During graduate school as I was working on a PhD dissertation in anthropology, I took time off to travel to Brazil to study the Brazilian martial art called capoeira. It was in Rio de Janeiro during my time at Mestre Camisa’s capoeira school that I got my first churrasco experience. It’s a popular dining style in the southern states of Brazil, usually called churrasco rodizio.
Churrasco takes place, not surprisingly, in restaurants called churrascarias, which feature grilled meats that are served from sword-length skewers by servers who rotate throughout the restaurant, going table to table, offering various types and cuts of meat, plus grilled pineapple, veggies and such. These are typically all-you-can-eat affairs, where the food keeps coming until you surrender. In addition to grilled meats, most churrascarias also offer hot and cold buffet items, which range from salads and pastas to the national dish of Brazil called feijoada. When you “do churrasco,” you don’t normally go home hungry.
My wife and I paid a visit to the Tucanos Brazilian Grill location at Station Park in Farmington this past Monday. Admirably, they were offering a Juneteenth dinner special where their adult churrasco meal (full buffet with all the meats) was priced at a mere $18.65 – it’s normally $27.95 at dinner and $19.95 for lunch. Unfortunately, we weren’t the only folks celebrating Juneteenth at Tucanos, as we were seated – and so were many others – a half hour later than our reservation was for. But as we all know, restaurants are short-handed these days and it was worth the half hour wait to enjoy Tucanos’ elaborate churrasco experience.
Once seated, Tucanos’ guests are invited to help themselves to what they call their Salad Festival, an extensive array of buffet foods that includes a variety of salads, hearts of palm, peeland-eat shrimp, fried bananas, seasonal fruits, olives, cold cuts, cheeses, quail eggs, fresh mozzarella, pastas, lobster bisque, potatoes, beef stroganoff, the Brazilian black bean and meat stew called feijoada, rice, and much, much more.
The staff at Tucanos does a great job of keeping the buffet items stocked and fresh and service at the Farmington location was surprisingly upbeat and friendly – especially given the huge number of hungry (and impatient) guests being served during the Juneteenth celebration. By the way, if you missed Juneteenth at Tucanos, they also run a special at their various locations every 2nd Monday of the month, where the full adult churrasco meals are priced at $20.22.
For most guests however, churrasco restaurants like Tucanos are all about the meat. Specifically, meat, poultry, sausages and such that are seasoned and grilled over an open flame. I recommended pacing yourself when you dine in churrascarias, because the meat parade typically starts out with cheaper, less flavorful cuts of meat and works its way up to the good stuff slowly.
At Tucanos, the first skewers to arrive at your table will probably be parmesan chicken and/or barbecued chicken, linguiça (Brazilian-style sausage), bacon-wrapped center-cut sirloin called medalhão in Portuguese, and turkey wrapped in bacon. As the meat parade proceeds, you’ll probably be offered grilled chicken hearts (my favorite), slices of juicy New York strip steak, tender marinated beef brisket (assado), garlic parmesan beef, and fraldinha: beef tenderloin. Along the way you can also expect grilled veggies, seafood, and everybody’s favorite skewer item: abacaxi – sweet grilled pineapple.
Unfortunately, Tucanos had run out of the best cuts of meat the night we visited – picanha (top sirloin) and alcatra (center-cut sirloin) – but we still got more than our fill of meat that night. And by the way, you don’t have to eat meat at Tucanos. The restaurant offers full buffet access without the meat via their Unlimited Salad Festival, priced at $19.95 for dinner and $14.95 at lunch.
Whether you’re a meat lover or not, Tucanos is a fun and festive place to dine, full of vibrant colors to match the vibrant flavors. And did I forget to mention they have a full bar and serve wine, beer, cocktails and more? So get into the swing of things with the Brazilian national cocktail: the caipirinha.
Culinary quote of the week: “Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education” – Mark Twain
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.
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