By Amy L. Schubert Food Writer Published Jul 03, 2006 at 5:37 AM Photography: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography
The long-vacant former home of the Stout Brothers, 777 N. Water St., now celebrates "a rich and powerful fifth element -- Sabor" with the appearance of the beautifully decorated and meticulously designed Brazilian churrascaria. Sabor, which means flavor, is a fitting name for this unique new establishment with a smorgasbord salad and appetizer buffet and 12 types of spit roasted meats which, according to lore, are served churrasco (barbeque) style, by gauchos (Brazilian cowboys), who carve them tableside to order.

As with anything new, there is a learning curve at Sabor, and some less adventurous diners may find the restaurant’s inclusive pricing and distinctive meat carving theme to be a bit intimidating, but the Sabor experience is one everyone should try at least once (Sabor’s first course is very vegetarian friendly). The service here is professional and courteous without being obtrusive, and getting the opportunity to sample everything on a restaurant’s menu is just plain fun.

On a recent visit, we were led to a table with two small coasters on it, which said, "No, Thank You" and "Yes, Please" on either side. Our server quickly explained that this is how you direct the ordering process for the gauchos and then showed us to the first course which is an enormous compilation of cheeses, salads, hors d’oeuvres, and grilled, pickled and marinated vegetables galore. Once you’ve completed stuffing yourself on about 20 different options at this king’s style buffet, you flip your little disk to "Yes, Please" and the parade of succulent meats begins.

Plates of rolls, mashed potatoes, beans and rice are whisked to your table and the gauchos begins to visit, carving at your request from their selection of one of the 12 offered meats: picanah (sirloin), fraldinha (bottom sirloin), frango (chicken legs and bacon wrapped chicken breasts), filet mignon (tenderloin and tenderloin wrapped in bacon), cordeiro (lamb chops or carved lamb shank), costela de porco (baby back ribs), alcatra (top sirloin), lombo (pork loin) and linguica (pork sausages).

Once we nibbled our way through the menu, we rapidly discovered which selections we preferred, and with a simple mention of our favorites, the gauchos leapt to put those items at the top of our rotation. Every bite of meat we had was perfectly seasoned, and while we liked some options better than others, that is the beauty of Sabor; you build your own dining list.

We found the chicken to be exceptional, and the tenderloin was more tender and delicious than what you will find in many of Milwaukee’s high-end steak houses, so those were the items we favored, while a table near us was in love with the pork loin and their gaucho returned repeatedly to artfully carve the lombo.

Pricing at Sabor is fixed rate and you can opt for the first course only (lunch, $14.50, dinner, $32.50) or the full rodizio (lunch, $28.50, dinner, $42.50). We felt that this was more than reasonable, considering other restaurants in Milwaukee with comparable ambience and professional service are commanding single entrée prices in the high 20s to the $40 range.

And dining at Sabor really is an event. We were thoroughly entertained the entire time we were there by the novelty of the churrascaria dining experience, and just by all the interaction that comes with eating here: between ourselves and the gauchos as we selected our meal, between myself and my dining companion, as we discussed what we liked and did not like as much, and between ourselves and our waiter, who served us meticulously and was fun and entertaining and brimming with recommendations.

Sabor Brazilian Churrascaria provides an experience not to be missed, and one that we were looking forward to even as we left, creating the menus in our heads of what we want to sample on our next visit.

Amy L. Schubert is a 15-year veteran of the hospitality industry and has worked in every aspect of bar and restaurant operations. A graduate of Marquette University (B.A.-Writing Intensive English, 1997) and UW-Milwaukee (M.A.-Rhetoric, Composition, and Professional Writing, 2001), Amy still occasionally moonlights as a guest bartender and she mixes a mean martini.

The restaurant business seems to be in Amy’s blood, and she prides herself in researching and experimenting with culinary combinations and cooking techniques in her own kitchen as well as in friends’ restaurants. Both she and her husband, Scott, are avid cooks and “wine heads,” and love to entertain friends, family and neighbors as frequently as possible.

Amy and Scott live with their boys, Alex and Nick, in Bay View, where they are all very active in the community. Amy finds great pleasure in sharing her knowledge and passions for food and writing in her contributions to OnMilwaukee.com.