Local Spotlight

Tucanos Brazilian Grill Opens in Sugar Land

Houston is home to many Brazilian Churrascarias. Fogo de Chao and Chama Gaucha come to mind as the more well-known of the bunch, with places like Nelore, Tradicao, Angus Brazilian, and Pradaria spread out around town.

With the opening of Colorado-based Tucanos Brazilian Grill (16535 Southwest Freeway; (281-277-5477) in the Sugar Land First Colony Mall, Sugar Land can finally call itself home to a traditional Brazilian, rodizio-style buffet. And before you say you can't eat that much meat, let me just preface by saying that you really don't have to.

While the other Brazilian Churrascarias tend to have high price points that make you want to fill up with the more expensive meat, I was amazed at the affordable prices offered by Tucanos. Their concept, aimed at families and perfect for suburbs like Sugar Land, is meant to be affordable.

During lunch, which runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. the full rodizio, which includes all-you-can-eat meats (11 selections), all-you-can-eat salad which they call their "salad festival," and an unlimited portion of the delicious grilled pineapple and grilled vegetables, is just $14.95. If you don't want meat, the all-you-can-eat salad festival drops to $10.95, and if you want to include the pineapple and grilled vegetables, there is just a $2 supplement.

Dinner is a bit, but not much pricier, offering a few more fancier cuts of meat such as their bacon-wrapped filet (15 selections), for just $21.95 per person. The salad festival dinner price is $14.95. Children's buffet (age 7-12 years old) is $6.95 at lunch, $8.95 at dinner, and free for kids under six years of age.

For people addicted to the Brazilian cheese bread, those fluffy puffs of slightly chewy, totally addictive bread, it's unlimited. And for people who want to try a taste of their Brazilian lemonade, it's just $3.75 with free refills. Fresh fruit juices -- mango, strawberry, passionfruit, guava, pineapple and raspberry, are also available, along with specialty blended drinks, for $4.95.

The Brazilian lemonade, for those who have never tried it, is refreshing and yummy. They serve it to you freshly made in a small glass urn, the opaque colored liquid tangy with lime and creamy, sweet, and slightly frothy from the addition of some condensed milk.

I was invited for a preview the day before it opened last week, and fell in love with the brown sugar-grilled fresh pineapple. Like a hot piece of caramelized pineapple, the sweet chunks of fruit were so addictive, I kept on asking for more. Likewise, the garlic parmesan beef, or picalho, was delicious and tender, like a savory garlic steak. I had two pieces to start, but ended up asking for more as well.

When you're dining, they'll give you a small wooden cylinder painted green and red at opposite ends. Turning it green signals to the servers that you want to be served, while turning it red means you want them to stop. No need to be greedy. When your plate is full, you should stop until it's empty, or the meat will go cold. When you want to turn it green again, you'll see the servers miraculously re-appear.

For diners who want to skip the meat, the salad festival offers every choice you can imagine, from make your own salad options, to freshly sliced fruit, pre-prepared pasta salads and other cold salads, a sushi roll section, and a hot section, where items like the Brazilian black bean stew, or feijoada, were offered. The price differential is so minimal between the salad and the full-blown rodizio option, however, that it's probably worthwhile to do the full lunch or dinner, and just eat the meat in moderation.

Also, if you're not full, or if you want more premium meats, you can select from a menu of options that include skewers of bacon-wrapped filet mignon, shrimp, jumbo sea scallops and lobster for an additional supplement.

Tucanos took over the space that used to house Kona Grill in the First Colony Mall. It's located across the pathway from Mia Bella Trattoria. They kept the indoor-outdoor bar that used to be such a hit at Kona Grill, but completely renovated the interior, taking out walls and partitions, adding colorful, festive booths, a huge salad station, custom made gas and charcoal grills, an attractive bar area, and an expanded outdoor patio.

It's family-friendly and fun, giving you a piece of Brazil's festive culture, along with their delicious cuisine for an affordable price, right in the heart of Sugar Land. It's definitely worth a visit. In fact, I'd go back for the pineapple alone.

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Mai Pham is a contributing freelance food writer and food critic for the Houston Press whose adventurous palate has taken her from Argentina to Thailand and everywhere in between -- Peru, Spain, Hong Kong and more -- in pursuit of the most memorable bite. Her work appears in numerous outlets at the local, state and national level, where she is also a luxury travel correspondent for Forbes Travel Guide.
Contact: Mai Pham