For such a decadent culinary tradition, churrasco comes from humble origins. Gauchos in the southernmost region of Brazil would typically end their long days of cattle ranching by meeting around a roaring fire pit, where they prepared family-style meals and roasted skewered meats over the open flames. This tradition lives on in churrascarias throughout the world, allowing diners to experience this rustic style of home cooking in a more formal atmosphere.
At Gaucho Brazilian Steakhouse, the chefs remain faithful to the flavors of those countryside meals. Skewers of as many as 16 different meats—including rib-eye steak, lamb chops, and pork tenderloin—slowly rotate above the grill's flames or a handful of fire-breathing dragons, imbuing the hearty proteins with an unmistakably smoky tenderness.
As servers travel throughout the dining area with skewers hot off the flames, diners can catch the staff's attention by flipping their coasters from red to green. This signals the servers to approach and carve tableside servings directly off the skewer. Although the savory meats are the main attraction, even earning the eatery WDIV's Vote 4 the Best award for Detroit's Best Steakhouse in 2012, a salad bar also tempts diners with more than 40 hot and cold side dishes, including everything from fresh spring mix to mushroom risotto.
The dining room's mural of a Brazilian gaucho herding cattle nods to the cuisine's rustic roots, but its earthenware floor tiles and cherry-wood columns ensure a refined ambiance. The tables, draped with crisp white linens and flanked by red-cushioned chairs, are well spaced so as to allow for intimate family dinners and the regular plate-patrol rounds made by the vigilant servers.
Outfitted with black tablecloths, framed art, cushy booths, and carpeted floors, Black Pearl’s dining room is a comfortable space that leaves plenty of room for romance to flicker in the low light. In this, it’s well matched to the menu: a selection of pastas, steaks, and seafood with options to suit occasions ranging from a quick lunch to a grand night out. Tender prime rib stars in both hearty surf ‘n’ turf entrees and a slew of sandwiches and salads. The Blade noted that the signature cut—a carryover from the restaurant’s previous incarnation as HJ’s Prime Cut—“continues to be superb,” while also praising lake perch that’s “tender and sweet, with a light breading that doesn't overwhelm the delicate flavor of the fish.”
Beyond the dining room with its arched windows and hanging lamps is a fully stocked bar whose tenders pour beer and mix martinis, including a line of signature drinks made with midnight-dark Blavod Black vodka. Armchairs clustered around low tables and a single flat-screen television introduce a clubby vibe. But the restaurant's most intriguing seats may lie just beyond the front door, where curving half-walls painted with a Rothko-esque design swoop around a party-friendly circular table.
Dim lighting provides the perfect casual setting for a game of pool or a half-pound burger at Trotters Tavern. The neighborhood establishment serves hearty sirloin steaks alongside yellow Lake Erie perch and classic BLTs. To pair your meal with an evening of entertainment, check the tavern?s events calendar for sports viewing and live music by the Jeff McDonald Band.
Nagoya Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi's well-traveled owners, Mel and Barb Ayers, unite the culinary artistry of Japan with chefs selected from around America for their talents and showmanship. The result—set in a convivial restaurant with an outdoor patio and tableside hibachi grills—draws a bridge between the artistic elegance of Japanese cuisine and the family-friendly atmosphere of an American steakhouse. Meats sizzle on hibachi grills as chefs perform knife and spatula tricks for dazzled onlookers, who must refrain from leaning in too close lest a tower of onions suddenly catches fire. The spectacular dance of flames results in entrees of filet mignon, sea scallops, and lobster tails, all of which pair nicely with sushi such as a crab-filled california roll or a Volcano roll drizzled with fresh magma.
Big Bear Lodge's culinary team can't light up a campfire indoors, but they do the next best thing by preparing their dishes over open flames. Inside, diners instantly catch whiffs of the six thin-crust pizzas chefs cook in a wood-fired oven, herb-garlic chicken rotating on a wood-fired rotisserie, or grain-fed aged Angus steaks searing on a wood-burning grill. More meat dominates the menu, from platters of pan-seared and oven-broiled Atlantic salmon, gulf shrimp, and bay scallops to bison, elk, and ostrich burgers made with grass- and grain-fed cuts free of antibiotics and hormones.
The dishes all pair with Big Bear Lodge's selection of bottled and draft beer brewed in-state, as well as thermoses full of alcohol-spiked ciders, cocoas, and coffees. There are nonalcoholic ways to keep warm too, from munching on plates of freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies to cozying up amid the restaurant’s log cabin decor. Beneath the dining room's honey-hued beams, nostalgic wall collages pay homage to the institution of camping, reminding guests of the ghost stories, s’mores, and forest-ranger ambitions they once had.
Not many steak houses can boast of their own market where juicy cuts of meat are swiftly transported from the nearby deli to the bustling restaurant kitchen. Knight’s Steakhouse and Grill holds this distinction in the form of Knight’s Market, an Ann Arbor deli where the steaks are painstakingly selected according to their size—each steak must be big enough to double as a shoe, if the need should arise. After the chefs cook them to perfection at the eatery’s two locations, the sizzling entrees make their way to waiting diners amid soft lighting and stone and brick accents.