Eric Underwood says that Lincoln’s citizens like to socialize. “They like to go out and be active at events that involve people and experiences.”

That is something that Underwood – general manager and part owner of Lincoln’s Rodizio Grill in the Haymarket area – appreciates. Especially because it meshes so well with the service, attitude and atmosphere of Rodizio Grill.

With the slogan “The Brazilian Steakhouse,” the Rodizio concept of introducing the southern Brazilian tradition of churrasco (barbeque) dining was brought to America in the mid-1990s by native Brazilian Ivan Utrera.

The Lincoln franchise – the only Rodizio Grill in Nebraska – opened in August 2013, presenting the concept of having patrons interact with each other as well as appreciate the actual act of dining as opposed to just eating.

Underwood acknowledges some initial challenges such as “What is Brazilian food?” But the enthusiastic Underwood knew that the beef, poultry, pork and more on the Rodizio menu in the end was pretty much Midwestern fare served with Brazilian touches, flavors and flamboyance, such as the meats being delivered on 3-foot skewers and cut at the table by Gaucho-attired servers.

He says that the tastes in the meats are achieved through the use of oils, vegetables, herbs and spices. Also, that there is no MSG in the offerings and that everything, except breads, is gluten-free.

There is little doubt that the restaurant’s pageantry and flare are directly tailored to its diners’ positive experience. “It is important that every single guest, every single time, has a positive experience,” Underwood emphasizes.

Functioning under the concept of unlimited abundant service, the restaurant has two dining options: an impressive salad bar featuring 70-some unlimited sides and salad options ($19.99/$14.99 for brunch); and the Full Rodizio ($29.99/$21.99 for brunch), which includes the above-mentioned salad bar, plus limitless grilled options of 16 entrees. Gaucho servers move from table to table, offering diners selection after selection. Brazilian appetizers are also included with either the salad bar or the Full Rodizio.

Full Rodizio beef offerings include Picanha (top sirloin), Bife Com Alho (steak basted in garlic), Assado (marinated Brazilian brisket), Maminha or Raquete (seasoned tri-tip sirloin or flat iron steak), Fraldinha or Miolo da Paleta (beef tender or beef center cut).

Four pork options include Brazilian sausage, marinated pork loin, pork tender cut with parmesan and bacon, and lean cut of ham. Four poultry options are turkey breast wrapped in bacon, sweet and spicy chicken, marinated and seasoned chicken, and chicken hearts served with a twist of lime.

There is also boneless leg of lamb, a daily fish selection, glazed and grilled pineapple, and grilled tomatoes with parmesan.

From the salad bar, guests can choose from such hot dishes as Brazilian black bean stew, sautéed collard greens and bacon, chicken or beef stroganoff, whipped potatoes, or a plethora of salads including BLT salad, mozzarella salad, strawberry salad, hearts of palm, marinated quail eggs, fruit salad, Caesar salad or turkey pastrami and cheese salad. There are also numerous decadent desserts.

Underwood says that among the customer favorites are the glazed and grilled pineapple and the BLT salad. Some upcoming special grilled promotions will include wild game in November, Baconfest in January and February, and corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day.

The restaurant’s customer base is generally patrons in the 40- to 50-plus range, but through some recent target marketing, Underwood has noticed an expansion that includes more family dining. There are children’s rates for 3- to 6-year-olds ($4.99) and 7- to 11-year-olds ($9.99).

Underwood remarks that some 40 percent of Rodizio Grill guests travel to the Lincoln location from Omaha and surrounding areas. Patrons have also come from Des Moines, Sioux Falls and beyond.

He singles out the dedication and service of the Rodizio staff and the restaurant’s high-quality food as a major reason for the business’s positive reputation. Underwood feels that Rodizio is one of the few restaurants in the downtown area that can handle a large number of customers when Pinnacle Bank Arena has an event. “Guests can instantly dine and be in-and-out before arena events start,” he says.

According to Underwood, Rodizio provides one of the most unique dining experiences in Lincoln. “One can get a meal anywhere … but one can have a sizzling experience at Rodizio Grill,” he says.

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