If you’re not familiar with Brazilian steakhouses or churrascaria-style dining, it’s one of the most fun experiences a carnivore can have at a restaurant. Diners begin their meal by visiting an ample salad bar that’s usually chock-full of appetizers and traditional Brazilian dishes. Then, they head back to their table, flip over a card from red to green, and the parade of meat begins: Servers approach your table every couple minutes bearing long skewers loaded with freshly grilled meat: filet mignon, Brazilian sausage, lamb chops, flank steak, leg of lamb, bacon-wrapped chicken breast, pork loin, and a unique cut of beef called picanha. We had the opportunity to dine at the New York outpost of Texas de Brazil, a chain with locations all across the country, at their invitation, and while they certainly cover all their bases, the element of fun was nowhere to be found.
The bi-level space is awkward and much too large, and when we arrived we were given a buzzer and waited about 20 minutes before being escorted through a huge, empty lounge and up into a dining room that was three-quarters empty (the hostess who seated us brought two other parties along with us and told us to wait by the top of the stairs while she seated them first, because going back downstairs to get one party at a time was obviously a large part of the reason why the unnecessary wait was so long). When we were finally seated, it was at a table in the very back corner of the restaurant, far from the salad bar and out of the sightline of most of the servers, even though there were plenty of more ideal tables available. The walk from the table to the salad bar took us through the entire sprawling restaurant.
When caipirinhas (Brazil’s national drink) arrived about 20 minutes after ordering them, they were so sweet that we were unable to finish them even though we were already desperate for a drink. The one bright spot of the meal, however, were the servers, or “gauchos,” who carried the meat around. They made it a point to go out of the way to our table, and for the most part the meat was flavorful and properly cooked. Whoever is running the kitchen thankfully knows what they’re doing, but the same can’t be said for the bartenders or management, which is a real shame.
For the most part, the staff we encountered were quite surly, and as soon as we met the manager, Joe, we knew why: He carried himself with an air of negativity and condescension, and when we had an issue with the bill and told the waiter, we expected Joe to work with us on resolving it. Instead, he approached our table and simply looked at us, with scorn and suspicion, and eventually said, “Yes?” in an impatient tone. After we explained the issue, we were met with more condescension and suspicion, and left without the issue resolved and with a very bitter taste in our mouths. It was an issue that could have been resolved right there on the spot by a more professional manager, but instead it had to be taken, via email, to corporate.
There are some very good Brazilian steakhouses in New York, including Churrascaria Plataforma and Fogo de Chao, and their prices are all comparable to Texas de Brazil’s. I wish I could recommend Texas de Brazil more highly, but after having one of the most unpleasant dining experiences in recent memory there, I suggest you take your business elsewhere.