There seems to be a stigma when it comes to all-you-can-eat buffets, and perhaps it stems from some old-school chains and Chinese-American restaurants that focus at least in part on quantity rather than quality. But not all buffets are that way, especially when it comes to Brazilian restaurants that include all-you-can-eat options. The Greater Boston area has a number of such places--many of which are excellent--and while some are very well-known (such as the Midwest Grill in Cambridge and Fogo de Chao in Boston's Back Bay), many others are not, including the wonderful--and very hidden--Mineiros Brazilian Steakhouse in Rockland. Another such spot that is much closer to Boston isn't as inexpensive as the almost unbelievably cheap Mineiros, but Oliveira's Steak House in Somerville is something special and well worth the price of admission.
Oliveira's Steak House resides in a rather barren semi-industrial area between Union Square and the Charlestown line, and the fact that it is on the other side of the McGrath-O'Brien Highway from Union Square makes it much less known than many of the dining spots in and around the square. Being in an isolated and empty area with little foot traffic, it is probably unsurprising that the restaurant has its own parking lot (a relative rarity for Somerville eateries) and the restaurant itself is quite large inside. Upon entering the place, you will find a quiet and comfortable dining section to the right and a counter/host area with a dessert case to the left. The buffet sits on the left side of the room with an ordering window for meat items in the back, while to the left is a large, separate room that includes more tables for dining along with an attractive bar. Relatively little light comes in from the outside, so parts of the eatery are a bit dark, and the sound level is pretty quiet overall, with music being played at a moderate level (including lounge music and jazz).
Brazilian steakhouses tend to offer two options for dining--paying by the pound or going with the all-you-can-eat option (with the latter also known as rodizio). Oliveira's is no exception, so it is just a matter of which route to go for dining on a plate of food; if you've never been, it may be a good idea to try the rodizio option, which is under $30 and allows you to try literally everything, while those who are familiar with the place and know exactly what they like might go for paying by weight, with that option being a bit more than $8 per pound. No matter which option you take, the setup is pretty simple--a salad bar is on one side, a buffet bar with mostly appetizers, sides, and non-meat options is on the other, and you can either go to the window and order specific meats or flip the card on your table from "Stop" to "Go" and have servers wander over with various skewers of slow-roasted or grilled meat. Some of the items available at the buffet table (depending on the day) include rice, beans, fried fish, plantains, yucca fries, spaghetti with red sauce, ground beef with potatoes, pork loin with onions, tripe stew, and braised chayote, while meat items include pork ribs, lamb, wings, top sirloin, chicken hearts, pork shoulder, bottom sirloin, and strip loin, to name a few. Some highlights to mention include a sublime braised oxtail and potatoes from the buffet table, that is a bit like a simple but very special version of beef stew; an extraordinary bacon-wrapped chicken option served on a skewer; a prime part of the top sirloin which is perfectly seasoned and charred; garlic beef which comes with cloves placed in the meat; a spicy pork sausage along with a non-spicy version; a hearty lasagna made with chicken; and perfectly-seasoned rice with pieces of lean beef mixed in. Drink options at Oliveira's include a handful of beers and wines and a list of cocktails that includes an excellent sangria, while desserts include a completely decadent chocolate ball, an equally sinful tres leches, different types of cheesecake, caramel flan, tiramisu, and more.
Even if you aren't into all-you-can-eat restaurants, you might still want to check out Oliveira's Steak House, as the quality of the food is head and shoulders above that of your typical buffet spot while the atmosphere is pleasant and pretty laid-back overall. The fact that this is a mostly overlooked spot may also be of interest considering that Somerville is a hotbed of dining with a lot of restaurants and bars that tend to get big crowds. Brazilian steakhouses might not be for everyone, but if you like different kinds of meats and enjoy a different kind of dining experience, Oliveira's isn't a bad option at all.
Copyright © 2018, Boston's Hidden Restaurants (www.hiddenboston.com).