Brazil Grille, Hartford
July 8, 2006
Our last stop on the World Cup Tour 2006 was, for me, the most anticipated. I had previewed the Brazil Grill restaurant the week prior by popping my head in during the group play Japan game. Even though it was a Thursday afternoon and the game meant absolutely nothing to Brazil, the place was packed and somewhat rowdy. In light of that, I figured that the do-or-die semi-final versus France on a Saturday afternoon would mean that we had to get there early.
And so, on a hot and muggy afternoon, Ed and I arrived at the Brazilian restaurant about 30 minutes before kickoff and surveyed the scene. The set-up there is rather unique; we were getting lunch which meant grabbing a plate and loading it up with random stuff from the salad bar thing. But it wasn’t so much salad; rather, it was various bean and rice mixtures, along with a bunch of veggies and meat parts. You see, the Brazilians like their meat. This was a churrascaria after all – a Brazilian barbeque place. We have a couple here in Hartford.
At Brazil Grille, the meat gathering was more subdued than some of the waitered places in that you asked the guy at the counter for a hunk of meat out of the rotisserie oven thing and then you paid by the pound. (This way, the Ed’s of the world can later boast, “I ate 2.65 pounds of meat today!”)
Brazil Grille was chock full of meat-and-soccer lovin’ Brazilians. By game time, it was a standing room only crowd – and I think Ed and I were pretty much the only ones not speaking Portuguese. Even the totally Caucasian looking people near us were yapping away in the foreign tongue. The game was shown through a projector onto a big white wall as we all sat at long cafeteria style tables. It was all Styrofoam and plastic – for after all, we were there for the soccer, not the Caipirinhas.
The crowd was intense. They knew their soccer, and they knew their boys were the “best in the world.” Heck, we’d been told that a billion times in the last few weeks of this World Cup, right? The first half progressed as Brazil missed several chances. The Brazilians around us were getting more upset with each passing moment. Here I was eating my chicken hearts and fried bananas thinking, “Calm down guys… It’s Brazil. You’ll win…”
Le GOAL! Les Bleus! Le GOAL! Oops. France scored. Let me tell you, as a lifelong Philly fan I felt a level of comfort in that room. Utter deflation… Silencio… And sadness. Lots and lots of sad looking people in funny hats and bright yellow shirts. The fat sweaty guy with the annoying noise-maker sat quietly and the meat consumption slowed to a crawl as well.
Ed and I watched a lot of teams lose during our tour, but nothing compared to the outright dismay at the Brazil Grille after the final whistle versus the Frenchies. Ah oui, some cried tears into their rump roasts and poked their pork butts with disgust. To add insult to injury, upon leaving the restaurant and emerging into the white sunlight, Park Road was filled with beeping cars covered in giant Portugal flags – for they had won their game that morning and were still celebrating. Several heated words flew back and forth between the dejected Brazilians and elated Portuguese. I’m sure it was something like, “Ha ha you stinky Brazilians, we conquered you a few hundred years ago and you are colonial bums and you can’t play futbol and you still speak our language! Ha ha!”
“Oh yeah? You can take your salted cod and ugly women back to Europe and we’ll keep our samba and our Carnivale and our thongs and our Brazilian waxes, you imperialist pigs!”
Yup, I’m sure – Just. Like. That.
And thus ends our World Cup Tour 2006. I never planned on following it through to the end. But I had a great time and I’m already looking forward to 2010.