The Ultimate Guide To Brazilian Steakhouse Salad Bars

If you're a frequent diner at your local Brazilian steakhouse, you've likely heard of all the tips and tricks in the books when it comes to making the most of your meat-eating experience. You're a pro at when to go red, when to stay green, and you know exactly which meats are just okay — and which will produce a mouth-watering, show-stopping carnivorous symphony in your mouth.

And while knowing your meats is undoubtedly important, we need not forget the delectable salad bar and buffet — the dazzling table in the middle of the restaurant containing all the eye-catching fruits, veggies, cheeses, and delicious Brazilian sides. Yes, the star of the Rodízio-style dining experience is, of course, the sticks of choice cuts brought directly to your table — but the salad bar is equally as exciting. With this excitement, though, comes the potential for disaster. If you don't tackle your salad bar and buffet strategy with the utmost delicacy and precision, you may end up spending over $60 a person on platefuls of produce and side dishes instead of premium meats.

Fear not, dear Brazilian steakhouse diner, for we have compiled a list of foolproof blueprints to ensure you maximize your time, wallet, and stomach on your next trip to the Churrascaria.

Come Hungry, Come Ready

Consider your trip to the Brazilian steakhouse to be your breakfast, lunch, dinner, and midday snack all in one. In other words, you should spend sunup to sundown preparing as though you were training for a major competition. Have only a few light snacks, take a walk around the nearest restaurant to entice your nose with the smells of grilling meat — whatever you must do to create the hungriest possible version of yourself.

Saving as much room in your stomach as possible will result in those crucial extra few trips to the salad bar. It's no secret that the buffet table is a mere accessory to the real star of the show: the meats. But there are still plenty of delicious options that await you in the cornucopia-like display.

Instead of eating your usual breakfast and lunch meals, we suggest holding off until it's time for dinner. Think of your first trip to the salad bar as your breakfast, and your second as lunch. You'll still fill yourself up with plenty of delicious food — just later in your day.

Trust us on this one. You'll thank us after you somehow find the room for just one more slice of candied bacon.

Return with an empty plate upon your first trip to the salad bar

If you're anything like us, you're a sucker for a good buffet. But, while it may be tempting, you must not see the salad bar at the Brazilian steakhouse as an all-you-can-eat opportunity. Instead, tread lightly. Take your time walking through the buffet line. Bask in all the sights and smells. What do you notice? What looks good to you? Ponder this as you return to your seat — empty-handed.

Your friends and family will question you; you may even begin to question yourself.

"But the baby kale and mango salad is speaking to you, personally," the little voice inside of your stomach may call from within you. And said voice is correct. The various salad medlies and concoctions are addressing you by name. But in order to make the best of your experience, you should ignore this — for now.

Instead, flip your red coaster to green and spend your first few bites on the meats. Nibble on that delicious Pao De Queijo — the cheese bread of your dreams. Once you feel fully prepared, you may approach the buffet table once more, responding to the calls of the food before you.

Don't fall for the oldest trick in the book

You may wonder how a Brazilian steakhouse can possibly make enough bottomless meat to serve all its guests day in and day out. The trick to this is quite simple — and it's one to which even the most seasoned of us fall prey.

Instead of relying on customers to stuff themselves with loads of meat, they let their salad bar and buffet table do all the heavy lifting. While the gauchos meander from table to table with sticks of fresh cuts, plenty of steakhouse-goers are too full to eat more, as they have already consumed more charcuterie cheeses, cold cuts, and veggies than they could possibly handle.

The simple truth is that the salad bar is more accessible than the skewers of meat. While premium cuts are delivered to your table fairly quickly, a constantly-replenished table filled to the brim with all sorts of Brazilian goodies makes for an easy way to fill your plate and, therefore, your stomach.

The next time you find yourself in front of the salad bar, remember that you'll get your money's worth by saving your stomach-power for the delicious steaks rather than the fairly inexpensive options at the buffet.

Stick to the veggies

From Fogo de Chão's mozzarella caprese salad, to its refreshing leafy greens, plenty of steakhouses have a delightful array of veggies at their buffet table — but they are all too often upstaged by more substantial and tempting side dishes.

