Popular Brazilian fast-casual Giraffas started its invasion of South Florida last year, opening the first international outpost in North Miami. The logo is two giraffes with forks and knives for legs, but the long-necked animal is not on the menu. The place features Brazilian-style beef cuts served as steaks or ground up for burgers.
Giraffas started as a burger joint in Sao Paulo. Two friends bought it 30 years ago, kept the name and developed the menu, then franchised it throughout Brazil. Carlos Vanegas, a Colombian who grew up in New York is the U.S. marketing director and his Argentine friend Willie Moreyra manages the cheerful place with an open kitchen.
Picanha, meaning “branding iron,” is the steak favored in Brazil. It’s also known as top sirloin cap and cut from the region of the steer where it is branded. The grass-fed beef is seasoned with rock salt and grilled over high heat until the layer of fat on the bottom melts, creating a crisp crust. The 10-ounce steak is served in two slabs cooked to your preference with a choice of three sides (rice, grilled veggies, mashed potatoes, salad, quinoa) or as a 5-ounce steak served sliced with rice, beans and farofa (toasted manioc flour). Popular stroganoff arrived in the 1950s and was adapted to Brazilian tastes. Here it brings filet mignon tips and mushrooms (or shrimp or chicken) in savory cream sauce plated with fries and rice or spaghetti.
Feast on meat until the cows come home, but save room for warm passion fruit cake with coconut ice cream.
Linda Bladholm is a Miami food writer and personal chef who blogs at FoodIndiaCook.com.