Santo Brúklin. Photo: Catharina Capps
Brazil has a thriving culture, famous for things such as Carnaval, samba music and the country’s diverse cuisine. New York City is not only a leading destination for Brazilian visitors but also a place to find elements of that culture, thanks to the many Brazilians who have settled here and brought their traditions with them.
According to Daniela Levy, historian and author of De Recife para Manhattan, the first immigrants to New York City (then New Amsterdam) from Brazil were a group of Jews from the northern city of Recife, fleeing the Inquisition around 1655. These days, estimates indicate that more than . Read on for some of the best ways to explore Brazilian culture in the five boroughs.
Little Brazil. Photo: Daniel Harel
Little Brazil, in Midtown Manhattan on 46th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, has been known historically as the City’s Brazilian commercial enclave, and the street sign displays that moniker—though today Astoria has more Brazilian shops and eateries. There is still a small concentration of Brazilian restaurants on the block and in the nearby Midtown streets that let you know you are in the right place, and many of them fly the unmistakable green and yellow of Brazil’s flag.
The street comes to life on NYC’s renowned festival, which began there in 1984. This annual event, held the Sunday before Labor Day, celebrates Brazil’s independence with food, music and dancing. It draws well over 1 million visitors from around the world and spans 20 or so city blocks.
Courtesy, Churrascaria Plataforma
316 W. 49th St., Midtown West, Manhattan
Several Brazilian establishments in the City make you feel as though you have been transported to Brazil. The traditional Brazilian steakhouse has been a staple in NYC for over 20 years. A sister restaurant to the original in Rio de Janeiro, Plataforma was one of America’s first Brazilian steakhouses. Passadores (meat cutters) go from table to table serving portions of picanha (steak), chicken, beef and lamb. Try the pão de queijo and papaya cream for dessert.
Buzios. Photo: Daniel Harel
17-19 W. 45th St., 8th fl., Midtown West, Manhattan
A less obvious gem is , one block south of the street designated as Little Brazil. It feels like a small Rio de Janeiro market, with products directly from Brazil such as acai, pão de queijo (cheese bread) and specialty soaps.
Courtesy, NYC Mindful Capoiera Center.
Learning capoeira is a great way to immerse yourself in a Brazilian tradition. Much more than a martial art, this combination of dance, music and sport represents the culture and history of Africans who arrived in Brazil as enslaved people. Take classes in academies such as , and .
240 E. 52nd St., Midtown East, Manhattan
provides the opportunity for local and nonresident Brazilian artists to exhibit their work; it also has an extensive library and a gallery on hand. Offerings include exhibitions, films and performances, and you can take Portuguese classes here too.
32-15 36th Ave., Astoria, Queens
is an authentic Brazilian market, with specialty items such as farofa (toasted cassava flour), potato straw, minas cheese, calabrese sausage, cheese bread and tapioca. A small on-site restaurant serves typical Brazilian dishes made to order.
31-13 36th Ave., Astoria, Queens
Santo Brúklin. Photo: Catharina Capps
548 Court St, Carroll Gardens, and 232 N. 12th St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn
serves some of the best moqueca (shrimp stew) in NYC, and a not-to-be-missed brunch menu highlighted by pão de queijo eggs Benedict. Vegan options are also available; eat inside or in the cozy outdoor dining area. A sister restaurant sits by McCarren Park in Williamsburg.
45 Richardson St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn
’s relaxed atmosphere and outdoor seating are reminiscent of street bars in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. It’s an ideal place to spend hours hanging out with friends and family while enjoying traditional Brazilian cuisine and delicious caipirinhas (try the variation made with passion fruit).
57 S. 5th St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn
may have been the first Brazilian restaurant to open in Brooklyn. Since 2008, it has been a popular neighborhood spot for dining, music and dancing. On weekends, forró (a popular musical style from northern Brazil usually featuring an accordion, triangle and drum) bands perform live.
Quenia Ribeiro. Courtesy, Cumbe Dance
Restoration Plaza, 1368 Fulton St., Crown Heights, Brooklyn
If you want to know how to shake your hips to live percussion just like Carnaval-goers do, sign up for a class at . Brazilian artist Quenia Ribeiro gives Afro-Brazilian samba lessons every Wednesday; on Mondays, dancer Danielle Lima leads a class in samba and other Brazilian styles.