A Very Favorable Exchange Rate
For those watching the international markets, you've probably noticed that the USD has been incredibly strong in recent months. This holds true when looking at the Brazilian Real (BRL). The current exchange rate from USD to BRL is 2.70. That means for every one USD, it translates to R$2.70. Or if you want to look at it the other way, R$1 buys $0.37.
The good news for us is that the rate has improved significantly for people with USD in the last half of 2014, so it's making things significantly more affordable. Here's the five year history of the rate:
If you're using credit cards that have no foreign transaction fee (see my post on Personal Finance Abroad), you are able to make purchases at the rate listed in the graph without additional fees.
A Real Brazilian Steakhouse
The two biggest food things I wanted to see in Brazil were feijoada at Bolinha, and an awesome Brazilian Steakhouse. We missed out on feijoada in São Paulo since Zoey was sick, but we did not miss out on a great steakhouse.
We went to a place called Coxilha dos Pampas in Ribeirão Preto. Ribeirão Preto itself is a pretty good size town/city, with over 600,000 resident's. Jenifer's brother, Jair, attends a university there. So, after stopping by his place and running other errands, we hit the steakhouse, which was only a few blocks from his house. Jair has lived in Ribeirão for four years, and had never been to this place. This place is not just another rodizio style steakhouse in Brazil. This is one of the best places in town, and some of Jenifer's relatives go as far to say it's the best restaurant in all of Ribeirão Preto. Here are ratings from a few places:
Those are very impressive ratings across the board.
How Coxilha dos Pampas is different than US Brazilian Steakhouses
The US steakhouses are generally run by a healthy population of Brazilians. Many servers, parts of the management, and generally a majority of the ownership is Brazilian. They know what the name implies, and they offer a decent assortment of meats, good drinks, and great service. You can pick up dinner at most for about $50-60, not including tips or drinks. How much we paid here is at the end of the article.
Everything that can be made table side is done so at Coxilha, including drinks. So when I ordered a caipirinha, a drink cart headed right over, and began freshly preparing my drink. He started slicing the limes, mashing them with sugar, and then introduced the cachaça with a slow pour as folded in the alcohol into the muddled lime and sugar. This, as with almost everything else, is part of a show.
Lets say you prefer a beer, they send over the guy who is carrying around bottles of all beers they have available. They'll spin the tray around, show the ones hidden in the middle, and answer any questions you have. There is no need for a drink menu, they will roll everything right up next to your table and chat with you about it.
For anything that you ordered that was not made table side, such as water, or a beer that they'd grab from the refrigerator, someone would come running to your table with your drinks. I'm not talking a fast walk, I'm talking about running with a tray full of drinks being caried high above him as he ducked and juked between tables and other servers. I did not once see one of these guys bump someone or lose a drink. They are so fast, there was no chance of me getting a video of them running between tables without having it staged.
As with everything at this place you have options. Some things you won't see in the US include of all things, sushi. That's right, sushi. They have a place at the back of the salad bar that's dedicated to raw seafood. They do have some things like Philadelphia rolls and other no-fish rolls for the faint of heart.
Don't be fooled by this photo, every inch of the bar is packed with things. When you're standing at one place, there are normally a good three things sitting in front of you, as opposed to your standard one thing at most US establishments. I nabbed this photo from their Facebook page, it shows you how food goes well back into the bar:
Here were Jair and Jenifer's plates after the first run to the salad bar. Zoey couldn't wait for the picture to be taken before she decided to steal Jenifer's roll.
Things on Skewers (Non-meats)
There were quite a number of things that we had that weren't meat that were cooked the same way as the meats. These things included:
- Garlic Bread - Small pieces of bread stuffed with garlic butter and grilled.
- Mozzarella Cheese - Little torpedos of grilled joy.
- Pineapple with cinnamon - This stuff is awesome.
We got there right when they opened, so some of these things only started coming out as we were winding down. I am sure they have other things as well. Here's a shot of the Pineapple, Zoey's face is priceless:
Meats on Skewers and Carts
Everything you have in the US, you have here. The Picanha served is actually quite large. Here are some of the things I've never seen in the US that came around:
- Ostrich Leg
- Buffalo Steaks
- Ram Picanha
- The back hump from a male cow (fatty, and amazing)
- Kobe beef Picanha
- Hot Pepper Steak - a hunk of meat marinated in hot peppers
- File Mignon or Picana served with butter
- Several types of sausage
Things like the beef ribs, salmon filets, and other very large pieces of meat came around on carts.
These guys move fast, and my focus was on eating, so I do not have very many photos of the meats.
This was the only spot where I wasn't impressed. As with everything else, they bring all the desserts table side on a large cart that I believe has ice or something in it to keep the cakes and other desserts refrigerated. There is a large plastic top that hinges when the server opens the case to present it. They had a few cakes, but I would argue the presentation you see in the US for desserts is much better. They did have chocolate lollipops and things for kids on the cart as well.
Zoey's favorite part was definitely the white pebbles around the base of the palm trees in the bar. I guess that means this place is truly for all ages:
Everyone was friendly, they worked with a smile, and would poke at Zoey to get a rise out of her. Everyone had fun. Since we got there early, there was no wait, and we used the empty front bar area as Zoey's playground whenever she would get cranky.
More than anything, everyone was hustling. Whether it was the guy running through with people's drink orders, the servers, or anyone else, people were moving at a good clip.
All of this can be yours for $19 USD per adult. This includes gratuity, but excludes drinks and desserts.
Thank you awesome exchange rate.