Tempero do Brasil transports diners' taste buds to the northeastern state of Bahia and beyond with a menu of authentic Brazilian fare. Feijoada, a savory black bean stew and the national dish of the Portuguese-speaking republic ($17), swims with ham hocks, sausages, and beef and arrives with an entourage of rice, sautéed collard greens, and orange slices. In the traditional moqueca de camaräo ($18) expertly trained prawns and vegetables perform a smoldering samba amid coconut milk, lime juice, and palm oil and the festa ($15) loads sautéed mushrooms and parmesan cheese into a baked-squash boat and sends it sailing into tomato-sauce seas. Seal the meal with a dose of caramel-flan dessert ($5) trained in the art of capoeira. Tempero do Brasil showcases live Brazilian music Saturday nights, filling the air with the distinctly South American sounds of the bossa nova and the glockenspiel.
"Fumaça" means "smoke" in Portuguese, and it's an apt name for this steakhouse. The obvious connection is that the cooks roast their meats in a mesquite charcoal grill, which releases aromatic smoke as it intensifies the flavor of the cuts. But there's another reason why smoke is especially relevant: it travels, far and freely. Fumaça's menu does the same, gathering dishes from Colombia, Peru, Puerto Rico, and of course, Brazil.
Inside the restaurant's sleekly modern confines, Peruvian halibut ceviche can be ordered alongside pork belly rubbed with Caribbean spices, or a Puerto Rican octopus cocktail salad. The ingredients defy international boundaries even further—many of them are local, such as the grass-fed and organic meat, whereas others come from as far away as the Amazon. But while the protein might be from the northwest, there's no denying that the rodizio dinners are a Brazilian invention. Guests sample different cuts of beef, poultry, lamb, and pork during the extravagant all-you-can-eat meal. There's also a long list of wines and cocktails, including specialty drinks made from tropical fruits including guava, passion fruit, and grapes that were wearing sunglasses.
When night falls over southern Brazil, groups of gauchos gather around flickering fire pits and celebrate the end of another day by slowly grilling meat over the open flames. Novilhos Brazilian Steakhouse aims to capture the spirit of these traditional meals by hosting all-you-can-eat churrasco feasts that Zagat scored as "very good to excellent."
The chefs roast up more than a dozen cuts of meat, including filet mignon, bacon-wrapped chicken, lamb chops, and pork sausages. Servers dressed as gauchos parade these freshly grilled skewers throughout the dining room, stopping at diners' seats and offering to carve them slices tableside. In between these protein-laden servings, guests can visit the salad bar and load their plates up with more than 60 different side dishes, such as fresh-cut vegetables and imported cheeses.
Like a shape-shifter with ADD, executive chef and Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute graduate Matt Colony's menu changes constantly, taking inspiration from legendary steakhouses while drawing from a rich array of local ingredients. Maxwell's most recent board of fare opened with delicacies such as smoked eggplant and white bean puree ($7), a selection of house-pickled vegetables ($5), and seared yellow fin ahi tuna ($14) with warm red-lentil puree. The curtain the raised on signature steaks of 16-ounce rib eye ($29), 7-ounce filet mignon ($30), and 10-ounce flat iron ($23)—all cooked to order and side-kicked with horseradish-infused whipped potatoes, sautéed vegetables, sherry mushroom sauce, and fried onion rings. If ordering the cider-brined pork chop ($19) has you worried that the pig's relatives will hunt you down and seek vengeance, Maxwell's features a slew of seafaring sea fare such as pan-seared weathervane scallops ($26), sautéed Alaskan halibut ($25), and Maxwell's chioppino ($25)—which hosts a pool party of steamed clams, mussels, shrimp, roasted sockeye salmon, and half grilled lobster tail in spicy fennel-tomato broth amid grilled sourdough bread. All dishes can find a leggy tango partner on Maxwell's wine list, but bring a back-up stomach for a decadent dessert of custard-soaked cinnamon-roll bread pudding ($7) or the crème brûlée of the day ($5).
If you want a side of two-step with your steak, then downtown Tacoma is your best bet. An homage to country cooking and culture, Steel Creek treats visitors to certified Angus steaks and burgers, potent whiskey cocktails, and a lively dance floor. Tuesdays and Thursday nights mean lessons in two-step and line dancing, which prep students for the live music and DJs at weekend country parties.
Before the revelry begins, guests pair entrees from prime rib to pot roast with drinks that incorporate moonshine and sweet-tea vodka. Whiskey enthusiasts, meanwhile, consult a long list of drinks from both local distilleries and other countries. If you're feeling lucky, you might spin the Drink Wheel for instant cocktail specials, or feed fake oats to the mechanical bull in hopes of gaining its trust.