Brazilian-born owners Vagmar Stoffel and Rubiano Aguiar sought to create a community dining experience at Rio's Steakhouse, evoking gustatory memories of their hometowns. Rodizio-style dining allows guests to remain seated while attentive churrascaria waiters continually fill empty plates from skewers of slow-cooked beef, chicken, and pork, which they gingerly carve tableside. In between platefuls, diners can temporarily stop the flow of cuisine with either a color-coded coaster or a cleverly placed soccer ball, buying themselves time to visit the ever-changing buffet of hot sides and salad fixings.
As guests pass under Lewis' Restaurant and Grille's festive blue marquee, they enter an inviting world of Americana, with a bar that has been in place for generations and a kitchen offering up the appetizing aroma of freshly baked pizzas and Angus beef burgers. Guests share plates of buttermilk pancakes and eggs benedict during Sunday brunches and savor the tastes of inventive burgers and sandwiches, such as caprese-salad burgers or chicken-pesto sandwiches drizzled with balsamic reduction, all week long. Upscale haddock and salmon entrees satisfy refined palates, and a spread of bar food pleases crowds with chicken-finger baskets, tots, and tuna melts.
Though it has welcomed in families and bar regulars for decades, Lewis' has recently updated its interior with new bamboo flooring in the dining room and crisp dollar bills in the bar's cash register. Patrons regularly join in special events hosted by the bar, such as Tuesday-night trivia, where first-placers win a cash prize.
SoulFire Barbeque’s chefs fashion succulent entrees and sandwiches around tender cuts of hickory-smoked ribs, pork, and chicken accompanied to the table by classic Southern sides. Each day begins when chefs load the smoker with choice cuts of meat that spent the previous night marinating in dry rubs or special brines to infuse them with flavor and keep them juicy and moist. Pork shoulders, briskets, and ribs can spend up to 16 hours tenderizing in the grill, as the barbecue pros keep a watchful eye on each succulent selection, pulling it out just as the meat starts to pull away from the bone but before it has a total change of heart. Chefs then dress each dish in a choice of barbecue sauces from around the nation, from the peppery, vinegar-laden notes favored in North Carolina to the tomato-heavy flavors beloved in Kansas City.
While they soak up extra sauce with a side of house-made cornbread, diners can revel in the sound of owner Wyeth Lynch’s other passion––soul music. Lending an air of authenticity to the restaurant’s Memphis–inspired vibe, the sultry grooves are left on 24 hours a day at the request of the marinating meats, which take inspiration from the tender croonings of Al Green.
At each of Oliveira's Steakhouse four locations, the crackling sizzle of roasting meat ring’s out like a starter’s pistol, signaling the beginning of Brazilian-style churrasco feasts. Weaving between tables, servers garbed in black shirts and scarlet neckerchiefs trot out flame-kissed chicken, pork, sausage, and rodízio steak presented upon a meat-laden short sword suitable for speedy delivery or elevating a busboy to knighthood. A salad bar supplements meaty mouthfuls with plates of leafy greens, rice, beans, and sauce-laden noodles.
“Who says northerners can’t do ‘cue?” asked Boston magazine as it crowned Blue Ribbon BBQ on its Best of Boston list in 2011. Whether dished out from its two brick-and-mortar locations or its trailer, the restaurant’s tender meats are lauded for their slow-cooked, pit-smoked tenderness, infused with the flavors of hickory and oak hardwoods. Blue Ribbon dishes out memphis dry-rubbed ribs, Texas-style beef brisket, and Kansas City–style burnt ends dubbed “absolutely addictive” by Boston. Locally made hot-smoked sausage and Mr. Whitner’s smoked-turkey-breast sandwiches help round out the menu alongside Southern sides such as dirty rice, potato salad, and corn bread. Blue Ribbon BBQ also caters special events and sells bottles of its most popular sauces so guests can enhance their grandmother’s recipes or add flavor to their super-soaker fights.
Smoke is the barbecuer master's livelihood, but it's a delicate substance—too much and your meat tastes charred, too little and it's bland. Thankfully, Chris Thompson and Kate Economides have learned to tame the fickle ingredient. They smoke all of their meats on-site at Blackstrap BBQ, monitoring the slow-cooked pieces for hours on end. Their supply of oak wood lends a deliciously burnt tinge to brisket, sausage, chicken, and ribs, which are then rubbed with spices and arranged with down-home sides.
It can be hard to pick your meal, though, as The Boston Globe magazine attests: "Everything on the blackboard is irresistible." A classic single-meat plate comes with two sides and cornbread, but you can also pile sauce-covered bites between sandwich buns, which let you eat with your hands instead of large, unwieldy jai alai scoops. Then there's the Hog—a kielbasa wrapped in bacon, smoked, fried, and put on a roll. Most entrees come with sides, ranging from baked beans and collard greens to sweet-maple mashed potatoes.
Depending on your choice of meat, you get to sample different regional tastes. Ribs get a Memphis-style dry rub, whereas the pulled pork follows North and South Carolina traditions, and the brisket is all Texas. Kate and Chris serve these signature suppers from their Winthrop kitchen, but they also convey them to events through their catering business, Tastyplates.