Formerly Faison's, then The Trace (under multiple owners), T's Tuscan Bar & Grill, and Veranda, the little house with roll-up windows and a tree trunk in the dining room always stirs interest.
So when a sign went up a few weeks ago saying "Coming Soon — Rodizio Brazilian Steakhouse," curiosity was keen. Now I know a little of the scoop after talking to one of the owners, Christy Rodrigues, who's launching the project with her husband, Airton Rodrigues.
"Rodizio" is the Portuguese word for a flamboyant style of service originating in Brazil. Cook-servers in gaucho attire bring out skewers of various cuts of freshly grilled meat, carving out each successive round until the diners signify satiety. The restaurants themselves are called churrascarias.
Several national U.S. chains offer the concept — Nashville had one, Fire of Brazil, for a while. But this is independently owned and operated by the Rodrigueses. (It has no connection to Rodizio Grill, which is a chain in other cities.)
Airton grew up in Brazil, where his family has a couple of restaurants, and knows the rodizio ropes, so to speak. The couple met in Knoxville and moved to Nashville a few years ago. They also have a construction business.
"My husband always wanted to have a restaurant," Christy said. "It just took a while to find the right place — and the nerve," she added, laughing.
They plan to serve several cuts of beef, including one called picanha, which Christy says is especially succulent and not often seen in the U.S. (Check out this Brazilian beef site for details.)
They have spent a fair amount of time remodeling the aging space. In addition to upgrading the kitchen (and adding the 10-foot gas grill on which the rotating skewers will cook) they replaced the flooring and have removed a stage, which they converted back to a dining room.
As is usual with the concept, they will have a large salad bar. They'll also serve a changing menu of Brazilian sides like plantains, rice-and-beans, and yuca.
The Rodrigueses also plan to have a full bar, including caipirinhas, South American wines (and Brazilian beer, if they can get it).
When the weather's nice they'll roll up the glass front to the open air, and they may add a small patio by summertime. The target for opening is mid-March or early April. The phone number is 463-0021.