The place: Tucanos Brazilian Grill, in the Shops at Riverwoods (across the way from La Jolla Groves), at 4801 North University Avenue #790, Provo, UT 84604
- Lunch/Dinner: Mon – Thurs / 11 – 10
- Lunch/Dinner: Fri & Sat / 11 – 11
About: Come to Tucanos Brazilian Grill, where a dining experience rich in flavor and heritage awaits you. The Brazilian tradition of grilling, or CHURRASCO (shoe-HAS-ko), is a fusion of South American and European cultures. From its birth in the Pampas or grasslands of Brazil, to the sparkling beaches of Rio de Janeiro, Tucanos now extends this festive tradition to you. At Tucanos, meats and vegetables are carefully selected to ensure that only the freshest cuisine is served. Our meats are tastefully seasoned and cooked on skewers over open-flame grills. The skewers are then brought to your table where sizzling portions are sliced onto your plate. You may choose as many different flavors and cuts as you like. The Salad Festival features both Brazilian and American specialties, providing a fusion of distinct flavors, textures and colors. Festival selections include the Tucanos House Salad, hearts of palm, shrimp, seasonal fruit selections, fresh mozzarella, quail eggs and many other items. Hot selections such as seasoned rice, pastas, potatoes, stroganoff, feijoada (a traditional black bean stew) and freshly made soups including lobster bisque are also available on the salad festival to accompany the meat selections. New Salad festival selections are continually added to ensure freshness and variety. Source: Tucanos website, http://tucanos.com
The ambiance: Bright, colorful, a little loud (depending upon what time of day you dine), and full of enthusiastic servers and employees ready to assist as you delve into the deep, dark world of sinful gluttony. The restaurant is set up a little like a maze, with the Salad Festival housed not quite in the center, and there is a large grill/rotisserie at which all the meats, vegetables, and pineapple are cooking, waiting for your arrival. You’ll receive a red, yellow, and green cue, which will let your meat servers know whether you want them to keep coming by or to stop for the time being (or permanently because you’ve had to embarrassingly undo the top button of your pants).
The Munch: Since it’s all you can eat (both the meat and the salad bar), your culinary experience can be different every single time you go. This review will go a little differently than others because of this, and, not to toot my own horn, but *toot toot* I am something of a Tucanos master.
First, there has to be a method to your madness. I once sat back and watched a young woman on an awkward first (or second) date who’d never stepped foot inside Tucanos and decided to opt for a very large plate of salad and a dinner roll. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you could see the growing terror in her eyes as her small meat plate kept getting fuller and fuller, till it was a small hill of beef, chicken, and pork. This is not to say you can’t go the churrasco and salad bar route simultaneously; you just have to be smart about it.
My favorite meats are the garlic sirloin, teriyaki beef (served only at dinner), brown sugar ham (generally only served at lunchtime), mango cod, and the pork loin (served only at dinner). It was a fairly difficult task, narrowing down my favorites since, at any given time, you might see up to 18 different meat/vegetable options, but these generally stand out from the rest. But don’t limit yourself to partaking of only these few — each time you visit, try something new or do what I do — try them all in one sitting and then feel like dying. It’s worth it in the end. The grilled pineapple is, I’m sure, everyone’s favorite, and it’s sweet, juicy, extremely flavorful, and very much like a dessert. Paired with any of the meats, it’s a delicious taste treat, or you can gobble it up on its own.
When it comes to the Salad Festival, don’t get too ambitious and try everything out there. There’s really no reason why you should even put together a green salad — it’s a waste of stomach space and eating time because, after all, you can get a green salad at essentially any restaurant. The salad bar is very fresh, but it’s also not particularly special. When you slide around to the hot foods, you’ll want to try the mashed potatoes (creamy, buttery, garlicky, and smothered in melted cheddar cheese) and the beans and rice. The collard greens are delicious if you like your collard greens a little on the bitter side, and the fried bananas are an easy target for overconsumption. If you’re not particularly in the mood to try the entire farm and would, in fact, rather stick with salads and soup, then check out the Tucanos Citrus Salad (spinach, dried cranberries, mandarin oranges) and the Tuna Pasta Salad. The Wasabi Shrimp Salad is good and not too spicy, although it’s something you’ll want to avoid if you’re not fond of the flavor of horseradish. And, this should be obvious, go ahead and skip the sushi altogether. You’ll be able to find better sushi at one of the many Japanese restaurants in the county, and again, you’ll be wasting precious belly room with it.
My kryptonite is the Brazilian lemonade. With the option to have it flavored with one of their many fresh squeezed fruit juices (pineapple, raspberry, and guava to name a few) and with unlimited refills, you’ll want to try it at least once. Traditionally made with whole limes and sweetened condensed milk, it’s a beverage you won’t find anywhere else. Expect to get yourself full on the lemonade alone. The desserts are pretty subpar, which makes sense — they spend the majority of their time perfecting the meat to be the star of the show, so you should treat it thusly. Skip an appetizer, take it easy at the Salad Festival, and eat till you get the meat sweats.
I’ll try to avoid using terms like “meat sweats” in restaurant reviews in the future, I promise. But once you go to Tucanos, you’ll understand.
The bill: There are a variety of ways to get around paying a full bill at Tucanos (about $25 with tax and tip at lunch and $55 with tax and tip at dinner, no drinks or desserts during either meal). They often provide free Brazilian lemonade coupons in the mail (up to six at a time) and they have a Birthday Club, which allows you a free meal (lunch or dinner, and trust me when I say you should definitely go at dinnertime) during your birthday month. You can also arrive at the restaurant around 3:30 or 3:45 to pay lunch prices (as dinner begins promptly at 4:00 pm) and then still try all the dinner meats. Unfortunately, while this seems like a foolproof method, it’s not. The lunch meats are probably going to be a little on the “sitting out too long” side and there won’t be many patrons, meaning the meat servers will be hitting your table with only about 30 second breaks. This can get you feeling really overwhelmed (although you can request slower service) and far too full. The best time to go is usually right before or after peak time; there are still enough other customers to keep the meat service rotation at a regular pace, but the meats and vegetables are still very fresh. For all you receive, however, the prices are quite reasonable.
Total score: 7/10. You kind of hit a point (at about your 10th or 11th visit) when Tucanos starts to lose its appeal a little. After all, you’re bound to find your favorites and then, regardless of the fact that you can do otherwise, have the same thing every time. Sometimes the servers (who really only bring you beverages and take your plates on rare occasion) are not particularly attentive, and sometimes the meat servers are a little too enthusiastic for my liking (at my most recent visit to the Salt Lake location, which is actually lower in quality than Provo, the first meat server told me I could call him “Little Parker.” I did not.) If you find yourself with a less than ideal server but really excellent meat servers, you can tip them separately with cash, which I am more apt to do the more often I visit. Tucanos is a fun, novel restaurant with good food and generally good service, and you’ll want to try it at least once before you leave the county.