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First Look: Texas De Brazil Express

We love the idea of Texas de Brazil Express: take a trusted name in meat-coma dining and parlay it into a quick meal concept. Round out said concept with a simple assisted assembly-line format and plop it in a busy shopping center (with ample parking) and you've got yourself a winner.

At first glance, TDBE (we're gonna abbreviate, 'cause they do it, too--and we're not paid by the word) comes across much like a Chipotle or the revered Freebirds World Burrito. Another smart move, if you ask us, because familiarity is a plus when you've got but a few precious moments to stuff your face before heading back to the cubicle.

No offense to Vapiano and the like, but who wants to spend the first half of their lunch or dinner break just trying to negotiate some newfangled situation?

TDBE features a clean and spacious dining area with a large counter-slash-buffet in the rear. Just choose a salad, sandwich or rice bowl and then a friendly server will help you put your meal together step-by-step. The meat selection includes Texas de Brazil's tender picanha (sirloin steak), organic chicken breast, organic pork loin and Brazilian sausage. Our companion went with the steak--in sandwich form on a generous 8-inch ciabatta roll ($7.75). We ordered the salad with chicken ($6.75) and nearly swooned when the counter girl asked sweetly, "It's wrapped in bacon--is that okay?"

Yes, honey, that's fan-freakin-tastic.

A trip down the line followed, and our new best friend was more than happy to explain all the various toppings and spreads and what-have-you available to dress up our dinners. For the sammie, we piled on Swiss cheese, arugula and peppercorn cream sauce. The salad got balsamic-marinated tomatoes, hearts of palm and a generous dousing of chimichurri sauce in place of dressing. They've also got Ranch and blue cheese and what-have-you, but when in Rome...

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A few bites in, our date declared his dinner "The best sandwich I've had in a long time." We could say the same for the salad, but we didn't quite know how to interpret the meaning of that statement. Since he escaped from a cage somewhere in the central American jungle? Has he been eating at McDonald's a lot?

Anyway, marinating tomatoes is a genius move--it coaxes sweet flavor from the fruit even if you begin with less-than-ripe specimens. The chimichurri was chock full of fresh herbs and that chicken was tender and well-seasoned, thanks to its smoky wrapper. Our only quibble, in fact, was that the meat was of uniform lukewarm temperature.

We're thinking this might not be the case at lunchtime, though, when cuts fly out of the red cast iron meat pots at a much faster pace (we presume). All in all, TDBE presents a well-executed twist on not one but two familiar concepts.

Well done.

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