World Cup Tune-Up: A Dubiously Useful Guide to Eating Steak and Partying in Porto Alegre, Brazil

And now, a dispatch from the wonderful meat market that is the South of Brazil.

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Our Brazilian correspondent, who prefers to go by “Bronaldinho” because he foolishly believes he will one day have a real career, will be filing reports from the front lines of World Cup mania. This week, he tunes up for the madness with a trip to Porto Alegre.

The South of Brazil is known for doing a couple of things well: Barbecuing meats, and sustaining one of the country’s most prime gene pools—the same one that birthed Gisele and Alessandra Ambrosio, amongst countless others. From the mid-1800s to late-1900s, Brazil had an absurdly lax immigration policy, welcoming a shit ton of Germans who gave up a culture of anti-semitism and efficiency for one of complete inefficiency and parties.

Fast forward a century and change, and Rio Grande do Sul is home to a population with European facial features and Brazilian body types. To stack the chips even further in their favor, everyone is taught to cook a steak before they learn to read. It’s one of the best places on earth.

The South of Brazil is known for doing a couple of things well: Barbecuing meats, and sustaining one of the country’s most prime gene pools.

It was this mythology that lured my mate Pedro and I to Porto Alegre for a recent destination weekend—a pre-game of sorts for our planned return during the World Cup later this month, when matches will be played at the brand-new Estadio Beira-Rio. Our itinerary involved gorging on delicious skewered meats and ingratiating ourselves to the locals. It also happened to be a party weekend known as “We Love  POA,” which is basically an excuse for guys from more populous Brazilian cities (São Paulo, Rio) to go and hit on blonde girls (who, by the way, outnumber guys in the city about 6:1). It’s not an uncommon sight in Porto Alegre to see a line of girls approximately 100 deep waiting to PAY to get into a balada (club) while guys stroll in freely, raising the roof and doing other outdated dance moves.

We arrived in town and decided to fuel up. We chose a Brazilian-style tapas bar called Lola to go for some drinks and lighter fare. First up: some camarões com leite de coco (shrimp in coconut milk) and croquetes de presunto e queijo minas (ham-and-cheese croquettes). The shrimp reminded me of something you might be served on a beach in Bahia (north of Brazil)—very light and refreshing, and tossed in delicious coconut milk. The fried croquettes were pretty standard, but they did their job of soaking up the mezcal margaritas we were downing as part of our esquenta (the word literally translates to “warm-up,” but it’s used loosely as “pre-game”). We soon moved to our actual dinner at 300, where our Brazilian friend Joao was having his birthday dinner.

This place was more about the bottle-popping scene than the food, but the eye candy was so good that we didn’t care. There were a lot of overpriced and oversauced raw fish plates, but with Ciroc and Red Bull, who really needs to eat anyway? Especially when your dinner company looks like this:
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We got some nibbles in, dropped some absolutely terrible lines (my favorite being “Where did you park your horse?” in reference to the fact that Gauchas, or people from the south, are basically hicks), and proceeded to the evening’s festivities. The club was packed with beautiful women, so we began to make the rounds. It’s standard flirting custom in Brazil to converse with a stranger of the opposite sex for no more than 30 seconds before attempting to make out aggressively (this is called matando o leao, or “killing the lion”). If she’s into it, you play tonsil hockey on the dance floor for 10 to 15 minutes like it’s middle school all over again. If she isn’t, she will very deftly deflect your attempt with a cheek turn, or the even more ninja-like hand-in-front-of mouth defense. It is for this reason that the steak-before-club move is always a risky one.

Saturday was our day to feast, so after consulting various sources, we learned that the best churrascaria was called Na Brasa (“On the Grill”). This place was absolutely incredible. For the noobs out there, a churrascaria is where you go to be served by energetic young bros in scarves who carry around skewers of different meat and slice it at your table. You receive a card that is green on one side and red on the other to serve as meat-traffic signal.

We were going full Mario Andretti on this spot, receiving robust portions of Contra-filé, pork sausage, chicken hearts, and the absolute granddaddy of them all, Picanha (rump steak). The highlight was a fantastic piece of bloody steak that resembled the Wu-Tang logo—Wu-Tang steak ain’t nothin’ to fuck with. After 90 minutes of steak and caipirinha injections, we crawled to taxis and headed back to our hotel to rest up before the night ahead.
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We hopped around a few of the parties that were on the docket for that night, but we always knew where we would end up: The famed Gruta Azul gentleman’s club, whose name rings out throughout Brazil for being one of the top spots to order champagne and see neon light displays. Of course, we were going only for research purposes for this article, and also because we heard that the best Applebee’s in Brazil was located next door (it was).

Gruta Azul stood out not only because the girls were all nines and tens and so friendly, but also because there was a very sumptuous buffet of nuts next to the bar. I’m talking about cashews, almonds, and pistachios separated out into different jars. This is not a euphemism or metaphor—there were literally nuts abounding. It ruled. We drank some Scotch and admired the fashion choices of the girls (read: jortz and stockings), but soon called it a night due to profuse meats sweats from the kilos of Picanha that were consumed just hours before.

As we headed the airport the next day, with alcohol and sodium hangovers duking it out for supremacy inside of our furious bodies, we knew we’d be back. As Outkast once said, “The South (of Brazil) got something to say!” And it did.
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