Fogo de Chão recently opened downtown near SF MoMA and the Convention Center to a meat-filled fanfare. I will admit that I had never had much interest in the Brazilian Steakhouse “Churrasco” experience because it always felt a bit gimicky to me, but I was, ahem, game, to try Fogo de Chão on the eve of their grand opening. What I didn’t realize is that I was entering into an orgiastic meat frenzy that, at times, was overwhelming, but once I figured out that there was a method to the sumptuous madness, I was able to let the experience flow over me. You will see that it’s easy to get overwhelmed here because there is a constant buzz of overtly hospitable servers carrying skewers of sizzling, juicy, dripping grilled meats throughout the restaurant and immediately upon sitting you are tempted by offerings of a bevy of side dishes. I was confused. There was no explanation of the night’s specials (because there aren’t any), and there was no attitude-laden hipster server trying to sell you over priced wine. Instead, these professional meat handlers ready to push you into the deep end of a pool of grilled delights. You see, what wasn’t clear to me is that the “Full Churrasco Experience” includes sides AND the meat entrees AND the Market Table (which is basically the best salad bar you’ll ever see). Wow. Where’s the diving board?
OK, so here’s what you do: order a glass of wine (I suggest a bold Malbec), have a few sips, take a breath and the hand of your lovely dining partner and then head on over to the Market Table. Circle around it a few times before you put anything on your plate as you will be “ooohhhing and aaaahhhhing” the multitude of offerings as you decide what you want.
Then come back to your table to enjoy your plateful of yumminess, but pay attention to the little table cards you were given because if they are green side up it means it is a GO! for meat and they will keep stopping by your table asking you if want some of this steak or that steak or this pork or that pork wrapped in bacon or this chicken also wrapped in bacon or this lamb chop or, wait, I think there is one more type of steak!
It’s just so hard to say NO to the charming meat-carrying Latin men! Then the eating endorphines kick in, the lips get greasy, the tongue craves a Malbec wash-down, its a furious fervor of meaty craziness to the point where you simply neglect to reach over and turn that damn green coaster over to RED for STOP! STOP THE MEAT! If only for a moment, so I can check my pulse and have four words with my dining companion, whom I have neglected until now because I have been distracted by the beautiful Sirens of meat, calling me, the weary and hungry sailor, to shore, where I crash onto the rocks in a meat-induced coma…
To that, I would suggest that this type of dining restaurant is actually NOT ideal for a romantic night out – there is just way too much stimuli that makes this experience unique that I don’t think it makes for an intimate conversation on Date Night. I DO think it is a wonderful and special experience that is well suited for a dinner party of 4-8 who want to be loud and social and pleasantly distracted. I also think it makes for a great business dinner with an important client you wish to impress, but I don’t think its perfectly suited for a family dinner or impressing the new love of your life, who may end up feeling jealous that you love your steak more than her.
OK, so, now fast for two days, make a reservation, and head over to Fogo de Chao, and let the experience overwhelm you in wonderful ways….