The smell of grilling meat perfumes the air on Frank Street in Bridgeport. What’s going on here? This drab residential neighborhood is crowded with cars. And what’s that funky-looking vividly green-and-yellow building? The sidewalk’s striped green and yellow too, the colors of the Brazilian flag. This is Pantanal, a Brazilian buffet and churrascaria. We’re going in.
It’s Thursday at lunchtime and the place is crowded. We grab plates and try to take in all that’s offered at the cold and hot buffet. We’re overwhelmed, and we’re in the way. Everyone else knows what they want. We’re gawking, and we know we could easily overload our plates with the choice of salads, fruits, hearts of palm, collards, white rice, Spanish rice, mac ‘n cheese, black beans, pinto beans, fried sweet plantain, fried chicken, fried fish and stews. Customers are digging in to those stews. The chicken and okra stew looks intriguing, but I need to exert restraint. I need to focus. I chose an orange-colored stew of smoked pork ribs and white beans. Excellent choice, smoky and deeply flavorful.