For those that have followed me for quite some time, you probably know that I love churrascarias (Brazilian steakhouses). I’ve been to several across the United States but was quite disappointed to find one wasn’t around in Nashville when I moved here a few years ago. The last one in Nashville prior to that closed its doors in 2006 but it wasn’t until summer of 2011 did another open in its place as a locally owned restaurant named Bombasha. Ironically, early advertisements originally had the name as Rodizio but the name was already taken… but I digress. You can imagine my excitement when Bombasha finally did open and since then, I’ve dined there numerous times with friends and family. Fast forward a year and 6 months later, another churrascaria has recently opened its doors downtown, but this one is a chain restaurant owned by local Melting Pot proprietor Mark Rosenthal whom I had the pleasure of meeting.
Most of my Brazilian steakhouse experiences have been Fogo de Chão in various cities from coast to coast and I think anyone who knows them considers them to be one of the benchmark churrascarias to compare to. However, after my latest dining experience with Rodizio Grill, I personally think that I have a new favorite not only locally (sorry Bombasha) but nationally (of course I’ll always visit a Fogo if I’m near to one). With that said, I am very fortunate to have one within the city limits and can already see me scheduling future visits down the road.
For those of you that aren’t familiar, Rodizio Grill is named after a style of service in Brazilian restaurants. This service, “rodizio”, is where one pays a fixed price for an all-you-can-eat dining experience where waiters bring samples of food to each customer several times throughout the stay until they’ve had enough. At Rodizio Grill, this service includes 16 different grilled meats with 2 grilled sides, appetizers, and a hot & cold salad bar. Whether you prefer meat or vegetables (or both), Rodizio has more items than you can shake a stick at. What’s more amazing about Rodizio Grill is the fact that their prices are some of the best I’ve ever seen for a Brazilian restaurant. At the time of this review, listed lunch price for the “Full Rodizio” (includes appetizers, salads, meats) is $17.99 and “Salad Only” (includes appetizers & salad bar) is $12.99. For dinner, it changes to $32.99 for the “Full Rodizio” and $18.99 for “Salad Only”. With prices like that, Rodizio Grill moves itself away from being a “special occasion” restaurant you visit once or twice a year to one you can afford to visit more often.
For those of you that are familiar with Fogo de Chão, Rodizio has more grilled items than Fogo yet both chains serve some items that the other doesn’t. For example, Rodizio Grill serves items such as assado (Brazilian pot roast), seafood (I had whitefish tonight), and coracao (chicken hearts) while Fogo serves costella de porco (pork ribs) and beef ancho (ribeye). The main difference between the two is that Rodizio serves several more. To me, more choices means more satisfaction and that’s exactly what you’ll get at Rodizio Grill.
In terms of the traditional appetizers (cheese bread, rice, fried yucca, beans, etc), I think Rodizio Grill has the upper hand not only because their appetizers seem to taste better (their fried yucca had seasoning sprinkled on top, their caramelized bananas were served as fritters, their cheesebread is chewy with cheese) but they had a wider variety: pasta alfredo, sautéed mushrooms, stroganoff, sautéed collard greens and bacon just to name a few.
In terms of the salad bar, Fogo still is the champ in that aspect, but only slightly because Rodizio offers it in a different way that is nearly as good. Fogo is well-known for their salad bar just due to the huge variety of individual fresh vegetables, cheeses, fruit, and deli meats. But to make up for a lack of individual assortment of vegetables, Rodizio has a very large variety of prepared salads which include but are not limited to: fruit salad, mozzarella salad, potato salad, chicken salad (Haley loved this one), strawberry salad, tropical salad, mushroom salad, roasted pineapple coconut salad (unique & delicious), etc. While the salad bar may seem to be a moot point for most people (after all, it *is* a steakhouse), you need to have that availability for those that do like vegetables with their meal or for those that just simply prefer the “salad only” option. With that point being said, Haley absolutely hated Bombasha in that aspect due to their lack of a true salad bar but admitted to really liking Rodizio Grill’s salad bar. For me, that makes it 100 times easier to dine at Rodizio Grill because she would gladly accompany me to Rodizio any given day. Everything I tried from the salad bar was very good, but I obviously didn’t try all of it due to the worry of getting full on non-meat items. If there’s one thing I’d complain about in regards to the salad bar, it would be that I don’t like mixed salads that include leafy greens and the dressing already mixed together. As leafy greens sit pre-mixed in dressing, the “soggier” they get. That was the case for the strawberry salad. Other than that, everything else I tried is delightful.
