It’s hard to believe that the first rodizio-style Brazilian steakhouse restaurant in the U.S. opened only 30 years ago.
In Brazil churrasco (Portuguese for "barbecue") refers to the way the meat is cooked, on skewers, usually above charcoal. A restaurant serving this kind of food is called a churrascaria (Portuguese for "steakhouse.") The concept of serving the grilled meat directly off the rotisserie spit, with diners paying a fixed price is called rodizio. Originating in the Southern region of Brazil, most of the rodizios were merely roadside shacks. The format proved so popular in the States, that in a short time, it became synonymous with Brazilian food.
Brothers Arri and Jair Coser bought an old and rustic churrascaria (or "steakhouse") called Fogo de Chão in the city of Porto Alegre. The Coser brothers decided to create a more upscale atmosphere when they brought their chain of restaurants to the U.S. in 1995. Opening in Texas, where they predicted the love of steak equaled that in Brazil. During the next five years, the company opened five locations, one per year, in Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, Beverly Hills, and Washington.
Now Fogo de Chao has recently opened a Fort Lauderdale location, which joins several other established rodizios. At most American rodizios, the diner is given a two-sided chip that alerts the servers (often called gauchos) when to approach the table, or when you need a chance to digest. Most rodizios also offer an extensive salad bar, which vegetarians can often purchase to dine from separately. In such cases, the diner is usually given a chip where the indicator is for no meat. However, the servers are always eager for you to try their wares and sometimes plop the skewer of meat right in front of the vegetarian.
Fogo de Chão
201 E. Las Olas, Fort Lauderdale
Lunch is $43, brunch is $46, and dinner is $61. All include the market table and feijoada (salad) bar and unlimited amounts of the following cuts of meat served tableside: filet mignon, bone-in ribeye, bottom sirloin, pork (seasonal cut) picaňha (Brazilian cut-prime part of the top sirloin), bacon-wrapped chicken and steak, lamb chops, pork, top sirloin, spicy pork sausage, double bone-in pork chop, and chicken. The following side dishes are also included in the salad bar offerings: cheese bread, crispy polenta, mashed potatoes, and caramelized bananas. Indulgent cuts such as Wagyu New York strip, Wagyu ribeye, and dry-aged tomahawk steak, can be added for a substantial price increase ($100+.) The market table and feijoada bar can be purchased on its own for $15 at lunch, $34 at brunch, and dinner. I’m usually in a meat stupor, but desserts are available at an additional cost.
1817 Pointe Blvd., Dania Beach
Although a nationwide chain, Rodizio Grill’s only local location is in the Dania Pointe Mall. While the offerings vary from location to location, the following are usually offered; maminha (a tri-tip sirloin steak cut unique to Rodizio Grill), beef tenderloin with chimichurri sauce, beef topped with fresh parmesan cheese, top sirloin, beef with a special garlic butter sauce, chicken wrapped in bacon, bone-in chicken thigh, sweet and spicy chicken, linguiça (Brazilian sausage), Berkshire pork, presunto (a lean cut of marinated ham), lamb is marinated in garlic, white wine, mint, lemon, and a fresh herbal blend. Fish and seafood selection varies from market to market based on what is available and in season, not all locations always offer fish. Try the fresh glazed and grilled pineapple. It serves lunch for $36.99 and dinner for $46.99, both prices feature unlimited tableside rotisserie service and the salad bar. The salad bar alone is $22.99 at lunch, $29.99 at dinner.
2400 E. Las Olas Blvd. Fort Lauderdale
Chima is unique in that you can NOT get just the salad bar. It does offer a salad bar with a single entrée (one of which is grilled vegetables). The cost for the rodizio and salad bar is $49.90 for Saturday or Sunday lunch, or $42.90 for salad bar plus one select cut of meat, vegetable, or pineapple skewer, dinner is $63.90 for the rodizio and salad bar, it’s $47.90 for the salad bar and entrée.
360 E. McNab Rd., Pompano Beach
This independent Brazilian rodizio offers a freshly prepared salad area with cold and hot items. From the grill, it offers grilled meats such as picaňha, ribeye, flank steak, chicken, lamb, and pork. The salad bar offers a buffet with fresh salads, such as asparagus, potato salad, chicken salad, fresh beets, shrimp salad, and hot items such as white rice, black beans, and mashed potatoes. The rodizio and salad bar is $42, and the salad bar alone is $21.50.
Texas de Brazil
2606 Sawgrass Mills, Sunrise
With eight locations in Florida alone, Texas de Brazil is the big hitter in the group. Selections will vary by location, but among the rodizio offerings are filet mignon, flank steak, petite filet, beef ribs, barbecued pork ribs, parmesan drumettes, and lamb picaňha. The salad bar is quite extensive, with hearts of palm, tabouleh, marinated artichoke hearts, peppadew peppers, crostini, in-house dressings, smoked salmon, goat cheese terrine, shrimp salad, manchego cheese, prosciutto, and pineapple carpaccio,
Dinner served 5 pm.-closing weekdays, 4 p.m.-closing weekends in $52.99, salad bar only $31.99. Weekday lunch M-F noon-3:30, is $30.99 salad bar only $21.99. Weekend lunch S/S noon-3:30 is $39.99, salad bar only $26.99.