Wrapped in the aromatic embrace of Zona Sul Churrascaria’s smoldering barbecue pit, up to four friends gather over unending portions of Brazilian meats, rice, and vegetables. Diners pile thick slices of meat onto their plates as they gaze in wonder at the crackling sirloin steaks and pork sausages skewered on spits over the flames. Beef ribs line up in rows as foursomes hammer out xylophonic bossa nova songs with their forks, and chicken thighs strut to samba beats on palate dance floors. A bountiful salad bar complements the orchestra of sizzling proteins with rice, green vegetables, and whole onions painted to resemble soccer balls.
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.
Though churrasca restaurants are popping up everywhere, Ivan Utrera is generally recognized as the first bold soul to open a Brazilian steakhouse in America, bringing family recipes from his native city of Sao Paulo. For nearly 20 years, Rodizio Grill's teams of gauchos have presented three-foot skewers of rotisserie-grilled meats tableside, giving guests the opportunity to sample as much as they can shake their fork at. The selection of seasoned meats includes picanha com parmesao—sirloin encrusted with parmesan—and frango agri-doce, chicken glazed in a sweet and spicy sauce. The gauchos also present skewered fruits and vegetables, including Rodizio's signature grilled pineapple.
The menu keeps it simple with only a few other embellishments, but they certainly share the spotlight with the churrasca. Unlimited appetizers include polenta and banana poppers, and a gourmet salad bar features whipped potatoes, Brazilian black-bean stew, and grilled veggies with parmesan cheese. Everything is homemade, including the desserts and the specialty limeades concocted from fresh limes and sweet cream. Because the menu is centered on meat and vegetables, 90% of the restaurant's dishes are gluten-free and wouldn't know the first thing about how to approach a carb at a dance party.