After 15 years in the pizza business, Chef Ronaldo Gomes opened Copacabana Pizzeria, with a menu that melds Brazilian flavors with casual American standards. His Brazilian-style pizzas come covered with a melted layer of catupiry cheese, a Brazilian favorite, as well as Latin-style ingredients ranging from hearts of palm to calabresa sausage or pepperoni, mushrooms, and other classic ingredients. Their Brazilian Monster Burgers offer a three-dimensional alternative to flat pizza planes. These towering sandwiches are stacked high with grilled chicken, sirloin steak, corn, peas, potato sticks, and other ingredients that barely fit between a warm bun. Mangos, guava, and other tropical fruit blend together to form caipirinhas and other Brazilian-style drinks perfectly suited to lubricating both conversations and the most righteous Slip-and-Slides.
Twelve chefs clad in black uniforms and red hats stand at attention over tableside hibachis. All eyes on them, they start to play with their food: the culinary wizards wave lobster tails at guests, set onions aflame, and flip shrimp high in the air to land in their tall hats. “It is not just about the food, it’s about the show,” says Sumo Japanese Steakhouse owner Brad Meltzer. “The show brings you in and the food brings you back.”
Prior to landing on the hibachi grill, beef is butchered in-house and dressed in its Sunday best. Filet mignon shares grilling space with salmon, chicken, tuna, and scallops dipped in house-made ginger sauce. Meltzer and a small army of trained sushi chefs designed their menu of more than two dozen nigiri and sashimi rolls to please even the prickliest taste buds. Meltzer himself favors the 210 roll, a cyclone of scallops, shrimp, and crab slathered in sweet-and-spicy sauce and topped with crabstick, eel sauce, spicy mayo, and a snowfall of tempura flakes.
Though chef Daniel Nemec specialized in classic French cuisine at the Texas Culinary Academy, his heart lies in the smokehouse. As the leader of Woodfire Kirby’s kitchen, he draws from his experiences growing up in Corpus Christi, where steaks and barbecue pepper the culinary landscape and are considered legal tender.
Nemec imbues hickory flavor in ribs, chops, and sirloin burgers, but demonstrates the wood’s versatility with a menu that also includes wood-fired soups and thin-crust pizzas. New york strip steaks and blue-ribbon fillets are cooked to a choice of six temperatures, including classic medium rare and charred-yet-red pittsburgh. Available raw, grilled, or poached, seafood showcases spices that range from asian to argentine to creole.
A private room welcomes up to 48 visitors with a high-definition TV and four banquet menus, and the dining room attracts nighttime guests with handcrafted cocktails and a buzz as vibrant as a birthday party inside a hornet nest.
Jeff Blank and his kitchen crew like to joke that other cooks must suffer from a "fear of cooking." That's because, for the award-winning chef, cooking is a kind of alchemy—an ambitious experiment that is sometimes fated to fail. But when it works, Jeff and his Executive Chef Kelly Casey transform fresh ingredients, often plucked from local farms and ranches, into piquant dishes adorned with housemade sauces, such as tomatillo white chocolate, mango jalapeño, and bourbon vanilla praline. Behind the kitchen, a stone smokehouse infuses ostrich, rattlesnake, and venison meats with dusky notes, creating entrees that have won them recognition for the Best Wild Game Dish from readers of the Austin Chronicle.
Diners take in the gustatory array on a patio and in a garden gazebo, surrounded by vegetable plants, flowers, and trees wrapped in petite nodes of light. Even the rustic, upscale décor—characterized by soft candlelight, red tablecloths, and vibrant paintings along exposed-stone walls—has earned acclaim, finding favorable mention in the New York Times' travel guide.
Prestigious head chef Jon Bonnell and his team of culinary artists cook using strokes of regional style with spices that fuse southwestern, Creole, and Mexican influences. The lunch menu oozes flavor with a fire-roasted chili relleno, stuffed with grilled vegetables, basil pesto, and cheese ($15). The dinner menu includes the mixed grill, where homemade Andouille sausage and a wild boar chop are topped with wild game demi-glace and served with roasted green chili cheese grits and grilled cactus. Then, add a choice of elk or buffalo tenderloin, grilled organic quail, lamb loin, pheasant, or a griffon flank steak ($35+).
The Great American Land and Cattle Company provides steaks that are cut onsite and cooked precisely to specifications. They arrive with an eclectic smorgasboard of sides: pineapple coleslaw, fries or veggies, and "Texas caviar"—that is, beans. The most popular cut is the tender ribeye, but the menu has all degrees of fanciness covered, from filet mignon to country-fried steak in gravy to steakburgers. If you'd like yours extra-spicy, you can order it tampiqueña—covered with grilled onions and green chilies or jalapeños.
Though the company produces its many seasonings and sauces with steak in mind, the kitchen's not a beef-only zone. It also makes room for pulled-pork sandwiches, Cajun-style chicken, and charbroiled cold-water lobster tails, among other proteins. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, music and other live entertainment drifts through the dining room and onto the patio as the mountains in the background sway gently to the beat.