Monday, November 18, 2013

The Chicago Dining World Tour: Even If It May Not Be All That Authentic, Brazilian Steakhouse Makes the Cut

Fogo de Chão
661 N Lasalle Blvd, Chicago

What I ate: Meat, lots of it, of various kinds

I have yet to visit Brazil--or anywhere in South or Central America--so I can't speak intelligently to the authenticity, or lack thereof, of a place like Fogo de Chao.

Though I'm aware that there are several Churrascarias in Brazil--including 6 Fogo de Chao locations--my assumption is that the Americanized versions are considerably bigger...and pricier.

Fogo de Chao employs skilled "passadores"--meat waiters/slicers--who are dressed seemingly in Brazilian garb. Yet even if modeled after a dining concept native to Brazil, unlike other excursions on my Chicago Dining World Tour, this one wasn't accompanied by ready imagination that I was somewhere else around the globe.

But it was delicious and satisfying nonetheless.

My friend Dave and I arrived at Fogo de Chao's River North location--there's also one in Rosemont--around 6:30 on a Sunday, having made reservations.

Dave had eaten there before, but though I've twice been to a similar yet now extinct churrascaria--Sal & Carvao--that was likely at least a decade ago and I hadn't ever been to Fogo de Chao. (Fogo de Chao is a chain with locations across the U.S. and in Brazil. Two presumably similar churrascarias in Chicago are Brazzaz and Texas de Brazil.)

While I couldn't help but be impressed by the salad bar, and did try a few small bites from it, I wasn't paying $51.50 to get filled up on lettuce.

Besides the cuts of meat--they promote "15" but it seemed a few short--diners are brought complimentary side dishes including mashed potatoes, caramelized bananas and cheese bread.

 Of course, these are all starchy and designed to limit one's gorging on the cuts of meat, but after awhile I was glad to have something different interspersed among all the red meat.

Click here to see the full lineup of meat served at Fogo de Chao, but Dave and I tried most of what the passadores brought around...and nothing disappointed.

A few cuts that really stood out for me were the garlic-flavored Picanha--a house specialty Prime Sirloin--the Rib Eye and some Filet Mignon, including pieces wrapped in bacon.

The way service at Fogo de Chao works is that each diner has a Stop-or-Go disc that one turns over to indicate if the passadores should offer you cuts of meat or give you a respite.

Each passadore has a different type of meat which he--seemingly universally, as I saw no female servers--slices off a skewer right in front of you. Unless you flip your "chow down/hold up" card to stop service, the passadores come by pretty rapid fire.

Thinking about it afterward, I should have regulated my intake valve a bit better.

Basically, with the switch turned on, I accepted every cut offered--except chicken; I'm allergic--and early on had about 6 different cuts of meat on my plate simultaneously.

I probably should have spread these out a bit more, as though both Dave and I estimated that we ate at least the equivalent of a similarly-priced steak at Gibson's, Morton's or any top chophouse, I felt that I got full a touch too soon.

Not a huge deal, as I liked what I ate--as did Dave--and likely wouldn't have consumed much more if I
allowed the cuts to arrive with a bit more stagger.

And as I staggered out the door--well-stuffed, without any thought of ordering dessert--even if I didn't have a sense of having just eaten in Brazil, I was heartily delighted with my Meatapalooza festival at Fogo de Chao.

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