Giraffas offers fast, casual Brazilian dining

Victor Vazquez (left) and Carlos Cotto manage Giraffas in Pinecrest.

Victor Vazquez (left) and Carlos Cotto manage Giraffas in Pinecrest.

High quality and affordable “fast-casual” Brazilian dining is only a short distance away for Pinecrest residents thanks to the arrival of Giraffas Brazilian Steaks and Burgers at 9459 S. Dixie Hwy.

The company began 31 years ago in Brasilia as a side endeavor by 19-year-old Carlos Guerra, an engineering student and culinary whiz kid who fine tuned his business over the next 30 years and turned it into the internationally successful company it is today. When Guerra decided to branch out into North America, he considered Miami the ideal place for expansion.

“We knew South Florida’s diverse population would be immediately receptive to our unique concept,” says Carlos Vanegas, director of U.S. marketing.

So far, their instincts have been spot-on as the Pinecrest location is the third to open locally and a fourth is being planned.

First time customers are impressed by the restaurant’s thoughtful design, which won an award from the Retail Design Institute earlier this year. The interior has many bold, contrasting colors that make it unlike anything else in the area. There is every seating option available in several different combinations. Ahandful of televisions are spread around the dining area and display live news and food-based twitter feeds. The restaurant is very brightly lit and clean, with adorable giraffe-themed touches and an open aesthetic.

“When Juscelino Kubitshek ordered the construction of Brasilia in 1956, he envisioned a city built around tradition, but with an eye to the future,” says Vanegas. “When Carlos Guerra and his team commissioned FRCH, an awardwinning Cincinnati-based architectural and design firm, he laid out the road map for a similar approach.”

Once customers decide what they want to eat and finish paying, they are handed a numbered card, asked to put it in a giraffe-shaped card holder at a table of their choice and their food is brought to them. The restaurant is well-staffed and the employees are knowledgeable, helpful and outgoing. Although there is a tip jar in the front by the register, the employees do not rely solely on tips. Their enthusiastic nature is indicative of an employer who treats the staff well.

“We let the people we hire know that this is their home,” says manager Victor Vazquez, who was recruited by Giraffas immediately after graduating from Le Cordon Bleu. “It’s like when you invite someone to your house, you’ve got to treat them as your guest.”

The food is a revelation. In line with traditional Brazilian fare, dishes are prepared fresh in an open, visible kitchen and all items are separated. A delicious assortment of sauces is brought to the table on the side and the customers decide how they want to dig in. In the rare instances where the sauce is integrated into the food, such as with the filet mignon tips stroganoff, it is expertly crafted to yield a robust, mildly tangy flavor with a pleasant aftertaste.

“We believe in the inherent taste of each food, that it is better to bring out the natural flavor rather than attempt to modify it with sauces or spices,” says Vanegas.

Giraffas is pursuing its share in the market with a passion. In the next three months, they will open two more stores, one in Pembroke Pines and then one more at another Broward County location. In 2014, new restaurants are planned for Orlando and Tampa.

Giraffas is open Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to Midnight. For more information, call 305-728-8833 or go to

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