Rodizio at Liberty Center: Review after the first full month of opening — a vacation in our own back yards

To be completely honest, when I travel it is usually the restaurants that I remember most and what I look forward to experiencing before hand. Maybe it’s just the primal need for food and its connection to our daily life that does it, but restaurants reflect most about whatever culture I’m visiting. For instance, when traveling to my favorite amusement park, the Epcot Center in Florida it isn’t the rides that I think of most afterwards, it’s the chance to eat at all the various restaurants representing the different countries. It’s like traveling the world without the pain of all the border crossings and language barriers. Usually when I’m planning a trip, whether it’s to another country or another city within the United States, I scout ahead to the dinning options available and look forward to concluding whatever business I have in those places, so that I can enjoy a unique restaurant experience.

Given that little prequel it should be obvious then why I have taken such a liking to the Rodizio Grill at Liberty Center. It’s an exotic joy that is just as authentic, if not more so, than if I visited a steakhouse in Brazil, but it’s just down the road from me saving the plane fees to get there. After a hard day, or week I can visit the Rodizio at Liberty Center and feel like I took a vacation—which I consider invaluable to stress management—so I feel grateful to have one of these Rodizio restaurants so close now in southern Ohio. There are only two in all of Ohio, one in Columbus and now the one at Liberty Center. There are a few in Colorado, a few in Florida, one in Louisiana, one in Minnesota, Nebraska and New Jersey. So there are a respectable number of them in the United States—but for most of the country it is a journey to get to one of the locations. The Rodizio at Liberty Center is literally down the road for me so given that convenience and my love of a vacation experience even if it’s just for a few hours, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I have been there several times in just the first month of its opening. My wife and I were fortunate enough to be invited to a VIP opening on October 27 2015 and we enjoyed it so much that we took our daughter there for her 25th birthday exactly one month later.

I had been there other times in between, most of them professionally based, but this last time was different—it was my family, so out of all the nice places around the city of Cincinnati, I wanted my little girl to have the best opportunity. I have eaten at most places around the city of Cincinnati. I am very familiar with the various restaurants along the Fields Ertle exit just outside of nearby Mason. But there is nothing like this Brazilian steakhouse outside of downtown Cincinnati. However I prefer the suburbs to downtown mainly because of parking, so it was a no brainer on the decision. I wanted to take her to the Rodizio for a unique, “worldly” experience that I think she deserves—because she’s a good kid who deserves to be pampered on her birthday.

My measure of steakhouses is of course Jags in West Chester which I consider to be the best in the area. Jeff Ruby’s Steak House on Fountain Square is a close second. But these are very expensive establishments. The food is very good, of course, but it’s more a place to be seen, or to raise an impression with a client then the actual functionality of those places. I put the Rodizio at Liberty Center above those steakhouses for one simple reason. The food is on par with those upper crest establishments—but the atmosphere is much more ambitious at Rodizio, and the food supply is limitless. The full Rodizio experience is essentially an all you can eat buffet—an endless supply of fresh vegetables, fruits and salads with some of the best cuts of meat that you can find anywhere—such as the Maminha which is a tri-tip sirloin steak with a moderate marbled-to-lean cut presented medium to medium rare right at your table. The Gauchos bring the meats to your table and present a slice to your plate directly. They will keep coming until you turn your table indicator to red letting them know to either give you a break, or to bring your check. The Picanha is a slice of top sirloin that rivals the best of what any steakhouse anywhere can provide and it’s presented in whatever quantities you can hold as the customer. At the birthday lunch for my daughter they were circulating roughly 7 different types of meat and a standout was the Miolo Da Paleta and the Garlic Beef. Lunch is $19.95 for the full Rodizio experience which I think is an absolute bargain. At dinner the selections increase to well over 10 items including lamb. Dinner is just shy of $33 dollars per person. I’ve now been to Rodizio enough to begin knowing the various cuts of meat on sight which seemed very exotic upon my first visit. They still are, but now they are like familiar friends.

