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Tacoma’s new all-you-can-eat meat emporium is open. Here’s how to navigate a meat tornado

New all-you-can-eat meat emporium, Texas de Brazil, now open at Tacoma Mall

All-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouse Texas de Brazil is now open at Tacoma Mall. The national chain with a pay-one-price meat menu opened Dec. 4, 2018 on the side of the mall near The Cheesecake Factory.
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All-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouse Texas de Brazil is now open at Tacoma Mall. The national chain with a pay-one-price meat menu opened Dec. 4, 2018 on the side of the mall near The Cheesecake Factory.

A meat tornado sounds pretty awesome. Until you’re trapped in the middle of one.

I only could make it through 10 of the 16 tableside carved meats at Tacoma’s newest all-you-can-eat meat emporium, Texas de Brazil, the national chain with 57 locations.

The Texas-based Brazilian steakhouse opened Dec. 4 on the back side of Tacoma Mall near The Cheesecake Factory.

It’s Tacoma’s first steakhouse of this style. If you’re new to the concept, it’s built around gorging on beef, lamb, pork and chicken until you’re compelled to ask for a piggyback ride to your car.

Diners pay one price— a very steep $44.99 per person — to get access to a roving all-you-can-eat feast shuttled to your seat via servers— something like meat ambassadors — armed with skewers of meat and dressed like Brazilian cowboys with fancy gaucho pants.

They carve — and carve and carve — beside your table until you cry or your pants split. Don’t see something you want? Just ask, and it will magically appear on a skewer.

In between the meat-nado, diners can visit a hot-and-cold bar for an additional round of gorging.

The tab? $150 for two, including two cocktails, a shared dessert and tip.

Did I get my money’s worth? Yeah, sure. (Thanks, Uncle News Tribune!)

Did I hate life and myself for the rest of the day? Yeah, definitely. I should get hazard pay for this assignment.

Here are some navigation tips and first-bite thoughts. It’s this paper’s policy to avoid criticism of execution of food and service in a restaurant’s first month, but criticism of a restaurant’s concept is fair game, so here goes.

Pay-one-price experience: $44.99 per person buys you entry to the parade of meats, the serve-yourself cold-and-hot bar and additional side dishes brought to your table. You can skip the meat service and purchase only the cold-and-hot bar for $24.99 per person.

Kid pricing: No charge for kids younger than two when a full-price dinner is purchased for an adult. Children ages 3-5 are $5 each and children ages 6-12 are half off the adult price.

The meats: 16 in all. Meat ambassadors hauled around hulking skewers laden with flame-licked meats cooked over a charcoal grill at the back of the restaurant. The meat was shaved directly from the skewer. Diners are expected to pluck the meat with the provided tongs.

Most meats tasted minimally flavored with little more than salt, which was just fine. The execution of the meat was impressive, and it better be at $44.99 per person.

There was herbed pork loin, spiced top sirloin, flank steak, filet mignon, chicken and steak wrapped in bacon, exquisite beef ribs, pork wrapped in bacon, Parmesan crusted chicken drumettes, fatty and smoky Brazilian sausage, lamb chops and leg of lamb, plus a few more I didn’t have room to entertain.

Meat could be ordered medium rare or well done.

Don’t forget to load up on the chimichurri sauce on the cold bar — it’s a must with meat.

Say uncle: Need the meat-nado to slow down? Flip your meat coaster from the “green means go” side to the “I’m crying uncle” red side.

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Green means “feed me more meat” and red means “hit the pause button on that meat fest” at Tacoma’s Texas de Brazil. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

Disclaimer: I’m a minimalist, not a gorger. I prefer a small piece of meat with thoughtful sides designed specifically for the piece of meat I’m attacking. My idea of perfection is stewed lentils cozying up to a mesquite-grilled tenderloin at Asado or a tasty tangle of chanterelles with a medium rare ribeye from Pacific Grill. However, I can separate my personal preference from what’s done well. For an all-you-can-eat meatfest, this place performs exactly as it’s supposed to in delighting your inner carnivore. However….

About those sides: I was confused by the meat accessories. Au gratin and mashed potatoes, sauteed mushrooms and the vat of salad — those I made sense of as meat companions. The rest? I had so many questions about the disjointed food orgy.

