Gaucho Brazilian BBQ – Calgary, AB

Gaucho Brazilian BBQ
Review @ 3605 Manchester Road SE
New location @ 100 – 5920 Macleod Trail SW
Calgary AB
(403) 454-9129

I remember one of the first times I went for Rodizio. I spent the entire day sitting in a dark, curtained off room, drinking water to expand the stomach (it doesn’t work in case you’re wondering), playing xBox to keep my mind off the impending gorge.  All you can eat. Meat. Churrascaria. We rolled in at prime time, 7:30pm, and ate a few nibbles of Pao de Queso, and called on the meat. Needless to say, 4-5 lbs of meat later, we had the sweats, a stomach ache, and were barely able to roll ourselves back home. Thanks so much Fogo de Chao.

Needless to say, I’ve grown up significantly since then. But I did learn several things from that experience – primarily, Rodizio should be about the selection and the quality of the meat, period. Side dishes, salads and salad bar, and other filler are nice touches, but don’t add much to the experience. And if i have a choice, i’ll sacrifice some selection to get the quality i need.

Gaucho Brazilian BBQ is one of three Brazillian BBQ, and one of two Rodizio restaurants in the city of Calgary. Based on how busy both Bolero and Gaucho are, there is no doubt Calgarians like their meat.

Churrasco involves barbecuing meats on skewers over open heat. They are rotated slowly to ensure even cooking, and racked based on cooking time and where they are in the cooking process.

Compared to other Rodizio experiences i’ve had, the Gaucho Brazilian space is not overly formal – some people find it a bit crowded and cozy, but I like the energy of the space, as all you can eat meat shouldnt be stuffy, nor quiet. The biggest complaints are typically the heat, and the noise. I find them tolerable.

Instead of a full on salad bar, Gaucho provides a few select side dishes. Dishes like beans, hearts of palm salad, cassava fries, these are refilled quickly and efficiently. Don’t be fooled – these are intended to fill you up so you don’t eat as much of the main event. Sample (especially the hearts of palm salad, which are excellent), but i wouldn’t indulge.

The key element of Rodizio is the Passadore – the waiter who bring skewers of meat to your table and carves and serves it to you to your liking. If the meat has been cooked properly, and you have an experienced Passadore, you can order a variety of doneness on the skewer. Typically from medium rare to medium well.

While there is an infinite variety of meats that can be served, Rodizio usually confine their selection to 12-16 meats. Gaucho generally prepares a lower quantity – on the evening we went, they had 9 choices, having run out of a couple, and not offering others. I don’t mind this, as their quality is definitely kept high by managing the total number of offerings.

Costela, juicy marinated beef ribs.

Alcatra – the classic, always served cut of top sirloin.  Gaucho does a tasty rendition, though like most Alcatras, it’s very light on the seasoning.

The doneness on the interior is a very nice medium. Well done should be handled by a different skewer.

On this evening, some of my favorite cuts were available. Grilled chicken hearts! Fantastic flavour, great texture, these were top notch.

A very common dessert or interlude i’ve found at many Rodizio’s is the BBQ Pineapple. This is definitely a favored dish for me, and im disappointed that Gaucho requires you to order this at an exorbitant extra charge – especially when Gaucho’s primary competitor Bolero, serves BBQ Pineapple. Now granted, BBQ Pineapple is the best part of the entire Bolero experience, and their meat fails to meet the same quality as Gaucho, but for the price, a little pineapple wouldnt be too prohibitive.

However, instead of pineapple, Gaucho does serve banana. Which is a nice consolation prize. Not quite the refreshing taste of BBQ pineapple, but satisfies the need for a bit of sweet.

Overall, there is very little to complain about with Gaucho. Slightly more affordable than Bolero,  it is, in my mind, clearly heads and shoulders above both Bolero and Cravings. The quality of their meat, and the skill of their Passadores are both the best in the city. Even if  my little quibbles were solved, they would just make an excellent experience better. Because, what’s really important is the quality and the selection – and they have appropriate amounts of both. Give it a try the next time you’re interested in a meat sweat experience!

Gaucho Brazilian Barbecue on Urbanspoon

9 thoughts on “Gaucho Brazilian BBQ – Calgary, AB

  1. In direct comparison to Fogo, which I believe is one of the franchises in the US, how did this place fare?

    My local Rodizio experience was at Bolero’s, which was OK, in Vegas it was Rumjungle which was OK as well.

    Brazil though, that’s a different story alltogether.

    • H.Peter – they are a bit different, but fairly comparable.
      + for Fogo – has an enormous salad bar, with some great ingredients like white asparagus, hearts of palm, all the ingredients for Caprese, etc…
      + for Fogo – selection – the 15 stated, plus will run another on or two meats.
      + for Fogo – Fogo has some very tasty Pao de Queso.
      + for Fogo – volume. You don’t have to wait long to get things the way you want. If a skewer is prepped from medium-medium well, and you wanted rare, you can get that in minutes.

      + for Gaucho – more diverse selection of meat. A lot more interesting cuts
      + for Gaucho – less time spent having skewers walk around the room, cooling off. Small space is nice.
      + for Gaucho – price. 20% cheaper.

      All in all, they are mostly comparable. It’s the advantages of a big place doing lots of volume, versus a small place doing less volume, but better service.

      It is much better than Bolero though.

    • Depending on what you liked about Fogo, you may or may not like Gaucho better. With their new space, im uncertain how things have gone – i liked their old space. If you go, please report back. Would love to hear more recent intel!

  2. In Calgary, Gaucho > Bolero for me.

    I preferred the most intimate setting of Gaucho, whereas Bolero just seemed like a big maze. Seasoning of each kind of meat was also much better at Gaucho. A real shame about the pineapple, which kind of ended the night on a sour note.

  3. Thank you for your review! I’ve wanted to try a rodizio restaurant in Calgary for a while but had heard lukewarm to bad experiences at each of them that I wasn’t sure which one to try. Now at least I have a better idea. Thanks!

  4. Hoping to head to Gaucho on Saturday. I’m not fond of the ownership at Bolero and how they run things so I’m looking forward to trying the competition. It is too bad about the pineapple and I do love the huge salad bars at some of the American outfits like Texas De Brazil. This is Calgary though and I’m happy to have quality take a primary role in the kitchen rather than the focus being elsewhere.

    • RR – i agree on all counts. I think you just captured my entire review in 3 sentences – lol! Please let us know how the new location is. Im eager to hear what you think.

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