Saturday, March 15, 2014

Churrascaria On The Cheap

If you have ever dined at the now closed Boizao or the still cooking Texas de Brazil here in Tampa, then you have been to a churrascaria (pronounced shoo-HOSS-ka-REE-ah), a place where meat is cooked in Churrasco style, which translates roughly from the Portuguese for 'barbecue'.

In either of these two all-you-can-eat steakhouses you have probably paid around $45 per person to pig out on some really gut-busting meat. Last night my Bride and I made the trek across Gandy Bridge to Pinellas Park to try a churrascaria I had just recently discovered while surfing on Urbanspoon.

The one thing that really piqued my interest were the prices at the Terra Mar Brazilian Steakhouse. Holy picanha Bat Man, All You Can Eat Buffet - plus Rotisserie Grill for just $19.99. That sounded great to me, so we fought rush hour traffic on Gandy Boulevard and arrived at Terra Mar around six.

We were immediately greeted at the door and guided to our choice of tables in a rather minimalistic dining room. Terra Mar is far from fancy, but we were there for the food, not the decor. Oh, yeah, and all the meat we could eat for about $25 less than we would have paid at Texas de Brazil or Boizao.

To wash away the road dust from our trip, my Bride requested a half bottle of a delightful Portuguese red, the Monte Velho. This wine exhibited a bright crimson color with a fresh, lively nose of cherry-berry fruit with hints of pepper and creamy-coffee.

I was intrigued by the Portuguese and Brazilian beer selection. I couldn't decide on just one, so over the course of the evening I tried one of each.

The Sagres Cerveja is a American adjunct lager style beer brewed by Sociedade Central de Cervejas in Vialonga, Portugal. It was light and flavorful, but the real winner for me was the Brazilian Xingu, a good, easy drinking dark beer that was much lighter than, say a Guinness Stout.

Our server offered us two choices for dinner, the Rodizio for $19.99 or the Prime Rodizio for $24. Said he, this up-charge gives the diner a better meat selection. My dining partner chose the regular and I decided on the prime.

The difference between the regular and the prime was four dollars and a penny, and that was absolutely the only difference I could discern. Both of us sampled the rather pedestrian choices from the hot and cold buffet tables, and we both received the same meats from the server with the meat machete. He didn't seem to know or care which one of us was prime. Also, an adjacent table got the same selection of meats that I was offered. Save your $4.01.

The meats that were presented were savory enough, but some were raw and some were way over cooked. There was a toughness and chewiness in some of the meats that I don't remember from Texas de Brazil or Boizao, but then again, I wasn't paying $45 either.

While Terra Mar did not compare with Texas de Brazil on several levels, neither of us walked out hungry. Actually, stuffed would be a better description. Our total bill, with all food and drink plus a 20% gratuity came to $88.80. For that price and the quality of service we received from the friendly staff, I could envision a return one day.

Terra Mar Brazilian Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Terra Mar Brazilian Steakhouse on Foodio54


  1. Good for you for venturing to the "far side of a culinary desert." We loved our visit to this 'poor man's' churrascuria. We were first interested in a churrascaria when we were in the Fort Meyers area. We found a mom and pop strip mall version that just delivered a fabulous meal. I was hard pressed to see the same in our area until Terra Mar opened on this side of the bay. Yes, the sides are limited but the meats are an Atkins dream. I haven't tried the high end versions with the noted exception of the defunct Gulfport La Fogata. It was a distinct disappointment in the food to cost ratio. The Terra Mar version was a much improved experience, including the wine service. Kudos, JR.

    1. Hi there Tina, it's always nice to hear from you.

      Yes, you are on the far side of a culinary desert. The desert exists over here on the Tampa side of the bay. You Pinellas folk are living in a tropical paradise of culinary delights. We find ourselves dining more often over yonder rather than over here in the land of high prices and mediocre food.

      Thanks for stopping by.

    2. In honor of the World Cup and soccer madness that is Brazil....I propose another visit to Terra Mar Brazil. I still love the idea of a churrascurria that is affordable more than once a year. Cheers to you...and a hearty yes to the Sangria.