Tucanos bills themselves as “experiential dining destination that combines the traditional Brazilian grilling experience with the fun and flair of the beaches of Rio de Janeiro”.
Tucanos is more than food, it’s about the experience. My wife and I sampled both and will definitely be back.
Churrasco, or Brazilian grilling, is cooking seasoned meats over an open flame. Sounds like barbecue? It’s more.
Tucanos embraces the fun of Churrasco with an open kitchen area where the meats are grilled on skewers, many skewers.
Meats ranging from sirloin tips and hanging steak to bacon wrapped turkey is prepared by hand. Cooking and serving are done with long skewers. Servers carve off portions table side and circulate frequently.
Table side service is a big change from typical restaurants, where they drop your plate off and fill your drinks. Our servers and other staff came in several rounds with different meats. Each time a meat, or pineapple, was brought out the team member was able to explain what was being offered, what was a good portion, and put on a bit of show.
During our visit, the servers asked us often how things were going. On top of that, they asked us what we might need or like to try. This included offering different ‘doneness’ or rareness levels. This is key in enjoying steak. Our table had variously medium, medium rare, and well done servings of the steak meats.
Tucanos staff was all new employees supplemented by training staff. Uniforms were bright, name tags in place, and the attitude can best be called excited.
There are salad bars, then there’s Tucanos salad festival. Or as I like to call it, the feast.
We were warned to make the full circle of the salad festival. Our mistake not to have done so up front.
The salad festival gives diners what appears at first some typical choices, such as mixed greens, cheeses, and tomatoes. The similarity ends there.
Quail eggs! Have you ever had quail eggs? They’re the smaller cousins of typical hen eggs but no less yummy. I was tempted to just stop when I found those and fill my plate. These were prepared hard-boiled and chilled.
Moving around the ‘festival’, past the dressings and other fun toppings, is where it gets interesting.
Miniature rolls, friend bananas, and lobster bisque greeted us on the next section. I’ve never seen lobster bisque on a salad bar.
Traditional food were there as well. Black bean soup, brown beans, and rice. Let me say the smells were wonderful. There were folks lingering here…lingering.
Collard greens were prominent along side mashed potatoes. The greens, beans, and rice are typical Brazilian dishes. I quite enjoyed the greens. My wife found the black beans seasoned well and tasty.
I questioned some of the staff about their favorites off the bar. They all mentioned the black beans and more than one the collard greens.
A small salad plate. Did I mention mozzarella balls and hot mushrooms?
Final words on the festival – there was even more on the third side. Meats, cheeses, and various rolls and breads. The salad works would be a great meal choice by itself.
The opening was larger than life. A packed house, servers buzzing around, and the owners on hand. Steve Oldham visited personally, along with his charming wife.
Tucanos brought out the big guns with live music and dancers. Loud but so much fun!
Dancers in costumes with feathers and more swirled, gyrated, and led the dance around the room. Locally hired, but I couldn’t tell. Both ladies entertaining that night were having a blast and making a real effort to liven up the room. Accompanied by a percussion heavy band it was like a street festival.
Wrapping Up Dinner
I told you, not typical. Our table found this both light and smooth. Well plated, this key lime pie had a graham crust with firmer substance than regular pie yet airy. I’m not a lime fan and do not regularly eat key lime pie but found this enjoyable. My wife apparently found hers more so; it seemed to vanish before I finished with my dinner.
Tucanos lists other fun desserts such as Créme Brûlée and Pudim de Leite, a Brazilian flan, noted as richer and creamier than a traditional flan.
I’m glad I had the pie as I typically enjoy the Créme Brûlée as a dessert.
Rounding out the counter balance of of the meats was the house drink speciality, lemonade. Mango, passion fruit, and strawberry were just a few of the choices. We sampled the strawberry and regular flavors. Mixed votes at our table. My wife preferred the traditional flavor and across the table the vote was strawberry. Warning: SWEET
Tucanos represents a departure from your typical midwestern fair. It will get labeled as a buffet by some. I’d call it a family experience.
I found the staff helpful, the meats freshly prepared, and no burgers on the menu. Your family won’t come here to graze on fried chicken and pizza. I didn’t miss those options.
Key will be the explanation of how it works. You don’t get out of your chair to get more food and for a place with an ‘all you can eat’ policy that will confuse folks.
Colors. The restaurant was well lit and made use of reds and yellows to convey a Brazilian flavor.
Branding was subdued, even on the uniforms.
During our visit things were a bit loud but I’d say that’s not typical. The opening event required several extra tables and included the live performance. It appeared extra staff was on hand as well.
A bit of warning about churrasco style serving, there are knives involved. Removing and portioning meat from the skewers involves long sharp knives. The serving staff, though enthusiastic, had a few that were still not comfortable with wielding both skewer and knife at the same time. Trainers and coaches though were on hand to assist and provide direct guidance.
We will be back.
Disclaimer: The meal and non-alcoholic beverages were provided as part of a media night pre-opening event. My wife and I both ate free. Thank you Jon Sloane and team. My views and opinions are strictly my own.
Management: Steve Oldham and Joe Heeb were in person for the opening, and Steve and his wife talked with us at our table. Their enthusiasm for this restaurant opening and the chain in general was honest and seemed to light up their eyes. She had flown in to be there for that night, and though headed home, expressed anticipation at bringing her family back for real visit in the St. Louis area.
Staff: I chatted with several staffers, one who’d been with the company seven years. He was on hand as a trainer and coach and was clearly excited. Shared with me was how he’d risen through the ranks to a senior team member, and how confident he felt in the St. Charles team. Other staffers shared the sentiment.