Tucanos Brazilian Grill – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Tucano's on the intersection of 1st and Central in the downtown area.

Many New Mexico born Hispanics of my generation grew up watching not only American “shoot ’em up” Westerns featuring rugged cowboys, rowdy rustlers, round-ups and home on the range, but the Mexican equivalent–movies featuring the exploits of charros, the traditional cowboys of central and northern Mexico. My friends and I could only dream about overcoming marauding Indians, desperate rustlers and flooding rivers as we drove our cattle to the stockyards in Abilene just like our white hat wearing heroes. 

It’s conceivable that in Brazil, cinematic exploits glamorized the equivalent to America’s cowboy–the gaucho, a South American cattle herder who tended his herds on the rich, verdant pampas. For generations the pampas is where the very best cattle herds in Brazil have been raised.  Like American cowboys, gauchos had their version of the chuckwagon of the old West in which horses pulled a mobile kitchen from which they were fed during roundups…and similar to cowboys, gauchos became adept at preparing meals over an open fire.  Gaucho rotisseries are renown for the delicious preparation of beef. 

Rotisseries prepare meats

The gaucho style of grilling, called churrasco (roughly the Portuguese equivalent of “barbecue”), is today celebrated from Rio de Janeiro to Albuquerque in Brazilian steakhouses called Churrascarias. In modern Churrascarias, an entertaining and filling “rodizio” style buffet and service are provided.  Servers come to your table with a skewer on which are speared several kinds of meat.  Almost all rodizio courses are served sizzling right off that skewer and are sliced and plated right onto your table. 

Accommodating servers bring one meat after another until you say “nao obrigado”–no, thank you.  Not literally.  Each table includes a wooden “cue” which tells your servers where you stand.  The green side indicates you want more selections brought to your table while the red side of the cue indicates you’re done.

Tucano's salad bar

In 2000, Albuquerque matriculated to the Churrascaria dining craze when Tucanos opened its spacious restaurant on the corner of Central and First (the only other Tucanos restaurant in America can be found in Provo, Utah).  Tucanos churrasco includes assorted breads, fried bananas, an unlimited salad festival and all churrasco offerings.  The salad festival is fresh and abundant with hot and cold items that include stroganoff, mashed potatoes, black beans and rice and various fruits.  

Tucanos churrasco features an assortment of beef, poultry and pork selections sure to please any carnivore.  Other selections include a daily seafood (Frutos do Mar) offering; legumes, seasonal grilled vegetables and grilled pineapple (Abacaxi) which is used as a palate cleanser in between portions.  If memory serves me, for the dinner version of the churrasco, seventeen different items are brought to your table. Not every selection will have you singing the praises of this restaurant.  It’s been our experience that some of the beef sirloin courses tend to be served on the rare side (if you can’t stand the sight of blood, you might not want it dripping onto your plate from a skewer).  Other courses are in dire need of desalinization.

The dessert tray at Tucano's

There are some selections that have absolutely captivated us–the linguica (a lightly spiced Brazilian sausage), the tender (a fresh ham served with pineapple) and some of the barbecue and teriyaki flavored meats are absolutely delicious.  Top off your meal with a Brazilian lemonade–lime and lemon juices prepared with condensed milk to give you a liquefied “key lime pie” sensation. 

Surprisingly, Tucanos charges almost exactly half what you would pay for a similar meal in Las Vegas and while there was an expected degradation in food quality, Tucanos is formidable in its own right.  It’s only in service where Tucanos is sometimes lacking.  The meat carvers are typically Johnny-on-the-spot, however, on busy days, you practically have to chase down the wait staff for drink refills.

Adjacent to the downtown’s Century theater, this restaurant will pack them in for years.

Tucanos Brazilian Grill
110 Central, S.W.
Albuquerque, NM
Web Site

LATEST VISIT: 17 September 2007
COST: $$$
BEST BET:  Sausage, Chicken, Cod With Mango Sauce

Tucanos Brazilian Grill on Urbanspoon

5 thoughts on “Tucanos Brazilian Grill – Albuquerque, New Mexico

  1. I agree with your assessment Gil. Another thing that needs to be highlighted is the expense. The quality of food served does not warrant the cost charged. This is also one of the highest grossing restaurants in the state of New Mexico. They are making out like robber-barons.

  2. I just moved away and this place I will miss the most. Great review, I have found them to just get better with time. They now have All you care to eat Shrimp, Filet Mignon, and Ribeye at the same price they have always had. Plus my kids got to eat for free. They also bring you an Carafe to refill with your beverage automatically so you don’t have to chase anyone down.

    I will miss you Tucanos!!

  3. It’s hard not to overeat with so much delicious food available. I love all of the meat they bring to the table. Especially the various cuts of beef. The buffet is very good too with lots of fruit, salad, and other sides to choose from. It’s a little spendy at dinner time but for the amount and quality of food during lunch time it’s a great deal. It’s a great place to bring friends from out of town.

    Oh and the pineapple is amazing. Can’t get enough of that.

  4. Wonderful tropical ambience. They have a nice salad bar and also make a great Feijoada. Long cooked black bean stew with sausages, cured pork and dried beef. They have all the fixings for a feijoada completa including long grain white rice, collard greens and farofa. Wow! I have a plate everytime!
    The meats are great in their variety and freshness. Brought straight from the grill to your table. I don’t understand Gil’s complaint with the rawness of the meat. The servers are always happy to cut off a piece to your taste. I like it rare anyway and is great that you can choose your level of doneness. We go there often.

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