- Alex Springer
I love fast casual joints as much as the next person, but there really isn't a whole lot of variety in that scene—a man cannot live on rice bowls alone. While the fast casual model has evolved, there is only one place I can think of that can really satisfy someone's hankering for some finely grilled meat, and that place is Tushar Brazilian Express (1078 W. South Jordan Parkway, 801-446-6644). It's a riff on the Brazilian churrasco cuisine that gave us places like Rodizio Grill and Texas de Brazil, and Tushar places a lot of emphasis on the fire-grilled protein that make this cuisine so delectable. Bridging the gap between churrasco and fast-casual comes in the form of skewered meats of all stripes, plus a slew of traditional Brazilian slides, appetizers and desserts.
Tushar's approach was conceived by Chef Wagner Ribeiro and manager Alacy Monteiro as a way to honor the food they grew up with in their native Brazil. Both men have had experience with Brazilian and South American restaurants in Utah and in other states. The transition from their past experiences to Tushar was not only on-trend, but it turns out that Brazilian cuisine lends itself quite nicely to the model.
The foundational meat skewers of Tushar's menu can be ordered a la carte or in a meal with three different sides. There's really no wrong direction to take when considering your order. I'm a fan of the glazed pork loin ($3.45) with its slightly sweet caramelization on the outside of the tender meat, and the beef skewer ($3.75), cooked medium rare—yes, they'll ask you how you like your beef cooked, which is a nice touch. If you're after something on the lighter side, the grilled chicken ($2.99) and grilled pineapple ($3.45) are also fantastic—there's nothing quite like fire-grilled pineapple when it explodes with that slightly burnt tang of sweetness.
Making a meal out of your Tushar experience will set you back around nine bucks depending on your skewer of choice, and it lets you add three of their ample side dishes to the party. When it comes to this part of the process, there are a few hits and misses. Their mashed potatoes are prepared skins and all, and fried bananas should be a side dish everywhere regardless of the food's genre. I always get the steamed vegetables in an attempt to make my meal a bit more balanced, but they're very rarely satisfying. I've got nothing against veggies with my meat skewers, but the watery mass of steamed veggies doesn't quite satisfy. If you want to add some greenery to your plate, the salad is a better option.
Of course, you might want to avoid the skewers altogether and snag their onion steak ($12.95) which is an eight-ounce cut of top sirloin served with three sides. It's not a bad price for a decent steak, and when you pair that up with a trio of side dishes, it's a pretty solid meal for less than $15.
Although I don't typically have room for appetizers and desserts, Tushar has a few tasty members of the supporting cast. The Brazilian cheese rolls ($2.50) are piping-hot orbs of gluten-free goodness, and the vanilla flan ($4.50) is a sweet and silky way to end a meal.
It can be easy to write off a fast casual place as a gimmick or a fad, but after a few visits to Tushar, it's hard to lump it in with other fast casual places. Sure, you hop in line, order what you want and then take a seat while your meal is brought out with uncanny speed, but Tushar is cooking up food that ranks at a slightly higher caliber. Sometimes a restaurant like this uses its fast casual façade as an excuse to serve up rubbery meat or lukewarm starches, but Tushar strives to create food that is consistently tasty and unique to other restaurants that might look the same. If you're a fan of meats that are grilled to perfection and dipping your toe into some highlights of Brazilian cooking, Tushar definitely delivers.