A little South American, a lot Brazilian, on the Hermosa Pier Plaza

Silvio’s South American Lounge & Grill servers Shannon Thomas, and Keilla Mena people watch on Pier Plaza while preparing table set-ups. Photo by Kevin Cody

Silvio’s rebranded, but still has everything you liked about the old place

A well-established brand is a cherished thing in any industry, something usually tinkered with only when someone else files a claim that they had it first, or when bad publicity makes it no longer an asset. There are exceptions, and they’re usually when a company changes some aspect of their business so that the old name just doesn’t fit any more.

Silvio’s Brazilian Barbecue has been a fixture on the Hermosa Pier Plaza for over fifteen years, and had been popular for a long time before that in their original location in Torrance. When they closed last summer for an interior remodel and announced that they’d reopen as a South American Grill instead of a Brazilian barbecue, I expected big changes. I did wonder how would they reflect the diversity of that continent’s cuisine while satisfying their current customers? Surely they wouldn’t take popular items like the mixed grill “carnaval plate” off the menu… or would they?

They didn’t, and as far as I can tell they didn’t take anything else off the list either. They did make additions representing other culinary cultures, such as Peruvian ceviche, Colombian arepas, the Argentine sausage sandwich known as choripan, and a few new items whose provenance I find hard to pin down. There are more items for people who aren’t big meat eaters, which fits our times, and it’s a little more stylish and interesting than the previous menu.

There haven’t been any big changes to the interior except for new lighting that also fits that description as stylish and interesting. We had a good view of it because we sat inside both times we visited due to cool and windy weather.  That ocean breeze that is such an attraction in midsummer is not so alluring in March. It was warm inside, and on the most recent visit a cheerful server joked with us as we headed for the table farthest from any drafts. The staff here are welcoming and friendly, and were happy to give recommendations based on personal experience.

The corn ribs at Silvio’s are more Mexican than South American, but are crowd pleasers nevertheless. Photo by Richard Foss

On our visits we tried starters of coxinha, the Brazilian chicken croquettes, drunken prawns, chicken-vegetable soup, and charred corn ribs, the latter being strips of corn cut from the cob in case you were wondering when vegetables started having bony structures. That corn is marinated in a milk and garlic sauce before grilling, something I’ve never encountered before, and whether the sugars in the milk or some other alchemy adds to the flavor, it’s delicious. It’s like the best barbecue corn you’ve had, but better. They serve it with lime and a dusting of cheese along with avocado sauce, and I ended up using the sauce on something else because this was just fine as it was.

That grill char flavor was a plus on another item we had, the drunken prawns. This may not resemble any drunken prawns you’ve had elsewhere, because many cultures have a dish with this name. The Chinese marinate live shrimp in rice wine, Filipinos use the name for shrimp cooked in rum and vinegar, and in Louisiana that’s shrimp in a spicy tomato, wine and herb sauce. Silvio’s version uses a cream sauce with a slight red pepper kick, and it’s served with rolls that have spent some time on the grill so that they have a distinct smoky char. I was expecting my wife to scrape off the black bits because she usually doesn’t like bread that is over-toasted, but she didn’t this time and didn’t regret it. The hint of sharp smokiness went along very well with that sauce, and we liked it so much that we took every drop that we didn’t eat so we could have it with our breakfast toast the next day.

We were less happy with the coxinha, five balls of mashed potato stuffed with chopped chicken and deep-fried. They were slightly dry and a bit bland, and needed a dipping sauce of some sort to perk them up. I asked for hot sauce and they brought Tapatio, Sriracha, and Brazilian piri-piri, a very multicultural set of seasonings.  The soup we had at that same meal needed no alteration, as the rich stock had a gentle but welcome peppery kick.

At one meal we had the picanha steak and the grilled chicken, which proved that they haven’t forgotten how to make the items that helped make the place famous. The beef was marinated with rock salt and beer and char-grilled, the chicken in a marinade that is a house secret, and both were served in ample portions. They came with a colorful house salad and sides, and we picked the cole slaw, fries, Brazilian black beans, and a vegetable kebab. I wouldn’t turn any of them down, but favored the grilled vegetables and rich, slightly smoky beans.

At our other recent meal my wife had that veggie kebab again because she liked it so much the first time, but this time over rice with a salad and the beans. It’s a varied and filling vegetarian entree for seventeen bucks, and will dispel any vegetarian’s concerns about whether they can find something they like in a place known for Brazilian BBQ. I had the choripan sandwich, an Argentine style smoked chorizo topped with chimichurri sauce with smoked garlic aioli, sliced tomato, and red onion. Argentine chorizo is nothing like Mexican chorizo and very much like an Italian sausage – given that Italians emigrated to Buenos Aires in vast numbers in the 1800’s, it probably is an Italian sausage. Chimichurri sauce is very much like pesto for the same reason, so you can see how the old world and new are straddled by this street food favorite. Like so many things here, it’s not fancy food but it is delicious.

Silvio’s doesn’t have a liquor license but offers low-alcohol cocktails, beer, wine, and cider. Their white sangria was a bit sweet for my tastes but the red was very good, and the “limosa” concoction of prosecco with lemonade, light vodka, and charred lemon with a brown sugar rim was nicely balanced and refreshing.

A meal at Silvio’s is surprisingly inexpensive for a Pier Plaza location steps from the beach, with many entrees under $20. It’s Hermosa’s slice of South America, quirky, casual, and individual, and a worthy successor to the previous version of itself.


Silvio’s is located at 20 Pier Avenue in Hermosa Beach. Open 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. Mo-Fr, 10 a.m. – 11 p.m. Sa, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Su, paid lot behind restaurant or street parking. Patio dining, some vegetarian items, alcohol served, corkage $15. Phone 310-376-6855, menu at silviosloungeandgrill.com.


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