Opened in November 2018, Costela Brazilian Steak House brings an authentic churrascaria experience to Bay City, Michigan; the Tri-City area’s bay-side travel destination. The steakhouse is the first of its kind in the area, as its culinary practice is driven by the Churrasco tradition, which emerged in Brazil in the 18th century. The unique form of Brazilian barbeque was once the cuisine of Brazilian cowboys and has since, for centuries, evolved into an engrained piece of national and cultural identity that gradually made its way north, into the United States.
In Bay City, the Costela Brazilian Steak House pays homage by utilizing key aspects of the traditional process, such as mesquite wood-fire grills—operated at a searing 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit—to slow cook premium cuts of meat and reveal their complex natural flavors. Costela’s 14 cuts of USDA-certified, authentic Brazilian meats pair with produce from its gourmet Brazilian Market Table and Feijoada Bar, as well as a full wine and cocktail bar specializing in Caipirinha, a national Brazilian cocktail mixed from Cachaca liquor and fresh lime.
For this edition of The Golf Explorer: Michigan’s Journal to Incredible Golf, we explored Costela’s tribute to the increasingly popular Churrasco tradition in conversation with Executive Chef Ramiro Costilla. Besides a deep appreciation for Churrasco, Costilla brings a preference for clean labels, impactful flavors, and minimalistic seasonings to the menu, along with an overall approach focused on letting the natural qualities of each ingredient express themselves.
TGE: I’m curious as to how you arrived at Costela and what excited you about starting to cook there?
Costilla: We’re a family-owned restaurant group with five locations in the Tri-Cities. Costela Brazilian Steak House is our latest venture. We were intrigued by the concept of churrascarias from the first time my brother, Jose visited a Brazilian Steakhouse in Seattle. Ever since then, we dreamed of bringing that same idea to our town, a place to hold celebrations—from milestone ones to low key ones—without being in a big, metropolitan city. What excited me to be here was the notion of being involved in the introduction of this wonderful and unique concept of Brazilian-style cuisine to the community. The opportunity came when the decision to open in the fall of 2018 was finalized.
What would you say is most significant to you about churrascarias or the churrasco tradition? What’s most enjoyable or unique to you?
The most significant thing, and most enjoyable too, about the churrasco, to me, would be the table-side carvings. It is unlike the typical dining experience where most of the magic happens in the kitchen and all the customer sees is the final presentation. In a churrascaria, the carvings come out to you. This is one of the main concepts that we want to convey to our customers, that your meats go from grill to plate in a matter of seconds. It’s the same idea during a big cookout, which is personally my favorite thing, where you’re by the grill sampling what you’re grilling.
What’s most unique about Costela Brazilian Steak House is our 100 percent mesquite charcoal grills. We use no gas grills. We’re definitely proud of that because grilling with 100 percent mesquite provides a flavor profile that is accentuated in the final product.
We were talking about how the side additions are one of your favorite parts of the meal and I was wondering if you could walk me through the process of how a guest might put together a meal…
When our guests arrive, they are greeted by white tablecloth service followed by the server giving a fine-detailed explanation of Costela Brazilian Steak House’s churrascaria. Once the dining experience has begun, you’re invited to try a traditional Caipirinha or if you’re a wine aficionado, maybe select a bottle from our broad selection of wines, or perhaps an old favorite from our full-service bar. From here, our guests are invited to make their way to the Market Table where one may choose from the freshest greens, imported charcuterie and cheeses, olives, artisan breads and an assortment of dressings, from robust to sweet.
We also offer in-house smoked cherry-glazed Atlantic salmon, Mediterranean-style ceviches, and more. And from our hot Feijoada Bar, one may find traditional Brazilian Feijoada and Jasmine rice and an assortment of soups and pasta dishes, specializing in seafood bisques. Once you’ve enjoyed the Market Table and Feijoada Bar, on your command, our Gauchos will start the Rodizio, a mouthwatering parade of certified angus beef cuts, including Picanha, filet mignon, bacon-wrapped filet, braised beef ribs, Alcatra sirloin, flank steak and garlic-tip Picanha, lamb chops and leg of lamb, Halal-certified chicken, heritage breed pork loin and ribs, and custom-blend sausage. We also offer the most popular and vegan-favorite brown sugar glazed pineapple.
It’s obviously a pretty traditional process overall, with nice simple ingredients added to make the flavor profile shine. Within this, do you find that there are ways to be creative or do you want to be creative with those boundaries at all?
It is definitely important to us to preserve the traditions of a churrascaria and the flavors of Brazil so our greatest creativity lies in our main focus to provide quality ingredients. We make it a point to work with the industry’s best innovators to develop and come up with out-of-the-box ideas which is what sets us apart. We offer a fusion of traditional Brazilian recipes and modern cuisine, from classic to trendsetting, all the while putting as much effort in making each experience as personal and unique as possible. Our priority here in Costela is to provide our customers a memorable dining experience.
How has feedback been for this one-of-a-kind dining experience in the Tri-City area?
The community response has been amazing, which is what we expected from the Tri-City area. From the start, we have felt welcomed and supported. It has always been our goal to provide transparency, which is why we went with an open kitchen concept so that our guests may observe, firsthand, the top-notch quality of our products and the care and expertise we implement when preparing their food.
I’m curious, if you had to recommend one or two dishes or combinations for first timers, what would you choose, personally?
With the variety of fresh options in our Market Table and delectable bisques in our Feijoada Bar and expertly mesquite-grilled meats in our churrasco, and broad selections of drinks and spirits in our bar, what I’d recommend is for guests to try everything!
Are there any last thoughts you’d like to share?
I’d like to invite your readers to come to Costela Brazilian Steak House in Uptown Bay City to experience for themselves just what I’ve described. And to learn more about us, please visit www.costelabraziliansteakhouse.com and join us on Facebook for exciting news, events and specials we have planned for the upcoming months. We have seasonal menu changes that are not to be missed!
To make a reservation or learn more about this Bay City Churrascaria, visit Costela’s website at costelabraziliansteakhouse.com
Photography by Phil Eich