Vanderlai Bernardi should know a thing or two about Brazilian churrascarias – not only is he from Rio Grande do Sul in the south of Brazil, where the churrascarias are so popular, he worked at Fogo de Chão for many years before opening Tradição Brazilian Steakhouse (6800 Southwest Fwy., 713-339 1122). "The main idea we had was to open an affordable churrascaria in the Houston area," says Bernardi. "Ours is a very family-oriented environment. We're very cozy and quiet...We're half the price of the big guys."
There are currently two other Brazilian steakhouses also opening in Houston, but Bernardi isn't fazed. "There are hundreds of Italian, Japanese and Mexican restaurants that do well in the Houston market," he says, "so why shouldn't the ten or so churrascarias here survive?" What sets his apart from the other churrascarias in town? "We use a different grill, which we imported from Brazil," he says. "This grill cooks the meat from the top, removing the fat from the meat, since it falls off. Also, from four to six p.m. we have happy hour, and while we do not discount the drinks, we do offer many appetizers free like shrimp and the pão de queijo (cheese puffs). Picanha, or top sirloin, is our house special, and we also have papaya cream for dessert."
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Dish visited Tradição the first week it opened. The salad bar was smaller than others in town but perfectly adequate for even the hungriest of diners. The quality and selection of meats available was as good as the other all-you-can-eat churrascarias in town, and at $29.50, a bargain. And the service was definitely a notch above the rest...