On the coldest day of the year (and on record), John, myself and a few friends ventured out to try Fogo De Chao. We didn’t know what to expect, or even what to do, but all of that anxiousness and nervousness disappeared when they brought out…. THE MEAT.
Yes, my friends, this post is about meat. If you’re a vegetarian, you may just want to come back tomorrow or another day. This post will either upset you or turn you into a carnivore.
If you aren’t familiar with Fogo De Chao, think of it as a meat lover’s heaven. It’s all-you-can-eat. Yes, you read that correctly. There literally is no end to this meal until they close up shop for the night. Servers bring out large pieces of meat on skewers and slice up pretty much anything you like.
For some reason, I had this weird image of the interior being late 70s with wallpaper, brass decor and just an overall outdated look to it. Why? No idea. Something about the price tag of the meal and a number of people that either has been to or know of the restaurant made me feel like I was about to walk into the old Ponderosa Steakhouse in Terre Haute.
I was surprised when I walked in the doors. It’s pretty much one giant room in angles, darkened by the wine bottles that line the walls. In the center of the room is a salad bar. We walked past it as we were led all the way to the back of a restaurant and inside what looked to be a private room for parties or events, yet it was full of tables with people just like us waiting to eat. This was really nice because it was super loud in the large, open dining room. I definitely would have had a different experience had we been sitting out there.
Our server is excited to tell us what we’re about to experience as she explains the coasters – one side red, one side green. Leave it green if you want food, turn it over to red if you don’t. It’s a simple thing, really, and allows each person at the table to decide how much they want to eat.
Lindsey and I started with drinks – A Caipirinha, meaning Brazilian rum with sugar and lime. Again, very simple, but so delicious I really wanted to have two (but I didn’t).
At this point we had made our way to the salad bar. While there is a section of lettuce with a few vegetable toppings, croutons, and salad dressings to choose from, the majority tested your notion of what a salad bar really is. Three thinly-sliced types of meat and thinly sliced salmon pieces were placed upon ice, bowls of Tabouleh and a vinegar-based cucumber salad were available along with mayo-based salads that I presumed were tuna and crab, although I could be wrong because I skipped it. We were told to go light on the salad bar, so my plate looked like this, which is awfully bare compared to the damage I normally do at a salad bar:
Then came the meat. And it just kept coming.
So many servers, so much meat. It was a blur for a while, not really being sure what was coming out the way. Not all the meat was identifiable in terms of what cut of beef it was, but that didn’t really matter. In most cases, they asked “how you like it?” and you say medium, rare, etc. But when I asked for medium well, they said they could come back (meaning they didn’t cook it that long but would cook it like that if I wanted it. Instead, I just went for a medium because it’s what they had and it was tender, moist and probably the best choice.
You’re given small tongs to use to grab the meat as it is sliced for you. A handful of times the meat fell, either from the server pulling away too fast or from not having a firm grasp on the piece. Either way, prepare for meat juices to fly. Put your napkin on your lap and keep it there. And you should probably avoid wearing anything white.
This is Kyle, in awe of meat.
The pan at the bottom caught some of the juice that would drip off of the meat. I wondered why the servers moved fast and were constantly going in and out of the kitchen with skewers of meat, and it may have been to grab clean plates.
We needed clean plates of our own after a while, and they bring you one so you don’t have to worry about mixing your pork with your beef, or something. It was more about the juices, they were everywhere and became a sign like a battle scar to signify the dinner.
What did I get? A little bit of everything. My favorite was the house special beef and the top sirloin, both so moist and flavorful. I think it’s like cooking gyro meat on a rotating skewer. A few outside layers cook through and get crusty, just enough so that when they shave off a piece, you always get a few crusty seasonings to soft, rare meat. Once the majority of that has been taken off of the skewer, the servers go back to the kitchen to continue cooking the meat until they’ve practically shaved off all pieces on the skewers. This is speculation, but I’m feelin’ good about it.
The parmesan pork had a crunchy, cheesy crust and was just as moist as the beef. Beef ribs made their way to us, and the seasoning was the most flavorful out of all that I tried. Lamb chops came by twice, both having a lemon pepper seasoning. This was my first time trying lamb and I loved it. The texture is similar to pork, but I don’t taste a difference between grass-fed animals and grain-fed ones. John does, so he tried a bite of lamb (after I asked if he would), but he didn’t like it.
My plate looked pretty much like this the entire time, in some variation.
There were three sides placed on the table and refreshed twice throughout our dinner: garlic mashed potatoes topped with shredded cheese, cooked bananas, and polenta fries. I quickly became addicted to the polenta fries and ate more than I’m willing to admit here. The potatoes and bananas were okay, but went cold quickly and weren’t the focus of the meal so I didn’t try to fill up on them.
Believe it or not, dessert was still to come. After an hour and a half of meat coming at us from every angle, we were offered several desserts to choose from. Normally I pass on dessert, but since it was part of the Devour Downtown menu, everyone ordered it and we ate everything.
This was the truffle cheesecake, drizzled with chocolate and caramel. I wanted to take the rest of the cake home.
John ordered the key lime pie. His slice was much bigger (I was envious) but at least he let me have a bite. Sweet and tangy but not tart, this was delicious.
Would I go back? Most definitely, but not for a while. Not only have I feel like I’ve eaten enough meat for a year, the dinner is much more expensive than any normal outing for us. Since it was on the Devour Downtown menu, we ate for $35 a person instead of about $46.50. Our drinks were regular price ($10 for the Caipirinha and $5 for John’s beer), so it was still a hefty bill. But you’re paying for the experience, not just the quality of food, and it’s worth it. Devour Downtown ends February 3, so call and make a reservation today before they sell out!