I therefore declared that the two of us would be going out for a celebratory lunch in honor of my dining partner’s good fortune, and that she could pick the place.
“Rio de Brazil,” was my dining partner’s reply, “and grab your hat and coat.”
Located on West Market Street in Johnson City, Rio de Brazil Steakhouse is not your usual steakhouse, no indeed. For starters, Rio de Brazil has a wonderfully understated and well-appointed décor in a dining area that seats about a hundred patrons.
Arriving for lunch, my dining partner and I visited with Maitre D’ Alvaro, who discussed how a churrascarias, or steakhouse done the Brazilian way, works. The Rio de Brazil dining experience can be had at a fixed price of $17.95 per person with access to everything on the menu; only sodas, teas and desserts are extra. Alvaro finished with the friendly advice to save room for dessert.
The Rio de Brazil table service experience: Rio de Brazil’s extensive salad bar features smoked salmon, fresh shrimp, artichoke hearts, apple salad, asparagus, chicken salad and several excellent aged cheeses along with some of the crunchiest and freshest breads to be found anywhere.
Nearby is the hot vegetable bar featuring steamed white rice, hot black beans, mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy. Once our plates were full, we returned to our seats, finding the usual knife and fork along with a small set of tongs and a colored disc the same size as a drink coaster that is red on one side and green on the other. Here is where dining at Rio de Brazil gets interesting.
After selecting our salad bar and hot bar selections, my dining partner and I just flipped our discs from red to green. This gets Rio de Brazil’s “gaucho’s ” attention, who then brought a full skewer of grilled meat to our table and asked if we’d like some. He then proceeded to carve the meat right off the skewer.
Because this was the lunch seating, we had six meat selections to choose from: parmesan pork, bacon-wrapped chicken breast, garlic steak, a meaty chicken drumstick, Brazilian sausage and picanha, a marvelous sirloin steak prepared in the Brazilian fashion; all of our selections were hot off the grill.
I soon found that for uninterrupted enjoyment of my newly sliced selection or to make another trip to the salad or hot bar, I needed to flip my disc back over to the red side. I could always flip the disc to green when ready for more of the same or maybe something different. This little trick gives you as the diner something that is becoming increasingly rare in dining out these days: time to enjoy your meal, at your pace.
The Rio de Brazil dining experience: Once my dining partner and I were satisfied with our choices, it was time to eat. Centerpiece of my salad bar tasting plate was a salad of mixed greens, artichoke hearts, some cheddar and jack cheese cubes, and a fat handful of well-prepared peel-and-eat boiled shrimp.
I also had some of the smoked salmon, enjoying it so much I went back for seconds, and almost for thirds. I opted for the white rice from the hot bar, which matched up very well with the bacon-wrapped chicken breast and the drumstick.
I found the parmesan pork to be delicious, although my dining partner preferred the garlic steak over the pork, and the picanha over any of the other meat selections. My favorite was the Brazilian sausage links, which were mildly spicy and very savory; I alternated bites of mine with my slice of picanha.
Alvaro made sure our taste buds got a rest by sending along some fried bananas and some grilled pineapple sliced off the skewer.
The Rio de Brazil dessert experience: Alvaro’s parting comment to leave room for dessert was good advice indeed. Rio de Brazil offers several remarkable desserts including Crème Brule, New York-style cheesecake and authentic Brazilian flan. I had the flan while my dining partner had the Crème Brule, both of us very pleased with our dessert choices.
Final thoughts on a fine dining experience: In addition to lunch, Rio de Brazil also has a supper seating with a fixed price of $39.95 per person, with (I kid you not) 16 meat selections that include filet mignon, pork loin, leg of lamb (!) and much more.
Though the fixed price per person may seem daunting at first, given what is offered and that access to the menu is total, the charge is comparable to what you’d pay per person if you ordered from a restaurant with menu or a la carte service. Additionally, Rio de Brazil has one of the most comprehensive wine and beer selections of any fine dining establishment in the area.
Rio de Brazil’s understated décor, exemplary service and superb cuisine together create a fine dining difference that is truly one of a kind, and sure to absolutely wow that romantic interest or business client that is sitting across the table from you.
This restaurant is definitely that special place for your special occasion.
Rio de Brazil is recommended by the Mystery Diner.
Editor’s Note: In an earlier version of this column, the Mystery Diner incorrectly stated that desserts were included in the meal price.
Rio de Brazil Steakhouse
1800 W. Market St.
Mon.-Fri.: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 5-10 p.m.
Sat.-Sun. 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.
Available on Facebook and at
Credit cards accepted