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The Pampas Grill buffet has  cold dishes like potato salad and hot  food like garlic rice and the black bean stew feijoada.
Experience the variety of Brazilian cuisine at the Pampas Grill buffet, where you’ll find a mix of cold dishes like potato salad and hot comfort food like garlic rice and the black bean stew feijoada.
(Meghan McCarron)

7 must-try Brazilian restaurants in Culver City (and beyond)

Since the 90s, a stretch of Venice Boulevard on the border of Culver City and Palms has served as a destination for Brazilian food in Los Angeles. While Los Angeles lacks an official “Little Brazil,” this is as close as the city gets to an unofficial hub. The most obvious landmark is a strip mall at the corner of Venice and Westwood called the Brazilian Mall, whose exterior is splashed with a colorful tile mural of Brazilian iconography like Christ the Redeemer, anchored by a stunning covered patio festooned with Brazilian flags.

None of the business owners I spoke to are quite sure why the neighborhood took off. Several people said they opened their businesses in the neighborhood because there were already Brazilians there. Rodrigo Garcia, an employee of 30 years at Cafe Brasil who took over the restaurant after the owners retired last year, believes his restaurant jump-started the community when it opened there in 1991. A 2014 Los Angeles Times article pinpoints the raucous parties during the 1994 World Cup at another nearby restaurant, Zubumba, which closed after the owner’s tragic death.

Thai breakfast breaks boundaries with staples that can be eaten any time of day, such as hearty rice porridge, Thai tea pancakes and savory shrimp paste crepes.

April 12, 2024

In the ensuing decades, restaurants have come and gone, but the neighborhood remains a unique destination for Brazilian food in the city. Visitors can sample Brazilian pizza, sandwiches, homestyle cooking, and, of course, barbecue.

Since the pandemic, however, the rising costs in Culver City has made it harder to launch new businesses. Pedroca’s Burguer, which operated out of a shared kitchen in the Brazilian Mall, wasn’t able to find a space in Culver City. Instead, this month owners Pedro and Thiago Carvalho opened farther south in Lawndale, slinging Brazilian burgers, piled high with the traditional corn and potato sticks.

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A plate of chicken, rice and plantains with black beans at Cafe Brazil in Culver City.
(Meghan McCarron )

Cafe Brasil

Culver City Brazilian $
With brightly painted mismatched tables, vases of fresh flowers and a bright, eclectic decor, Café Brasil transports you from busy Washington Boulevard to a much more relaxed state of mind. The restaurant opened in 1991 in another location on Venice Boulevard. This second location was taken over by Roberto Garcia last year after the owners retired, after he’d worked there for 30 years. The classics, in other words, are in safe hands. Highlights include a Brazilian-style breakfast of scrambled eggs, collards, and plantains, as well as traditional stewy dishes like feijoada and stroganoff. The executive lunch, which offers a meat with combo of rice black beans and plantains, is an especially good deal.
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A sandwich from the deli counter at Cantinho Brazil in Los Angeles.
(Meghan McCarron)

Cantinho Brasileiro

Palms Brazilian $
A tiny pickup window hidden at the deli counter inside Latin supermarket El Camaguey, Cantinho Brasileiro turns out an impressive spread of salgados (Brazilian snacks), plates and sandwiches. It’s a perfect place to stop for lunch and grab a coxinha (fried, triangular pastry) filled with chicken and Catupiry cheese, or a linguica (Brazilian sausage) sandwich, and maybe some groceries as well. There’s one table out front in the parking lot. It works.
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Esquina Brazil restaurant in Los Angeles has a focus on pizza.
(Meghan McCarron)

Esquina Brasil

Culver City Brazilian $
The former Bella Vista pizza in the Brazilian Mall transformed into a three-way kitchen during the pandemic. Two of those tenants have left again, and the restaurant is now run by the same owners as Cantinho Brasil, Edu Moreira and Bruna David, who are from the southern part of the country. Esquina Brasil’s menu is in the process of being revamped, but David says pizza will remain a big focus, including the Brazilian style of all-you-can-eat called rodizio. “You sit down, and we’re going to keep bringing pizzas of all sorts of flavors, kind of like when you go to a Brazilian steakhouse and they keep bringing meat on skewers,” she says.
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Pampas Grill

Culver City Brazilian $$
To truly experience the variety of Brazilian cuisine, consider the buffet. The second location of Pampas Grill in Culver City’s shopping center offers a dazzling variety: cold dishes like potato salad and hearts of palm, hot comfort food like garlic rice, chicken stroganoff, and the black bean stew feijoada, and a large churrasco menu of meats from bacon-wrapped chicken to the traditional top sirloin cut, picanha, all sold by the pound.
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Barbecue plate at Brazilian BBQ in Culver City.
(Meghan McCarron)

Brazilian BBQ

Palms Brazilian $$
On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at the corner of Sepulveda and Palms, a Brazilian barbecue pop-up serves plates of grilled meats with sides of rice, beans or fries — its speciality is picanha. There are also Brazilian sweets from Tea O’Clock, a friend’s business. Owners Fernanda Barcelos Martins and her husband, Watson Costa, owned a restaurant in Belo Horizonte in Brazil, and when they moved to the U.S., they were inspired by L.A.’s street food culture to try their own stand. They’ve recently branched into catering too.
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Pedroca's Burgers in Los Angeles.
(Meghan McCarron)

Pedroca’s Burguer

Lawndale Brazilian $
During the pandemic, Pedro Carvalho started making Brazilian-style burgers in his kitchen and posting them on Instagram. Friends and family asked him why he didn’t sell them, so he decided to give it a try. Burgers stacked with a dizzying array of toppings (called x-tudo) are ubiquitous in Brazil but difficult to find in L.A.. After two years of operating out of the Brazilian Mall, he and his brother opened their own restaurant a month ago in Lawndale. Go with a big appetite and a hunger for excess: Their speciality, the X Cabuloso, comes loaded with bacon, ham, a fried egg, a hot dog and the classic potato sticks and corn, as well as mozzarella cheese. They serve hot dogs Brazilian-style as well, and acai bowls, for those who haven’t come to load up on meat.
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The specialty at Sabor Da Bahia, acarajé, a black-eyed pea fritter stuffed with a bread crumb puree.
(Meghan McCarron)

Sabor da Bahia

Palms Brazilian $$
Afro-Brazilian cuisine is rare in Los Angeles, and one of the finest examples is the catering operation Sabor da Bahia, run by Ilma Wright and Renni Silva. Their specialty is acarajé, a black-eyed pea fritter stuffed with a bread crumb puree called vatapa, sauteed dried shrimp and a tomato salad. Renni Silva says the dish took her a great deal of trial and error to perfect, “It’s a simple recipe, but if you don’t get the density of the dough correct, you’ll lose it when you fry. I learned practicing, practicing, practicing.” Meals can be ordered a day or two in advance and picked up in Palms. They are also regularly popping up on Saturdays at Quitanda Family Market in Reseda, where the acarajé has generated long lines; check their Instagram for dates.
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