By Sheliza Mitha & The City of Coquitlam
When Maurio Ramos and his family emigrated from Brazil to Canada in 2001, it was with the hope of achieving a better quality of life. While the family immersed and settled themselves entirely in their new chosen home of Metro Vancouver, there was one thing they couldn’t and wouldn’t leave behind: the food and flavours of their native country.
With extensive restaurant experience in their hometown of Aracaju, which sits in the north-eastern part of Brazil, the decision to venture into the food service industry here was an easy one.
“About one year after we arrived in Canada, we were approached by an investor to open a Brazilian Steakhouse, which became Samba,” explains Felipe Ramos, Maurio’s son and a trained chef. “Maurio and I were the only two people involved in the restaurant, and I was one of the first chefs at Samba. Maurio became the general manager.”
More than a decade later, the building that housed Samba was sold and the restaurant was closed soon after. But the Ramos family ventured on with a new endeavour: Rio Brazilian Steak House. The first location opened in 2012 in Vancouver’s West End neighbourhood. The chosen site for the second location is the diverse city of Coquitlam.
These Brazilian restaurants are the only two of its kind throughout Metro Vancouver – both featuring the traditional flavours, as well as cooking and serving techniques of authentic Brazilian-style barbecue. Here, just as in steak houses in Brazil (which are known as rodízios), you’ll find passadores (meat carvers) visiting your table with knives and a skewer with various kinds of meat, including beef, pork, lamb, chicken, sausage… among others.
“We chose Coquitlam for our second location because we wanted a neighbourhood that felt homey, where people live and work and are involved in their community,” Felipe explains. “We were also looking at growth and growth potential, including what kind of big name restaurants were coming here. Then we began scouting locations in Coquitlam and found the right space, the right size and it all came together.”
After six months of major renovations, the new Coquitlam Rio Brazilian Steak House officially opened its doors on Nov. 25, 2015.
Despite its growth and success, Rio Brazilian Steak House continues to be rooted in family. While Maurio manages the office and oversees both locations, his wife Ana takes care of the accounting. Their daughter Mariana manages the Vancouver location, and Felipe oversees the new Coquitlam restaurant.
“This is a real novelty kind of dining experience, but with great quality and value,” Felipe adds. “Rio’s lunch specials are designed to get you in and out in less than an hour, in case you need to get back to work. For dinner, the idea is to relax and enjoy your meal, with 12 different types of meat, a salad bar, hot buffet and even our traditional gluten-free Brazilian cheese bread.”
While “steak house” is surely written in the restaurant’s name, this is not your typical steak restaurant. Walk into Coquitlam’s Rio Brazilian restaurant and you’re almost instantly transported to another part of the world with the up-tempo music, the colourful mural of Rio’s iconic Sugarloaf Mountain and knowledgeable Brazilian staff. Other than the ambiance, what makes a Brazilian Steak House truly unique is the all-you-can eat aspect where every customer is given a card with green on one side and red on the other. Servers – or passadores – come around the restaurant with platters or skewers of various types of meat, ready for your plate when you are.
When you’ve had enough, simply flip the card to red. This, along with Rio’s authentic flavours and vibe – not to mention the live SambaFusion dance shows on Friday and Saturday evenings – make this a local dining experience like no other.
Rio Brazilian Steak House
2729 Barnet Highway