One of the best reasons to reconsider your vegetarian/vegan lifestyle (or agenda) is cultural. Unlike New York City, a vegetarian routine is hard to achieve in many places. Vegetarian friends who like to explore the world tell me time and time again how hard it is to find vegetarian options in their travels. Outside of the modern world most people are still omnivorous… they rely on the flesh of animals for protein. Likewise I tell my friends that in the USA it is increasingly difficult to find carnivorous options to satisfy my tastes buds along with my budget.
When I first moved to this country I scarcely ate meat. There was plenty of delicious looking, high quality cuts of meat, some of them from grass fed, free range, organically grown, animals. The problem was that I couldn’t afford those. I was left with the less than appealing sandwich meat and suspicious looking, thin, grayish specimens that would undoubtedly embarrass the cow.
I chose not to eat meat, and I think it was the right choice. Not because I felt bad for the animals, not because I was alarmed at deforestation caused by cattle grazing, not even because of mad cow disease. Even though all of those things are sad realities my decision was made because of value. I found increasingly difficult to afford the kind of high quality cuts of meat that caught my eye at the market or at a restaurant. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. At some point I became dangerously close to becoming a vegetarian… by default.
Fortunately, neighborhood carnivores can rejoice (and diversify) in their unique love of animals, without delivering a devastating blow to their bank account by visiting Pampa Grill.
The small restaurant located on Graham Ave serves traditional southern South American cuisine focusing on fine, imported cuts of beef which people regularly travel 11 hours on an airplane to taste. (Because of the ban on importing of highly praised Argentine beef, Pampa serves the same cuts, just that they come from the other side of the Rio de la Plata… that is to say, their cows were Uruguayan).
The tradition of the parillada might be one of the important cultural contributions Argentina and Uruguay have made to the world. A parillada is a cookout where entire animals are cooked over meticulously arranged hot coals for multiple families. It is the ritualistic site of communion, where family and friends can sit around a controlled fire and roast animals…much like our common ancestors, the cavemen, did.
The great thing about going to Pampa is the variety of cuts. Pampa pays tribute to the animal by serving not only the run-of the mill cuts like rib eyes, strip steaks, and skirt steaks they also serve sweat breads and blood sausages.
Pampa makes its own chorizo (pork sausage) and morcilla (blood sausage). Upon my visit, the chef came out of the kitchen to tell me so himself (I took a look at some online reviews of Pampa and it seems that a visit from the Chef is a pretty routine occurrence.) He assured me that you won’t find a sausage like this outside of his parent’s native Uruguay.
The empanadas, a Latin American turnover, are light and delicious appetizers filled with cheese or cheese and tomatoes or ham and even spinach or corn for those vegetarians who are good enough friends to be silent, carnivorous accomplices. These wonderful appetizers are $6 for two.
Milanesas, an Argentine and Uruguayan favorite, are breaded beef or chicken cutlets, served beneath a special marinara sauce and melted mozzarella cheese.
I think that the stand out are the short ribs. Short ribs are one of the cheapest cuts of meat in the supermarket. In restaurants they are usually braised but in Pampa this cut is done the honor (like all the others) of letting the flavors of the meat come through the grill and a bit of salt.
The best dish to try in Pampa is the Parillada Gaucha. A Gaucho is a South American cow boy, and this tray of meat would make any Gaucho proud. Chorizo, Morcilla, Sweet Breads, Skirt Steak and Short Ribs make up this feast which is suggested for two, but easily serves three for under $40.
With the exception of the Yucca, sides at Pampa are a little less than exciting. However, this isn’t the only thing that sets it apart from your regular steakhouse. Where one might spend 40 dollars per person, eating one single cut of meat, you could spend the same in Pampa and actually explore the different sides of the cow.
The great thing about Pampa is the meat. It’s not the ambiance, not the decor, not the service (even though the service is great. It’s about paying tribute to an animal by eating more than just the usual, prized cuts, and by doing justice to the meats natural flavors by dressing them up without pretense (or sauce)… just salt.
372 Graham Ave, Brooklyn 11211
Btwn Skillman Ave & Conselyea St