We know you may not want to hear this, but maximizing your Brazilian steakhouse experience means holding off on the heavy stuff and replacing it with a plate of light and fresh veggies. Not only do they pair exquisitely with the hearty shavings and cuts of meat, but they also will help save plenty of room for you to eat until your heart gives out.

The reality is that vegetables are delicious, despite what you may have believed as a child. And if you're sophisticated enough to treat yourself to a bottomless steak dinner, you are far too old to be snubbing your nose at the greens. We're not suggesting you deny yourself of all other buffet table delicacies — it's all about knowing which to indulge, and which to merely graze.

Avoid the hot foods

If there are any dishes that should be avoided (or at least treated delicately) at the salad bar, they would be the warm ones. Believe us; we know they are tempting. But a surefire way to find yourself stuffed to the brim before the last cut of meat even leaves the kitchen is by tricking your brain and stomach into thinking that the salad bar is the lead singer instead of mere backup vocals.

You see, if you are loading up on stews, soups, and rice from the salad bar, you're leading your stomach to believe a false narrative about your meal. You're letting it know that, after finishing its warm foods, it's time to start winding down and shutting off — even though there are fresh cuts of meat to be eaten.

Instead, treat the hot dishes as amuse-bouches. Have a few tiny samples if you must, and then it's time to move on. Do not lose sight of your true purpose at the Brazilian steakhouse.

Avoid the cold cuts and cheeses

We're willing to bet that most of you love a good charcuterie board — so do we. But there is a time and place for trays of cold cuts and cheeses and, sorry, but the Brazilian steakhouse is not one of them.

Think about how easy it is to build your own charcuterie board at home. Salami, prosciutto, and brie are all ingredients that can likely be found for fairly cheap at your local supermarket. And while these meats and cheeses often taste better at a restaurant rather than crafted at home, you can find plenty of joints that specialize in such a delicacy. If we're being honest, the Brazilian steakhouse is not one of such places. If you're dining at Texas de Brazil, you're there to sample lavish steaks that you can't make at home — to bask in the delight of endless wagyu delivered directly to your plate.

While everyone loves a good salami and cheese duo, hold off on this for now and instead save room for as much juicy steak as you can handle in one sitting.

Keep your meat and salad toppings separate

Imagine you're about to pile a forkful of greens into your mouth when — just as you're about to take a bite — you realize they're soggy and wilting! You take the dreaded walk of shame back to the salad bar to pick up a new batch, saddened that you've wasted some perfectly good greens.

This unpleasant experience happens all too often at steakhouses and it's simply because diners fail to consider the implications of plating crunchy lettuce beside their thick and juicy steak. It's a common mistake, yet so easily avoidable — and it will save you a trip or two to the salad bar down the line.

When you take your seat at the table, ensure you set aside a plate strictly designated for your meat cuts. And when you head towards the salad bar, pick up a buffet plate that's already sitting out by the serving dishes so that you're keeping the delicious flavors of both your meat and your veggies separate.

Do not find yourself tempted by the roasted garlic

Whoever says they don't like garlic confit is lying to you. At steakhouses like Fogo, you can scoop spoonfuls of the delightful garnish right onto your plate so that your tastebuds can experience a creamy, garlicky flavor alongside each bite of meat.

However, just because you can doesn't mean you should. In our experience — while we hate to say it — the roasted garlic dish at the salad bar will only make you feel more full, and that's not the energy you want to bring into your Brazilian steakhouse dining experience.

We recommend grabbing three to five cloves to try with just a few different cuts of meat — experience the robustness that it can bring to your bites — and then leave it behind. Save that coveted room in your stomach for more delicious steak.

But if you'd like to incorporate your own garlic confit into your next homemade steak dinner, who are we to stop you?

Hold off on your final trip to the salad bar

If you've been to a Brazilian steakhouse, you are all too familiar with that end-of-meal victory lap to the salad bar. If not, let us prepare the scene for you: the sun has set and your meal is coming to a slow yet steady end. Your friends have triumphantly tossed their napkins onto their plates, signaling the conclusion of their steak extravaganza. A few others in your party are delicately picking at their final bites, willing their stomachs to allow just a bit more food. 

