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Texas de Brazil features all-you-can-eat barbecued meats sliced at your table from long, swordlike skewers. The menu includes picanha, pork loin, filet mignon, lamb chops, ribs and more.

Texas de Brazil Churrascaria Steakhouse
3201 Airport Blvd., Suite B3
Mobile, AL 36606 • 251-444-0777

It was supposed to be a seasonal period free from excess. I needed to put a couple of miles between my stomach and overindulgence. At least that’s what I thought I needed. The universe has a funny way of interrupting plans, and dear readers, interrupt my plans it did. I’ve been shying away from the mountains of convenience store garbage I often take in at work. I’ve been eating from smaller plates at home. I’ve cut my taco intake down considerably, and I don’t eat cookies for breakfast … anymore.

I felt I was on the right track until that crazy old universe told me I had to try Texas de Brazil. It’s the latest craze at the Shoppes at Bel Air as part of the attempt at elevating the mall dining experience along with P.F. Chang’s and Bob Baumhower’s Victory Grill.

Located between those two restaurants, this Brazilian-style barbecue has a reputation for convincing a man to eat more than he should. I knew it to be dangerous ground and to approach with caution, so I figured I’d take another friend who was trying to fly right during the holidays, Mr. Mark Mostellar.

Mark and I have been friends for a couple of years, having met through mutual acquaintances that brought us to be involved in a few musical projects. He’s happy playing guitar but happier when eating, keeping me well-stocked with venison sausage and the like. He’s the man you need when venturing into the trenches of a place like Texas de Brazil. When you go full carnivore mode, Mark has your back.

If you aren’t certain of what a Brazilian-style barbecue is, allow me to explain. This is a place where different meats are cooked on long, swordlike skewers and brought to your table by gauchos who slice off bits of protein and keep coming as long as you can stand it. If you need to take a break, there is a card that can be flipped from green to red. Learn to use it or you will be blasted with meat.

Mark and I started off with a bottle of sparkling water ($5.99) for the table as well as a bottle of Josh Cellars cabernet sauvignon ($47). A broken cork was no match for our waitress, Kimberly, and we were told to start with the salad bar.

Mark and I admit this isn’t your ordinary salad bar. We made our way around the squared-off area trying to sample as much as we could. A huge portion of scored goat cheese was the first thing to catch my attention. Giant asparagus spears were served with a sweet sauce on the side. A charcuterie section had me eyeing the prosciutto and salami with very good olives.

Heart of palm was a nice choice that should be on every salad bar. Chilled boiled shrimp were covered in dressing and though I don’t think they were from the Gulf, they were still good. They weren’t as good as the smoked salmon, though. I also had a little sushi, which was surprisingly good.

After a round of “salad” big enough to send me to the house, Miss Kimberly mentioned we should try the lobster bisque. “It would be even better if there were giant chunks of lobster in it,” she says, “but it’s still really good.” We couldn’t ignore that endorsement and found ourselves standing at a hot bar on the perimeter of the salad area. The bisque was very good, smooth and not what we were expecting. There was some sort of flavor we couldn’t quite put our finger on, perhaps vermouth? Whatever the case, we both enjoyed our soup course with puffy cheese rolls sent to our table.

Back at the hot bar, Mark was into sautéed mushrooms. He was raving about them with the black beans and rice. I was working on a small bowl of codfish in coconut sauce, a touch dry and overcooked but the sauce saved it. Mark was still obsessed with the rolls.

Then came the meats. Guys in crazy pants were coming from all directions with sword after sword of chicken, beef and pork. We were provided tongs to assist these gentlemen. We were also given chimichurri for our beef and some kind of mint dip for lamb. A bowl of mashed potatoes was not my favorite, but the palate cleanser of sautéed bananas actually worked.

The first slice we got was the best. We were told it was picanha, a cut of beef that is their house specialty. I made sure to get the rarest slice we could find and immediately knew what the fuss was about. Delicious.

Bacon-wrapped chicken was a good departure from the red meat but we followed up with top, top sirloin. I’d never heard of double-top before, and though the flavors were there it was a little overdone for my taste. My piece took a bath in the chimichurri, which helped.

Parmesan-encrusted pork was a fine example of the other white meat. Filet mignon was also very good but overshadowed by the less rare but still good spicy picanha. Flank steak was as tender as can be and I realized we needed a breather. With our cards turned to red, we regrouped and planned another attack, but it was no use. We couldn’t even finish a second glass of wine, choking down enough sparkling water to not suffocate.

I wasn’t going down without a fight, though, and with a flip of the card we summoned the fellow with the super-rare pichana. Still delicious.

Dessert we are told is a la carte and consists of key lime pie, crème brulee, triple chocolate cake and bananas Foster. If you can handle dessert here, my hat is off to you.

Here’s the deal: It isn’t cheap to eat at Texas de Brazil but it isn’t cheap food, either. Treat it as something you go to for a fun occasion, or go for just the salad bar. If you’re anything like me or Mark, your body can’t handle much more self-abuse.

It’s not really my thing, but I’d be lying if I said we didn’t have a good time. Open for dinner nightly.