One of the things you have to do before you leave Brazil is eat at a kilo restaurant. One of the quintessential Brazilian dining experiences, we long for places in the United States where you can get great food by the pound. While you can find kilo restaurants on nearly every street corner in Brazil, our absolute favorite kilo restaurant is the vegetarian-friendly Ramma in Salvador.
But here’s the big question. If you find yourself in a kilo restaurant, what do you do? Where do you start? What do you order? Here are the basics. What happens is this: you are given a plate and a little order form/ticket. With this, you are welcome to serve yourself at the buffet, much as you do in a typical American-style buffet. However, be careful that your eyes are not bigger than your stomach, because it will end up costing you! At the end of the buffet your plate is weighed and you are charged by the kilo. The price is then written on your ticket, or sometimes at fancier places the scale has a machine that prints an automatic sticker. “Extras” like drinks, coffee or single-serve desserts are marked on your ticket as well, and sometimes you can order these from your table once you have sat down.
After getting your ticket, you sit down to eat your food. This can sometimes be tricky at more popular kilo places, which can get absolutely packed around lunchtime, especially in the business districts. As such, don’t worry about filling up the first time: if you want more, you can add to your ticket, or get a second one. When you’re done, you pay the cashier on the way out by handing them your marked ticket. It is absolutely imperative that you do not lose your ticket, and it is the only way that you can exit the restaurant. If you happen to lose your ticket you usually have to pay an exorbitant fee (fortunately this has not happened to us…yet) though we noticed that at certain other kilo places the fee is not too high (maybe 50 reais or about US $25 at the time we were there). Maybe this would encourage people to eat a ton, and “lose” a ticket?
There are different types of kilo restaurants for all different tastes – including salad places, vegetarian places, pasta places (Spoleto) and places with homestyle Brazilian food (Aipo e Aipim), and many have several branches in Rio. Sometimes there is a whole separate dessert buffet or even a churrasco (grilled meats) station, which may be offered at a different kilo rate (the churrasco at Aipo e Aipim is great). The selection varies by price, but most restaurants will have at least a dozen options.
The menu at a kilo restaurant varies daily, so if you find a favorite kilo place you can go there a few times a week and not be too bored. Prices vary, but the lowest price at a decent kilo restaurant was about R$20 ($10) ranging up to about R$50 ($25). Prices are cheaper outside the tourist areas, obviously. The prices may also vary inside “peak” hours (12-2 or so), and off hours may cost less. At first we were bewildered, but we grew to love the kilo restaurant. It may seem like a lot to consider, but you’ll be eating at kilo restaurants like a native Brazilian in no time!