Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Grillin' and Chillin'

I think other chain restaurants should take a hint from Brazilian-themed steakhouses like Rodizio Grill, where grown men are clad in traditional South American cowboy garb. The servers at Outback would be dressed like Crocodile Dundee; the staff at Cheeseburger in Paradise looking like they're heading out to a Jimmy Buffett concert after work.

Put aside the kitschy sartorial choices, though, and you'll find that Brazilian steakhouses are some of the most gluten-free-friendly restaurants around. The latest to open in the Philadelphia area is Rodizio Grill's location on restaurant row in the Voorhees Town Center (13109 Town Center Blvd., 856-344-5110).

If you're not familiar with the Brazilian steakhouse concept, diners basically act as air-traffic controllers at the main course. Guests are provided with red light/green light cards, which let the gauchos roaming the dining room with freshly cooked meats on skewers know whether they want more. Like Fogo de Chao in Center City, Rodizio Grill also offers a wide selection of salad bar items (which can be ordered a la carte).

My older son and I checked out the new spot for lunch on a recent Saturday. I was encouraged ahead of our visit because the menu on the restaurant's website notes all of the items that are gluten free, including the popular Brazilian cheese bread known as pao de queijo. Perhaps it was because the restaurant had just opened, but our hostess wasn't familiar with all of the gluten-free items and the on-site menus didn't list them. Instead, she brought us a one-page list of the gluten-free options, which we consulted throughout the meal.

The salad bar options were not as plentiful as those at Fogo, but there were enough to whet our appetite ahead of the forthcoming meat feast - all of the vegetables, fruit, rice, stews, and meats and cheeses are fine for gluten-free diets.

Pacing is a deft skill at Rodizio and its ilk, since you might be too full to sample a item you really want if you, um, beef up too early. Although not all proteins are available at all times, the top sirloin and bacon-wrapped turkey are among the more popular choices for lunch and dinner and were our favorites. Sides included the spongy cheese bread, polenta, and slices of grilled and glazed pineapple.

To counter the salty entrees, we shared a couple scoops of tropical-flavored ice cream. Also gluten free is a caramel flan and a lime pie mousse, complete with a gluten-free cookie.

Like most steakhouses, Rodizio Grill isn't going to be a regular dining spot for most people. It definitely is a place for occasion dining, though, especially if the occasion is enjoying a hearty gluten-free meal.

Rodizio Grill on Urbanspoon
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  1. Thanks for the review Michael. A Rodizio Grill is opening up here in Allentown soon. I will have to give them the 'green light'!