A Bit of Brazil in South FloridaBrazil, Florida — By Alex B on November 18, 2011 at 12:00 pm
By Megan Hubbell
Samba, Capirinhas, microscopic bikinis and not to mention the biggest party in the world: Carnival! With all of this, what’s not to love about Brazil? Well, perhaps the fact that it’s thousands of miles away and the plane tickets and visa fees can be astronomical. Fortunately, there are still ways to completely immerse yourself into Brazilian culture, no passports or visas required.
South Florida is known as the gateway to Latin America with more than 40% of its population having a “south of the border” heritage. Every country from Mexico through Argentina has left their mark in this metropolis and Brazil is no exception. They have managed to squeeze their way into the Cuban-dominated scene in Miami and have completely taken over the cities of Pompano and Deerfield Beach (which should be more aptly named “Little Brazil”). Driving through these two cities, which are sandwiched between Ft. Lauderdale to the south and Boca Raton to the north, it won’t take you long to notice this strong Brazilian influence as the majority of the billboards and street advertisements are completely in Portuguese!
From Miami to Boca, there are enough Brazilian hangouts from restaurants and bars to dance clubs and designated “Brazilian” beaches to make you feel as though you just spent a week in Rio. Here’s how to…
Party The Carnival Way
• Mango’s Tropical Café
This Latin-inspired restaurant/club, which is a major tourist attraction located in the heart of South Beach, is a guaranteed wild night. Mangos is the ultimate party scene where the employees get down just as much as the sloppy bachelorette in the corner drinking a mojito from an obscene straw, which happens to be a typical fixture on a Friday night. Servers and bartenders alike (including the guys) wear skin-tight animal print spandex and dance on the bar tops to salsa, merengue and bachatta. The colorful fruity drinks match the awesomely cheesy décor of neon lights and the fake tropical vines lining the walls. This is where every Sunday at 5:15 p.m. and every evening after midnight you can catch the Carnival Explosion Show. Here the samba girls come out in their barely-there carnival costumes and shake their hips at lightning speed while several shirtless buff dudes hang out in the background, pounding away on massive samba drums. 900 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach
Boteco, which literally translates into “dirty little bar”, refers to the Brazilian version of a neighborhood dive bar. This tiny enclosure oozes “Brazil” in everything from its ambiance (which consists mostly of outside seating under a covered porch) to its Portuguese-speaking staff and Brazilian menu, which is also completely in Portuguese. Don’t be alarmed if you are the only non-Brazilian there!
Boteco hosts numerous events throughout the week, including two personal favorites on Mondays and Tuesdays. Every Monday there is a free Samba class which starts at 9 p.m. and every Tuesday is Ladies night with free Caipirinhas from 9 p.m.-12 a.m. (Caipirinhas are the national drink, a Brazilian style mojito made with sugar, lime and Brazilian rum). Check out their website for special events throughout the month such as a free Percussion Class. Here you can learn to play Brazilian instruments and practice along in a group. 916 N.E. 79th Street, Miami http://botecomiami.com/PT/
• Café Miniero
During the day Café Miniero is a delicious Brazilian Rodizio (buffet) but on Friday and Sunday nights it turns into a full on Samba and Pagode club. There is even a live music Sunday nights with a Samba band from Rio de Janerio, appropriately named RJ Samba. 800 S. Federal Highway, Deerfield Beach
Eat Like a True Brasilero
There are many Brazilian restaurants throughout South Florida that range in style and price. You can find everything from a quick in-and-out bakery to a full on sit-down dinner at a top of the line restaurant. No matter how different, all of the following eateries will give you an authentic flavor of Brazil.
This inexpensive Brazilian diner, which is located in the Cove Plaza of Deerfield Beach, allows you to save money without sacrificing taste. With refreshing and unique Brazilian treats likes an avocado smoothie or acai bowl (a Brazilian dish made of frozen and mashed acai, an Amazonian super fruit, and served in a bowl topped with granola, banana and honey), it’s the perfect pit stop after a long day at the beach. 1631 Southeast 3rd Court, Deerfield Beach
• Rose Mary Café
This adorable café in South Beach, which screams Brazilian pride with its yellow and green sponged walls, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Here you can enjoy delicious Brazilian pastries, fresh-squeezed juices and daily specials that include a choice of two meats and two sides. 1321 Washington Ave, Miami Beach
• Café Miniero 800 S. Federal Highway, Deerfield Beach
• Feijoa Com Arroz Restaurante (Rice & Beans Restaurant) 559 E. Sample Rd, Pompano
These two authentic steakhouses serve delicious Brazilian-style home-cooking. Both restaurants are set up as a buffet but rather than the traditional American-style of all you can eat, you fill your plate up on the first round and weigh your plate at the end. You pay based on how much food you have on your plate. Don’t expect to leave still feeling hungry as you can feast on an array of meats, black beans and rice, salad, fried yucca, fresh veggies and the list goes on.
• Chima 2400 E Las Olas Blvd, Ft. Lauderdale
• Texas de Brazil 300 Alton Rd, Miami Beach
These high-end churrascarias have a fancy salad bar set up buffet style while servers, dressed in traditional “gaucho” clothing, come around to your table to present a variety of meats for you to sample. The food at these places is excellent but you better expect to pay for it. The starting price is between $60-70 a plate.
Play the Girl from Ipanema
• 3rd Street Beach access in South Beach
• North side of the Deerfield Beach Pier
These two locations are the unofficial Brazilian Beaches in South Florida. You know you’re in the right spot when you see numerous sarongs of the Brazilian flag spread out over the sand, being used as blankets by sun bathers, and a constant chatter of Portuguese fills the air. All of the women will be in tiny Brazilian bikinis (giving you a whole new appreciation for the Brazilian wax). The men, who are just as scantily-clad, will be showing off their not-so-waxed bodies in itty bitty sungas, which are better known to Americans as “banana hammocks”. You’re also sure to see an active game of beach soccer, or better yet, a game of foot volley (a hybrid of soccer and volley ball where you kick the ball over the net with your foot) which originated in Brazil.
Shake it Samba Style
• Take Samba Lessons
Learn the basic moves of Samba for just $15 per class. Classes are held every Monday and Wednesday at 8 p.m. Beginners welcome! Just remember to bring gym wear and soft shoes. Gil Santos Dance Studio, 1901 Liberty Ave, Miami Beach, (305)674-0709
• Take a Capoeira Class
Capoeira is an art form that combines Brazilian martial arts with energetic music. This activity, which was created years ago in Brazil by African slaves, has many quick and complex moves that also make it a great way to burn some calories and get in shape. Mestre Branca’s Academy holds classes every night Mon through Fri from 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. No experience required and the first class is free! Mestre Branca’s Academy, 1604 SE 3rd Ct, Deerfield Beach
Enjoy Special Events
If you happen to be in the South Florida area during these particular times of the year, here are some Brazilian events you can’t miss!
• Brazilian Film Festival
Every August this annual event showcases more than 40 acclaimed Brazilian Films in Miami Beach. This is considered to be the largest showing of Brazilian films outside the country.
• Pro Foot Volley Tournament
Every year around March, the international foot volley tournament makes its way to Hollywood Beach. This game, which originated in Brazil, is gaining world-wide popularity as teams from all over the world come together to compete. The tournament usually lasts three days and on the final night there is always a live performance by a popular Brazilian band.