Skewered cuts of sirloin, brazilian sausage, and pork ribs rotate slowly over a sweltering grill, their savory juices producing a rhythmic hiss as each drop hits the metal. This is churrasco, Xodó Grill's specialty. Once the traditional Brazilian barbecue has roasted to a tender finish, the staff slices off juicy morsels for customers to pair with 12 types of salads and a slate of hot dishes from the colorful buffet. Heaping plates of fried yucca, picanha, and cheese bread await the scales, which customers use to pay by the pound and Lady Justice uses to smuggle extra cuts of steak.
Brazilian Steak House | Award-Winning Churrasco | Hot-Food Buffet | Caipirinha Cocktails | Fixed-Price Menu
How it Works: During this all-you-can-eat fine-dining experience, customers are first seated at tables bedecked with white linens. Then, a server parades out a selection of 16 churrascaria meats, carving off a portion of skewered beef, lamb, pork, or chicken. A two-sided, colored coaster—green for "keep it coming," red for "I'm stuffed"—lets the staff know if you'd like seconds or thirds. Diners can also help themselves to the buffet of salad fixings and side dishes.
Inside Tip: Vegetarians can skip out on the meat and pay a reduced price for the salad and sides buffets. The extensive salad bar is filled with traditional choices as well as tabbouleh and pickled shiitake, and the hot side dishes include a "mashed potato so smooth it could pass for crème fraîche," according to OC Weekly.
Caipirinha: a Brazilian cocktail made with the sugarcane-based spirit cachaça and lime juice
If You Can’t Make It, Try This: Amazon Churrascaria BBQ Buffet (1445 S. Lemon Street, Fullerton), more casual—but no less authentic—spot for Brazilian cuisine according to the Los Angeles Times.
Brazilian churrascarias—a kind of Portuguese barbeque joint—have their roots in traditional celebrations of a successful harvest. At modern churrascarias, waiters walk around with skewers or roasted meat, cutting off all-you-can-eat portions of steak, pork, and chicken directly onto your plate. Diners interested in rounding out a years' worth of protein can find endless accompaniments at the salad bar and buffet of Brazilian hot dishes or try traditional drinks such as caipirinha or guarana, a Brazilian soda.
Perched atop the hills of its namesake, Orange County Mining Co. pairs an eight-part champagne brunch with 19th-century nostalgia, as wagon wheels and cacti impart a rugged prickle to the restaurant's cozy atmosphere. The brunch offerings warm diners with carved prime rib and ham, cheese blintz, and other toasty tastes, before cooling palates with iced shrimp, snow crab legs, and lox. Ravenous miners can pile culinary ore into made-to-order omelettes, pancakes, and waffles, or gather steam with tamales and menudo at executive chef Horacio Barragan's Mexican station. To cap off appetites, baked delicacies and other sweets are either devoured or skewered for a dunk in the chocolate fountain.
At El Zocalo Mexican Steakhouse, the sounds of sizzling shrimp and chicken fajitas mingle with the horns and strumming guitars of banda and mariachi music. Servers add sight and smell to the sensory party by carting out colorful plates of parillada meat grills. The menu's grilled meats complement a sizable selection of seafood—lobster and salmon, to name a couple. But they also pair nicely with refreshing provisions such as cocktails and buckets of beer sourced from a 21-and-over sandbox.
Named after a French WWI airplane, Nieuport 17 pays homage to aviation, displaying a dense collection of flight-themed artifacts and artwork amid dark-wood panels, low lighting, and crackling fireplaces. The food, however, is just as impressive as the decor. The restaurant's tuna tartare was one of OC Weekly's 100 favorite dishes of 2013, and CBS2 named the lemon sour-cream pie one of its best summer desserts. And those are just a few of the dishes that come out of Nieuport 17's kitchen, headed by executive chef Cody Storts.
A Culinary Calling
In 2013, OC Metro magazine named Storts one of the best chefs in Orange County. The graduate of LA's Le Cordon Bleu began his journey in the front of the house, though. It was only after bartending and managing at various area restaurants that he realized the kitchen was his calling.
A self-proclaimed "kitchen ninja," Storts relishes the challenge of unusual ingredients and unexpected pairings. This approach helped him craft the menus at a number of celebrated eateries. After appearing in several guest-chef events at Nieuport 17, he eventually took the helm.
Here, he holds weekly tasting events, testing ingredients and recipes before adding them to the menu. At his side are the self-titled Culinary Militia, Storts' trusted band of chefs, pastry makers, and mixologists.