediately struck by the ambiance — soft jazz can be heard through a lively crowd, and the intimate layout makes you feel like you're in someone's home. Start with a delicious (and dangerous) fruit-filled sangria, and don't be afraid to ask for wine samples from the huge list. For dinner, try the Brazilian national dish, feijoada, a large plate of black beans, sausage, smoked pork and sun-dried beef stew served with rice, sauteed collard greens, orange slices and fried plantains, available on Thursdays and Fridays. Dinners are served with the magical farofa — spiced yucca flour that complements just about any meat there is. Arrive during happy hour (between 4 and 7 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays) when all signature entrees are half off and a filling meal will set you back around $10. 1966 Hillhurst Ave., Los Feliz; (323) 644-1798, tropicaliabraziliangrill.com.
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This list wouldn’t be complete without Café Brasil, a well-known L.A. spot for locals looking for an authentic and affordable Brazilian meal. There are two Cafe Brasil locations in Los Angeles, and their cozy interiors and quaint outdoor patios make them the antithesis of expensive Brazilian eateries like Fogo de Chao. As in the big Brazilian cities, Café Brasil serves the “Executive Lunch,” available from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Choose the protein and get a huge plate of meat, white rice, black beans, fried plantains and salsa for $9.50. Café Brasil also serves a wide variety of tropical fruit juices, including passion fruit, coconut and sugar cane. 10831 Venice Blvd., Palms; (310) 837-8957; and 11736 W. Washington, Culver City; (310) 391-1216; cafe-brasil.com