Acai desert at Rodizio on I-Drive in Orlando

Rodizio on I-Drive: Worth the Traffic

a row of Brazilian steakhouse meats roasting at Rodizio on I-Drive in Orlando
Rodizio in Orlando is worth braving I-Drive.
Photo by Cathy Salustri

I-Drive in Orlando has its detractors. When I spend too much time near it — or too much time away from it — I’m one of those detractors.

However, every time I find a reason to meander towards I-Drive — at a measured crawl, as Orlando traffic dictates — I realize that, if you put a little thought into where you eat, you can find some gems among the canaille of eateries.

A few years ago, we stumbled into an excellent Ethiopian restaurant in a strip mall right off the main drag. Last week, we decided to try Rodizion, a small chain with a handful of restaurants in Florida.

A caipirinha at Rodizio on I-Drive in Orlando
A caipirinha at Rodizio.
Photo by Cathy Salustri

Rodizio: a Brazilian Steakhouse.

Rodizio Grill bills its stores as “ambassadors of Brazil” and, according to our server, Michael — who, along with most of the staff, has Brazilian heritage — the way the restaurant prepares and presents the food is much like one would expect in Brazil.

We started with caipirinhas — regular for the long-suffering El Cap, spicy for me. Then we made our way to the salad bar. Although, truthfully, the phrase “salad bar” evokes images of Ponderosa and Ruby Tuesdays, and this was not that. We had yucca fries, heart of palm, spicy and mild pepper sauces (which made wonderful salad dressings), traditional potatoes, and other expected items.

They also had feijoada as one of the hot side dishes. When I read about the dish on the menu, it sounded like black beans and rice, an ubiquitous dish found throughout Florida. Feijoada, unlike many iterations of beans and rice I’ve eaten, has meat in it, and it’s traditionally served with farofa, a cassava flour seasoning (at Rodizio, it’s next to the beans and rice, so you can use it as liberally as you wish).

 

A salad bar at Rodizio on I-Drive in Orlando

Calling it a salad bar really doesn’t do it justice. Photo by Cathy Salustri

And Now the Meats.

Like many Brazilian steakhouses, Rodizio employs a red-and-green, stop-and-go system. When we finished with the hot bar and salad bar, we turned a small block on our tableside to green. This was the cue for the meat processional (my term, not theirs) to begin.  Gauchos bearing skewers of meat came to our table, one at a time, to offer different meats.

We sampled chicken, lamb, and steak, and we both loved the tri-tip sirloin steak the most. While Barry would love to have meat at every meal, I’m increasingly not a fan of too much meat. But this is where — unexpectedly — Rodizio shined. Instead of ordering a full steak, the gauchos would slice off a piece (or more, based on preference) at a time. That made it easy for me to sample a little bit of a lot of different meats, without waking up with what I call “steak belly” at 3 a.m.

For dessert, we tried orange-tinged creme brulee and acai with fruit and coconut. Both were delicious, but honestly? Next time I’ll skip the sweets and spend more time at the hot bar and salad bar (which is an option — you can forego the meats entirely for a lower price.)

Acai desert at Rodizio on I-Drive in Orlando

Acai! Photo by Cathy Salustri

The Moral of the Meal

I shy away from tourist-adjacent places. Sure, I’ll go to Disney World, but the tourist-clogged part of Kissimmee? Not so much. (Although I did live there for a hot minute in the ’90s). The meal at Rodizio reminded me that Florida’s a paradise of all sorts, not only the one I choose for myself.  I may gravitate to El Siboney on Stock Island, but that doesn’t mean I should skip Key West entirely. And I may love the outer edges of Kissimmee and Orlando, but that certainly doesn’t mean that, every now and then, it’s OK to brave the I-Drive madness.

Especially when it tastes this good.

Check Out Rodizio Grill

Rodizio Grill, with Florida locations in Pensacola, Orlando, Wesley Chapel, Sarasota, Fort Myers, Estero, and Fort Lauderdale. rodiziogrill.com


Note: Through Visit Orlando, Rodizio Grill hosted some of the food described in this experience. This did not influence the post; had we not had an amazing experience, I wouldn’t have written this post.