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By Bernie Whitmore
Surgeon General’s Warning to Vegetarians: Reading much beyond this paragraph may pose a serious risk to your well-being.
Yes, while it is possible to graze meatlessly if you choose from amongst the many side orders, it’s most obvious that Pampas is for carnivores. From the moment you enter you’re surrounded by cowboy décor ~ lassoes, saddles and beautiful cattle head trophies that seem real enough blink at you and moo.
I may not qualify as a red-meat fanatic, but one whiff of the meat-laden skewers roasting over the charcoal pit and I was thinking “Giddy up Cowboy!”
The manager must have sensed my enthusiasm because he headed right over to greet my companion and me; then, after a friendly welcome, he steered us over to the cooking area and offered us a sample shaving of sirloin. Such intense flavor and juiciness! Seeing we were hooked, he explained the Brazilian method of slow roasting and had the chef display six or eight other meats including cuts of beef, pork, lamb, sausages and chicken wrapped in bacon, speared on long skewers, then roasted over an inferno of a charcoal pit.
From there he walked us through a tour of what seemed to be a hundred different hot and cold side-orders in a long buffet line. Many varieties of rice, beans, vegetables, salads and condiments are just the beginning of the list.
When you dine at Pampas, you take a large dinner dish over to the charcoal pit and request the cuts of meat you’d like. The chef slices as much as you want. Then you head over to the buffet and heap on the sides, salads and condiments. After composing your meal you have it weighed and billed at $7.99 per pound. There’s a soda fountain and a variety of canned beverages in a cooler. We each grabbed a can of Guarana Antarctica. Apparently a Brazilian favorite, it was refreshing and tasted like a blend of apple and ginger.
With meal decisions and weighing behind us, we chose a booth and got to work. Whenever I make my own plate I end up with a snarl, so I started with a spare rib and worked my way down to the smaller items. I prefer meat done at least medium and I love the edges where flavors are most concentrated. The rib and pork loin were tasty and tender. The chicken was wrapped in strips of bacon to keep it moist, as was the filet that my guest tried. Our consensus was that the steak sirloin was hands down the flavor winner.
My favorite hot side dish was the chicken stewed with potatoes in a tomato-tinged broth. But I also enjoyed the cowboy-style beans with bits of bacon and a chopped vegetable salad of peppers, onion and tomato in a vinegar dressing. Before I could snag a chunk, my companion had finished his bacalao cake, so he described Pampas’s deep-fried fish cake as crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, and not too fishy all around.
Pampas Churrascaria presents a distinct dining alternative in Worcester ~ ethnic, informal, fun and delicious. On the weeknight we visited them they had a guitarist and female vocalist entertaining the diners. An enthusiastic crowd of families, college students and policemen had already discovered Pampas. I’m ready to go back!
145 East Central Street, Worcester