The O.G. of Brazilian steakhouses has arrived in the East Valley! With over 20 locations across the United States, this is Rodizio Grill’s first Arizona location. The restaurant took over the space of TQLA that shuttered its doors over the summer. Then after some remodeling, Rodizio Grill officially opened in Dana Park on November 15, just in time for the holidays.
A Little History
As the first Brazilian “churrascaria” (steakhouse) in the United States, Rodizio Grill has had a long history (20 years!) of sharing Brazilian style barbecue here in America. Rodizio Grill was established in 1995 by native Brazilian Ivan Utrera who was born in São Paulo. Per the company’s website, Utrera enjoyed traditional Brazilian “churrasco” style of dining growing up. This style of barbecue started in southern Brazil and involved a crew of gauchos holding meter-long skewers of meat grilled over open fire and carved at the table. So using family recipes along with creating new ones, the Utrera family brought their authentic Brazilian cuisine and concept to the United States. Mr. Utrera, his mother Carmen, his aunt Marina, and other family members continue to be hands-on with the restaurant operations to this day.
The Churrascaria Experience
First, if you are a churrascaria rookie like I was, I only associated Brazilian steakhouses with an unthinkable amount of meat. Therefore, I came prepared and skipped lunch that day. At the table, my server instructed us to use what looked like a little wooden dumbbell with a red block on one end and a green block on the other end. This was ours to control. Flipping the green side up meant that we were ready for gauchos to offer us meats. One by one they would float through the restaurant with their meats on skewers, looking for green signals. The meat keeps coming until we flip it to red side up. The red side offers a nice pause between eating slabs of delicious meat. Finally, when we are ready for dessert or the check, leveling the blocks signaled for our server.
Now, it is not just meats available to try. At Rodizio Grill you start off at the self-serve salad bar. They offer a hearty buffet with a variety of hot and cold food items. This includes rice and pastas, mixed greens, accoutrements, sauces, and Brazilian sides dishes. However, be careful as you can fill up quite easily on the salad bar alone. There are approximately 30 gourmet items at any given time, not including the side dishes like bananas fritas (cinnamon-glazed bananas) and pão de queijo (a Brazilian cheese bread made with gluten-free yucca flour and cheese) that the servers bring to the table.
The gauchos wear coordinated embroidered uniforms and are ever present throughout the dining room. After doing the rounds with their skewers, gauchos rush back to the kitchen and quickly bring out more meats. There are several types of meat options such as beef, poultry, pork, lamb, and fish/seafood. Although the availability of the latter two will depend on the location. Additionally, a fresh glazed and grilled pineapple, called abacaxí (pronounced ah-bakah-shee) is also gaucho-served as a sweet accompaniment to the meats. Overall, it was a treat to have the meats carved tableside. The gluttonous instant gratification side of me was very happy.
Then when you are ready for dessert, the server will provide a visual menu in the form of a tray with several to choose from. It is tough to pick one even after eating what feels like a whole cow but you cannot go wrong with any of them.
Also, I should mention that the restaurant offers a full-service bar. They offer traditional cocktails like the caipirinha but also signature cocktails, fresh-pressed juices, and homemade Brazilian Limeades. I have heard rave reviews about those limeades but I did not get a chance to try it.
So no, I did not walk out of there feeling like a Brazilian supermodel but I was quite satisfied with my first Brazilian steakhouse experience. There seems to be something for everyone which makes this a wonderful option for large group or family dining. Also the lively, social atmosphere is suitable for any occasion. If you have tried Rodizio Grill before or have stopped by this new location, let me know what you think!
For more information about Rodizio Grill, please visit their website: http://www.rodiziogrill.com/mesa-gilbert/