My concern after the VIP dinner was that the management at Rodizio was putting their best foot forward to win over community leaders, but that the food quality would subside after a few weeks of a hard open to the general public. As of this writing Rodizio at Liberty Center has been open for only a month, but their food quality is as good as it was on that first special night. Each time I have been to Rodizio since, which has been at least once a week, Captain Hook, the head chef has personally come to my table to make sure the food quality is up to par. He welcomes criticism because he is aiming at perfection—which impresses me in any endeavor. I continue to be impressed with Captain Hook and the management at Rodizio purely from a business standpoint. It is a real challenge to offer so much fresh food to an unpredictable public. Dinners at Rodizio are busy, so make sure to make reservations. Lunches are something that local residents haven’t yet discovered so the rushes have been sporadic. Yet Captain Hook prepares large quantities of food to accommodate without putting the restaurant in an obvious strain. The kitchen might feel the pressure, but it doesn’t show on the floor where the customers are. Pricing wise, and by function Rodizio is like a hot rod healthy version of the Golden Corral, or a Frisch’s breakfast bar. In those places the food is prepared in mass quantities and sits under hot plates for hours. The food can be good, but you know you’re at a smorgasbord so you don’t expect high quality food. Rodizio has the same challenges, but they’re competing with the best of the steakhouses in the city so the food quality challenge by Captain Hook and the management is to balance out need with supply. I’ve been to Rodizio on really busy nights and during sporadic lunches and the food quality under all those conditions has been very high. They maintain items ranging from Ovo de Codorna (marinated quail eggs) to Salada de Cogumelo (mushroom salad)—fairly complex arrangements all presented very fresh—and I have yet to see the food quality drop.

The 27th of November happened to be Black Friday at Liberty Center and it was good to see the place  bulging with business. People have discovered the place and at just after 6 PM, there wasn’t a parking space to be found except in the very back of the complex. After the first thirty days of opening my family has been there at least 20 times—so Liberty Center has become very important to our social life. We’ve now eaten in most of the establishments—both the premier restaurants of which Rodizio is but one, and the offerings around the food court, and we have had pretty much positive experiences at all of them. I prefer the Rodizio because it is the most unusual of the dining options—it is the one that most feels like something you’d have while on vacation as opposed to just a night out on the town. Rodizio reminds me of something I’d have at the Epcot Center instead of at a local eatery—so I love it. But it’s not just that place, but all of Liberty Center which contributes to that vacation destination feel. If I were from out-of-town, I’d look forward most to visiting Liberty Center and restaurants like the Rodizio as the takeaway of my traveling experience. It’s that kind of place. I can’t help but think of how lucky some of the people who are leasing apartments and office space in the yet to be opened buildings where work, living, and pleasure will be offered in a one stop experience. When those places do open restaurants like Rodizio will be wonderful options for them. You can eat healthy and affordably at the Rodizio, and load up your food for the day instead of leaving hungry. A group of eight like we had at Rodizio would have cost about $700 to feed at Jags. That same group at Rodizio was just shy of $200 and we didn’t hold back on anything—we spent very loosely, deserts, drinks, and tips. And we were stuffed. I didn’t need to eat the next day. The food was so good that you just don’t want to stop eating it. But at some point you are on the verge of busting so you put your table indicator on its side and they bring your check. If I were a young millennial living at one of the Liberty Center apartments, I’d eat at Rodizio every day for lunch at only $19.95 and get all the fruits and veggies a body needs. For business travelers staying at the Marriott at the other end of the complex, Rodizio will solve jet lag and replenish you after a long day of boring business meetings. It’s a bargain, and a luxury. As good as the other restaurants are—and so far they all are, it’s the all you can eat option at Rodizio mixed with the exotic style of the food that put it on top for me.

After our lunch we walked around Liberty Center and enjoyed the Holiday lights. It was a warm evening, so it was a pleasure to stroll around and people watch. Liberty Center is a special place and in just a very short time my family has used it for what it was intended. It’s a vacation destination that we have in our own backyards. As I write this we are making plans for a complex trip overseas to very exotic locations, but I can’t say that I am looking forward to any of them the way I do when going to Liberty Center and dinning at the Rodizio Grill. I appreciate what all the ambition that made Liberty Center possible was committed to so that places like Rodizio could be an entertainment option. But it’s still nice to see people enjoying it. If there was anything that really jumped out at me about the Thanksgiving Holiday for which we just experienced, it was that I’m thankful for the wonders of capitalism—because it’s on full display at Liberty Center. It shows what unlocked human potential can generate if provided with the opportunity. Among the best of these examples is the Rodizio Grill. It’s a real treasure in southern Ohio and a perfect getaway for a spirit needing to recover from the stresses of living—without the worry of spending yourself into oblivion to get there. It’s a vacation experience every time you go—and for me, that’s a cache worth more than money.

Rich “Cliffhanger” Hoffman