Pay What It Weighs: An Ode to the Brazilian Kilo Restaurant

Brazil Kilo Restaurant, Quilo Restaurant
The good eats on display at a Brazilian buffet. (Porto Bay Hotels & Resorts via Flickr)

A friend and former coworker once told me that when she thinks of me, 2 things immediately spring to mind: ’80s music dance parties and “GIT IN MAH BELLY.”

Yup, there’s my legacy.

See, when I’m not busting an interpretive dance move to some old-school Duran Duran (try slithering across the floor during “Hungry Like the Wolf” while a friend pretend-dangles raw meat in front of you — I promise it’ll look really cool), I like to eat.

And when I’m very hungry, or very excited about my meal, I do have a tendency to get all Fat Bastard and yell, “Git in mah belly!”

If I had a tagline it would be, “Small girl, big appetite.”

And so, upon discovering that Brazilian restaurants have a propensity for pay-what-it-weighs “kilo” restaurants, known here as a restaurante por quilo — where you pile up food from a buffet and the price of your meal is determined by how many kilograms your plate weighs.

Now, typically, I find buffets completely uncivilized. They call to mind greedy, pasty people elbowing one another in Vegas buffets or at a cruise ship buffet.

Not so, in Brazil. People here patiently line up, do not pile on the kilos excessively, and to boot, the quality of food is pretty primo. You’ll find beans, rice, meats, vegetables, pastries, casseroles and salads galore.

There’s an awful lot of healthy options, as well, including quinoa and chickpea salads. Plus, I found my nirvana upon discovering some of these restaurants include absolutely delectable sushi, as well.

Brazil Kilo Restaurant, Quilo Restaurant
A typical, heaping buffet plate. (Martin Kalfatovic via Flickr)

Also, keep in mind, some kilo restaurants also offer an option for an all-you-can-eat buffet. These really aren’t my jam, since I don’t typically eat enough to make the cost worthwhile.

It can be intimidating for non-Portuguese-speaking travelers (giving myself a sidelong glance), to bust into one of the supremely busy kilo restaurants, where the situation can resemble a feeding frenzy free-for-all.

Generally speaking, here’s the drill for the busier pay-by-weight kilos:

  • Upon entering, grab a card or slip of paper from someone by the door, handing them out.
  • Grab a plate and go to town.
  • Bring your plate to a counter where someone with a scale is weighing plates. This person will mark your ticket with the cost.
  • Sit down and a waitperson will take your drink order, and also mark your ticket with the beverage price.
  • When you’ve finished your meal, bring your ticket on up to the register and pay. You’ll be given a stub to present to a person at the door, who is collecting the stubs to account for all people paying before the beat a hasty retreat.

Go forth and eat well, friends.

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