As for the quality of the food, trust me when I say it is top notch. Tonight, I tried all 18 items available on the rotisserie, the salad bar, the appetizers, and dessert. From beginning to end, everything was wonderful (yes, even the chicken hearts – which was slightly “livery” in taste but had that chewiness that reminded me of chicken gizzards). Every piece of meat, whether it was pork, chicken, fish, beef, or lamb, was seasoned and/or marinated perfectly. Nothing needed to be added and I’m usually the first person to reach for the salt shaker. Each morsel was succulent and juicy and what’s impressive is that Rodizio Grill will cook it to your liking (medium rare, rare, or well done). Some items that impressed me the most are the picanha (top sirloin – very juicy and flavorful), assado (Brazilian pot roast – some of the best I’ve ever had), peru com bacon (turkey breast wrapped in bacon – moist with lots of flavor), sobre coxa (marinated and seasoned chicken breast - wonderful flavor, very succulent and tender), and abacaxi (brown sugar glazed, grilled pineapples – could be a dessert all by itself).
For those that do like seasoning or some additional flavor to their food, I did have the opportunity to speak with Mark and he provided me three small bowls of seasoning & sauces that are already on the salad bar. He explained to me the background of each and had he not told me, I would have never realized that’s what they are for. First is the chimichurri sauce, which is primarily used for grilled meats (especially red meat). Sometimes it is used as a marinade, but it can be garnished onto grilled meats or even vegetables. Next was the Brazilian Vinaigrette Salsa. This too is used traditionally for grilled meats and provides a fresh, crunchy, tart-like kick to the meat. Lastly is the farofa, a seasoning that had a “bacon-y” “spice-like” flavor. I was told that is not only used to add additional flavor to meats, but side dishes such as the collard greens and pairs exceptionally well with beans. I would recommend that you give these a try because it does alter the flavor of the meats, but in a good way.
For dessert, Haley and I had the “Brigadeiro Royal Banana Sundae” that was recommended to us by Mark. This cake is described as Brazilian Chocolate cake topped with ice cream, sliced bananas, an avalanche of Brigadeiro (Brazilian truffle) sauce, whipped cream, chocolate sprinkles and a cherry. What made this dessert so good are multiple reasons. First, the cake was not overly sweet like typical chocolate cake desserts. It was just “sweet enough” to the point where you didn’t get thirsty. The chocolatey cake paired very nicely with the milky creaminess of the vanilla ice cream and whipped cream and the Brigadeiro sauce tasted almost like a chocolate pudding. The bananas were very fresh and firm and not mushy at all. Very good indeed.
Last but not least, service and atmosphere was top notch. Mark and his colleagues seemed to have put a lot of work into the staff & the restaurant (it looks wonderful) and it definitely seems like it’s paying off. The gauchos (waiters who serve the grilled items) were exceptionally nice and friendly, not to mention sociable (which is a nice touch in my opinion). They definitely made the experience much better because they were exceptionally knowledgeable about the meats they were serving and they made you feel welcome. So a big shout out goes to Ramon and Leo.
I’m very happy with my experience at Rodizio Grill and as I mentioned in my review, every aspect of the restaurant receives high marks. I’ve already made another reservation to return this coming weekend and would recommend it to anyone. In my opinion, no longer is Fogo the “end-all, be-all” to Brazilian steakhouses. Rodizio Grill is an excellent contender in the world of churrascarias in the United States and in many ways, I consider it better than Fogo de Chão.
166 Second Avenue North
Nashville, TN 37201
Bill Total: $60.05 For Two