Midwest GrillCambridge, MARestaurant
4.5 Star Restaurant (our ratings)
You could enter a starving immigrant and leave transformed: stout and fireproof.
Review by Johnny Monsarrat
This the restaurant I dream of at night. Although it’s Brazilian, they buy their meat from the midwest United States and they call it the Midwest Grill. It was opened in 1993 by owner Gilnei Pinto, whose family also owns Cafe Brazil in Allston. But I spoke with Eustaquio Langame, the manager, who didn’t want his photo taken.
“I have done everything here,” he says. He came to Boston from Brazil at 16 as a dishwasher, and then became a meat cutter, busboy, waiter, cook, bartender, and finally manager of the restaurant.
The place is huge, with the romance of the North End without the packed tables. There’s ample seating for 125 people and the atmosphere is festive and hearty, with earth tones. There’s a full bar but it’s at the back of the restaurant but it does not dominate the space. The atmosphere is “old country” homey, not overly ritzy, but comfortable, with a lot of brick and varnished wood. Easy listening brazilian music plays over the speakers, and they have live bossa nova, samba, and jazz, five nights a week.
Although they have a small menu, you come for the buffet and the “rodizio”, which means, you sit and they bring unlimited meat to your table. You don’t even have to get up. Just enjoy yourself and waiters come by with huge chunks of meat fresh from a rotary broiler. When your rodizio card is green side up, they come. When you’re full, turn it over to the red ride, and they stop. You open the menu and read “chicken wrapped bacon”, but I’m pretty sure that should be “bacon wrapped chicken”.
Don’t load up on the buffet. It’s a good value, but ordinary, even if you come when it’s fresh at 5pm, unlike my arrival time of 3:30pm. The french fries were greasy, cold, and hardened. The beans, vegetables, and dirty rice were hearty but nothing special, although I liked the meatballs and sauce with cooked peppers that melt in your mouth. And the whole carrots and broccoli were wholesome and still had some crunch to them. Unfortunately, the salad bar did not come with toppings like mushrooms or croutons, although it does come with pineapple in condensed milk, surely a bad combination or maybe a joke on us gringos. Also, I saw a fly. One fly is no big deal, but the buffet stands open for hours.
All of this doesn’t matter, because the meat is perfect. They must have killed an angel to make the lamb.
They must have killed a lamb angel, I mean. A lamb that died, went to heaven, became an angel, and was killed and carved up. Look, just go with the metaphor.
Anyway, it’s a great mouth feel with a chew that has no strings or fat. All the meats here are hearty, and Eustaquio tells me they marinate it in red wine, with salt, pepper, and vinegar. Meats are often tasty, but come with a fatty or regretful sensation. This meat is nourishing.
The beef sirloin is served without any additive except sea salt. I try some and think, Holey moley, I thought the lamb was good!! It’s juicy and it would be spoiled rather than helped by steak sauce.
It’s so good that I can’t stop eating, even after I’m full. The pork loin is merely excellent. The sausage is strikingly hot & spicy, almost too salty, but consistent, with no gristly particles. The texture of all the meats is flawless.
Best of all, the lunch buffet is just $13 for all you can eat, and take out is cheap at $6-7 a pound.
I’m afraid I didn’t care for the garlic bread, which was fresh and hot, but came without garlic or butter that I could taste. So it’s basically a sourdough roll. The rice pudding is cinnamon over a basic rice substrate, a little too sweet, and comes with butterscott drizzle and whipped cream, which I found I didn’t need.
My pick was the strawberry cheesecake, which I spent some time just admiring while trying to digest all the meat. It sits on a thin bread substrate rather than on crumbs. After eating the cheesecake, its chocolate drizzle, and the whipped cream, I almost picked up the plate and licked it clean. It’s not too rich or sweet, but enough calories that it’s better split with a friend.
In summary, Midwest Grill transform you. With attentive waitstaff serving you rodizio, you could enter a starving immigrant, a waif fresh off the boat and leave fireproof and stout. I’ve been to fancy steakhouses, and this is just as good and so much less expensive. And if you’re too lazy to leave home, they offer delivery.
I might be ordering out a lot from now on.
1124 Cambridge Street, Cambridge MA
910 Broadway (Rt 1), Saugus MA