Despite your full belly and already unbuttoned pants, you decide to embark on one last perusal of the buffet table for some end-of-the-night veggies and hummus. While this seems like a delightful end to your grand meal (who doesn't love veggies and hummus?), a Groupon Guide to Houston suggests a strategic alternative that might better serve your steak experience.

According to the article, it is rumored that many Brazilian steakhouses save the best and priciest meats for the bitter end of the night. If you want to have your fill of the most premium cuts, we suggest skipping the salad bar when the meal begins to slow down. Instead, save your stamina for the best meat the restaurant has to offer. From the tenderest of filet mignon to a delicious beef ancho prime ribeye, your steakhouse experience certainly is not complete without experiencing the night's finest meats.

Take only a few strips of candied bacon

In the most flawless of utopian societies, you will find its people eating strips of candied bacon for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Because of this, we can safely say that any time spent at a Brazilian steakhouse is a glimpse into what it's like to live in paradise, simply due to its bottomless candied bacon opportunities.

Although such a snack doesn't seem like the typical component of a salad bar, you'll be sure to find loads of it at restaurants like Fogo de Chão. Its sweetness provides the perfect contrast to the inherent salty crunchiness of a strip of bacon — which is why you'll find yourself thinking about bacon throughout the course of your meal. But, similar to many other buffet-table favorites, we caution you against eating too much.

Don't get us wrong, you should definitely see what all the hype is about. Try a slice or two, but always hold true to the Brazilian steakhouse golden rule — you are there to try foods that can't be made to perfection at home.

Enjoy a bit of the tasty snack, but remember to metaphorically place it in your back pocket so that you remember to make it at home with your next steak dinner. You can also pocket it in the literal sense, but we don't recommend doing so — it will probably just break into a crumbly mess on your way home.

Mindfully try the sushi — if it's an option

At some Brazilian steakhouses, the salad bar may present you with a small variety of sushi rolls. Whether they're Cali or Philly, they'll probably call your name. But if we're being perfectly honest with you, they're probably not that great — after all, the specialty of a steakhouse is, of course, the steak. While the rolls may be presented quite beautifully, the truth is that they cannot possibly be prepared with the same dedication and expertise as their meaty counterparts.

It may be tempting to expand your palate, and in all other circumstances, we would undoubtedly encourage you to do so. But your time at the Brazilian steakhouse should strictly focus on the basics — the hearty cuts of beef, lamb, and pork. Remember that sushi is a mere guest in your steak-centered show, and should be treated as such. As with the vegetables, treat the sushi as pleasant, lighter fare, but never the main event.

If we find you at an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet, though, that's a different story. Tread lightly around the sushi trays at your Brazilian steakhouse.

Make your own fruit salad for dessert

No matter how many discounts you may find, it's safe to say that your Brazilian steakhouse experience isn't cheap — and reasonably so, as paying more for some high-quality meat is a reasonable expectation. While this is the case, it does not mean that you need to spend an unreasonable amount of money on perfectly ordinary chocolate cake.

There are a few tricks when it comes to satisfying your sweet tooth at a Brazilian steakhouse — you can either avoid the dessert menu entirely and stop for a sweet treat on your way home, or you can take it upon yourself to construct your very own fruit salad straight from the buffet.

From prickly pear to refreshing pineapple, you will often find all sorts of tasty fruits at the salad bar. And while nobody appreciates the memory of their parents telling them to "just eat some fruit" when they request a cookie, there is seriously nothing wrong with fruit salad — it's delicious! For many parents, serving cut fruit is a way of expressing love for their children. Our childhood judgments were far too clouded by teenage defiance to realize this.

When it's time to reflect upon your steak dinner with a touch of sweetness, be kind to your wallet and take advantage of the bottomless food that you've already paid for. We can assure you that you'll find that snacking on some refreshing fruit is a great way to end your night.