Most Brazilians eat a “continental” breakfast consisting of fresh fruit and/or juice, bread, butter, requeijão (a spreadable cheese) or cheese and café com leite (coffee with milk). The biggest meal of the day for most Brazilians is almoço (lunch), usually between 11:30 am and 1:30 pm. Dinner or supper in Brazil is usually (but not always) lighter and can start anywhere from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm at night. Arroz and feijão (rice and beans) are basic in Brazil and likely to be found as part of almost any lunch or dinner.
Most restaurants where you order from the menu (and have a waiter) will automatically add a 10% service charge to your conta (bill). This the waiter’s tip. Unless the service was exceptional and/or very personal, there’s no need to leave anything additional. Many restaurants cannot add the tip to a credit card charge and the waiter may inform you of this fact as he points out his uncharged 10% on the conta (bill). He’ll want cash.
For lunch, most cities have restaurants offering comida por peso (food by weight). You simply fill your plate from a large buffet table consisting of various meat, fish, vegetable, pasta and salad choices—sometimes as many as thirty different hot items with an equal number of cold or salad items. The price is determined by the weight of your plate minus the weight of the plate itself. Prices vary from one restaurant to another but at the better restaurants generally range anywhere from R$ 15 to R$ 40+ per kilo. One half kilo is usually plenty unless you’re very hungry. Many smaller cities will also have buffet style restaurants but, rather than change by weight, they charge a single, fixed priced for all you can eat.
You’ll find lanchonetes almost everywhere in Brazil but they’re not necessarily about lunch in spite of how close the word lanchonete looks or sounds like the English word luncheonette. A lanchonete is a snack bar, usually offering various types of sandwiches, often including the cachorro quente (hot dog), x-búrguer (cheeseburger), misto quente (hot ham and cheese sandwich), bauru (ham, cheese and tomato), americano (egg, ham, cheese, tomato and lettuce) as well as salgados (salty snacks) and fresh fruit juices, water, soft drinks, beer and more.
You’ll also may find salgaderias in some places. They offer a wide variety of salgados (salty snacks) including coxinhas (chicken filled, teardrop shaped appetizers), pastéis [meat and/or cheese and/or palmito (hearts of palm) filled envelopes], empadinhas (chicken or meat filled pies), bolinhas de bacalhau (cod fish balls), kibe (ground meat appetizer with Middle Eastern origins) and other finger foods. They are typically very inexpensive.
Churrascarias (barbecued meat restaurants) are common throughout Brazil. Most are all all you can eat restaurants and charge a flat price per person. Most all churrascarias offer an extensive salad bar and an almost never ending rodízio (rotation) of different cuts of beef, pork, lamb, poultry and fish all served table side by waiters wielding long, sword like spits filled with meat. The rodízio (rotation) of meat will continue as long as you’re table ‘signal’ is turned to green and you’re still able to see. Vegetarians should avoid churrascarias like the plague.
Feijoada (black bean and meat stew) was probably first concocted by slaves and, in many ways, is the quintessential Brazilian “soul food.” If Brazil has a national dish, feijoada is it. Feijoada for Saturday lunch is a tradition although there are restaurants who proudly serve it seven days a week. Feijoada is made with black beans, ham hocks, lingüiça (pork sausage), bacon, ham, pork ribs, carne seca (dried beef) and other beef and pork cuts. Traditional or “real” feijoada (feijoada legítima) also includes pork feet, ears, tail and tongue but these are often omitted for sake of the squeamish. Feijoada is normally served accompanied with rice, farofa (manioc meal fried with bacon, garlic, onion and chopped boiled egg), couve mineira (thinly sliced collard greens sautéed in olive oil with garlic and bacon) and orange slices to help counteract all the grease.
Many restaurants in larger cities have bilingual or even trilingual menus (Portuguese, English and Spanish). Many restaurants in the larger cities will have a separate English menu available. Ask if you’re not sure what they offer.
Many shoppings (shopping centers/malls) in the larger cities have a food court with numerous walk up restaurants offering a wide variety of different food choices and ample open seating. They can be a good option for lunch.
In most of the larger cities, you’ll find at least one McDonald’s but, with the array of Brazilian food available, why would you want to unless you’re American and want to experience the novelty of ordering a McBurger with a McBeer?!
Many nightclubs in Brazil may open as late as midnight while more than a few bars remain open as long as there is a single customer.
The legal drinking age in Brazil is 18.
In addition to restaurants offering Brazilian regional food (comida) specialties from, for example, the states of Bahia (comida baiana), Minas Gerais (comida mineira) and elsewhere, most large Brazilian cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo offer a wide variety of cuisines and restaurants—from Italian, French, German and Spanish to Middle Eastern, Indian, Japanese, Chinese and other oriental cuisines. Let your stomach and your nose be your guide.