A handsome man in flouncy pants is standing next to our table proffering a skewer of sizzling delicious-looking filets mignons. To quote Freddy Mercury: Is this real life? Is this just fantasy? Turns out, it's Texas de Brazil, a restaurant where steak reigns supreme and comes complete with a traditional Brazilian gaucho ballet worthy of my undivided attention. A single coaster next to each plate acts as a stoplight. Green side up: bring on the fire-roasted beasts. Red side: gimme a pause for the cause, fellas. Texas de Brazil is a restaurant that uses Brazilian-style cooking on Texas-style cuts of meat, and where the sizzling skewers keep coming till you beg for mercy. It is called a churrascaria.
On a recent visit we tried to sample the entire experience. There are no menus here. The servers explain the process, and off you go. Dinners run $49.99 a person, and that is an excellent value considering quality, quantity and variety of offerings. Each meal starts with a trip to the salad bar. But this is not a run-of-the-mill-anemic-lettuce situation. This salad bar is stocked with 50 (fifty!) gourmet foodstuffs. From veggies to cheeses to charcuterie to smoked fish to appetizers, this is the Michael Jordan of salad bars. You don't want to miss it. In fact, those who don't fancy all things carnivore would be happy with just the salad bar, I would bet. And so does the restaurant: salad bar is available for purchase on its own, sans meat skewers. Turns out this meat-centric restaurant is flexible enough for dietary restrictions of vegetarians and gluten-free diners. Did I mention the gluten-free cheese bread that comes with the meal? Heavenly...
After the ample helping of Michael Jordan of salad bars we moved on to the main event. Bring on the gauchos! Before the onslaught of meat we got small servings of fried bananas and garlicky mashed potatoes, the only two sides offered here because trust me, it ain't about them side dishes, y'all. Green coaster side up, and we are off! A well-paced and immaculately choreographed parade of handsome men in gaucho pants twirls around our table, each one offering his own brief center stage solo. Several cuts of beef, lamb, pork, chicken and sausage all make an appearance. "How do you like it cooked?" Perfect medium rare slices drape onto our plates after being expertly sliced by frighteningly large knives. We sample as much as we can stuff in: meltingly tender filet mignon (wrapped in bacon and plain), leg of lamb and chops, parmesan crusted pork tenderloin, chicken legs, ribs, Brazilian sausage... The greatest meaty bite of the night is picanha: beef sirloin cap that retains the fat until the steak is cooked. This unusual cut is favored in Brazil, and is Texas de Brazil's specialty of the house. Meat. Coma. Red coaster side goes up.
We wash our plates down with traditional caipirinhas, while an ample dessert tray is presented. Choices are varied, all beautiful and generously portioned. I opt for key lime pie that I can in no way finish. Game over.
On Saturday October 13th Texas de Brazil will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a caipirinha toast timed in synch with all locations. They have been around the block for two decades, no small feat. Today, as I imagine twenty years ago, they are still bustling with meat-lovers. It's a busy place, but the standard of quality remains high even during the most hectic service. No one is cutting corners here. So, a toast is in order, I think. Here's to another 20, Texas de Brazil! Let's put a candle on the skewer of picanha and make a wish...
Texas de Brazil has two locations in the Chicagoland area: Streeterville & Schaumburg.
The Local Tourist dinner for two courtesy of Texas de Brazil.
All photos courtesy of Texas de Brazil.