Say, what? Did the “krab” sushi from the cold bar pair with leg of lamb or the Parmesan drumettes? Do I eat the smoked salmon with red onions before or after the beef ribs?

Why were there no carrots, onions, baby corn, peas, beans or, well, anything that made sense, to pile onto the mixed greens? Four kinds of dressing, but no typical salad bar toppers? Come on.

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An assortment of meats and cheeses on the cold bar at Tacoma’s Texas de Brazil. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

A chef friend described it best when she called the cold bar “basically a giant antipasto bar.” There was prosciutto, salami, grilled provolone, fresh mozzarella, several kinds of marinated olives and vegetables, caper berries and prepared salads that included tabbouleh, couscous, shrimp and cabbage preparations. In all there were about 50 items including dressings and second-tier accompaniments.

Individually, the execution of the cold bar was solid, but I struggled to make sense of how the food was supposed to fit together. Short answer: It doesn’t. Shut up, and eat the meat.

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Vegetarians will find plenty to eat on the massive hot-and-cold salad bar at Texas de Brazil. Drew Perine drew.perine@thenewstribune.com

Entry: There’s no clear entry point on the four-sided cold bar, which means you might find yourself going against the flow of traffic. Just pick someone and follow them.

And the hot bar: Six dishes that also made no sense together, but were tasty when considered individually. There was a Brazilian coconut cod stew, sauteed mushrooms, rice and black beans, lobster bisque and au gratin potatoes suspended in a vat of cream and cheese

You’ll also get: Endless dishes of fried bananas, mashed potatoes and baskets of delicious, chewy Brazilian cheese rolls shuttled by table servers.

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Roasted peppers, olives and more on the cold bar at Tacoma’s Texas de Brazil. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

Gluten-free: About 80 percent of the menu is gluten-free, including those cheese rolls. Ask a manager for guidance.

Vegetarians: Unless you want to fill your plate with overpriced tabbouleh, couscous, olives, hummus and rice and beans for $24.99, take a hard pass.

Reservations: A must.

About that service: Doting to a degree that I adored. A server is assigned to your table in addition to those roving meat ambassadors. Servers will bring anything you ask, which they should at $44.99 per person. Don’t forget to tip them.

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An assortment of pickles and other accompaniments on the cold bar at Tacoma’s Texas de Brazil. Sue Kidd skidd@thenewstribune.com

Drinks: Sodas, beer, wine and cocktails. In keeping with that Brazilian theme, a list of nine cachaca cocktails included multiple versions of a caipirinha ($9 to $11).

Dessert: Expect to pay around $8.75 for dessert, which includes Brazilian cheesecake, key lime pie, bananas foster cheesecake, carrot cake, chocolate mousse cake, coconut chess pie, creme brulee and pecan pie.

Wine list: More of a book, not a list, with a table of contents. A dozen reds by the glass ($9 to $14), seven whites and one sparkling by-the-glass ($7 to $13) and multiple pages of domestic, European and South American reds and whites by-the-bottle ($36 to $275).

Save some cash: In a few months, lunch service will begin at $24.99 per person, which includes the meat service and the hot-and-cold-bar items. The lunch menu is scaled back with about 80 percent of the cold-and-hot dinner offerings and 12 meats instead of 16 (no filet mignon, pork or beef ribs or lamb chops). The lunchtime cold-and-hot bar, without meat service, will be $19.99.

The space: A handsome dining room suitable for date night, with oversized floral arrangements looming above the dining room, shimmers and sparkles reaching deep into the corners, and well-spaced tables that give you and the meat guys room to navigate. Servers are dressed to impress in dress shirts and vests.

Texas de Brazil Tacoma

Where: 4502 S. Steele St., Tacoma;

Info: 253-465-3230 or texasdebrazil.com

Reservations: Now accepted through opentable.com

Dinner hours: 5-9:30 p.m. Mondays-Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Friday, 3-10 p.m. Saturday, 3-9 p.m. Sunday.

Lunch: Coming in a month or two

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Sue Kidd has been The News Tribune’s restaurant critic since 2008. She dines anonymously and The News Tribune pays for all meals. Sue is a South Sound native. She writes about new restaurants, openings and closures and knows where to find the best tacos in every neighborhood.

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