Fogo de Chao. Just saying the words make my mouth water to a degree that would embarrass the average man. But this is Fogo we are talking about.
This colossus of meat opened their Minneapolis location in April 2007, coincidentally close enough to my birthday it could only be seen as a sign. We needed to get there. Now.
And we did.
Our family is on visit “who knows” by now, and the experience is still as eventful as that spring evening back in ’07. Don’t get me wrong, this is also a great place to bring business clients and friends that come to town, but my wife and I like to think of it as “our spot”. It has also contributed to our 3 year old being well-versed in the difference between an excellent steak and a decent hamburger, proudly preferring the former over the latter.
Stepping into Fogo de Chao is at first glance a similar experience to other steakhouses in the Twin Cities metro. A friendly host stand greets you, typically through a collection of hungry would-be diners, anxiously waiting for a table. The cozy bar in the entry is a great place to try their signature Caipirinha (described as a refreshing mix between a margarita and a mojito) and of course, your initial taste of their famous cheese bread, pão de queijo.
As you stroll past the floor-to-ceiling wine room, this almost-typical high end steakhouse turns to something much more when that first waiter breezes past you wielding a giant, sizzling cut of meat, delivered by sword. That’s right, steak on a sword. Brazilian gaucho style. On Hennepin Ave in Minneapolis.
Once seated, you can elect to travel around their world class salad bar. Don’t get me wrong, I came for the meat, but the salad bar as a standalone trumps many restaurant selections. Your taste buds are greeted with fresh Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, delicious prosciutto, salmon, pasta, and enough greens and vegetables to produce a top-notch salad. Customers are allowed to purchase only the salad bar if they are so inclined, but that’s like paying for a limo and riding in the trunk. I don’t recommend it. You haven’t reached the best part yet.
The Meat Party. So much meat. And every piece is good. We’re talking about cut after cut of mouth-watering steak, chicken, lamb, and pork, delivered to your table. Dining at Fogo can be overwhelming to some, as you essentially have 15 waiters overseeing your dining experience, from the steak to the sides to the beverages. The hurricane of meat that falls upon your table is controlled by a four-inch, two sided card. The green side means, “Bring on the Meat!” The red side means, “There is no room left on my plate, give me a minute and then come back.” The filet mignon is tender, their signature picanha is flavorful, the chicken legs fall off the bone. But my personal favorite is the fraldinha bottom sirloin. Our table develops a close relationship with the fraldinha handler, and he usually knows us by name. Between the juicy steak, perfectly-cooked cheese bread, and the refreshing Caipirinha, your palate will be fully satisfied. The meat is perfectly salted, and typically cooked medium rare unless requested otherwise. Sides will be brought to the table, but sometimes it’s hard to find the room.
By the time you’re done with dinner, you think about passing on dessert. But then you see the dessert menu. My personal favorite is the Strawberry Cream, consisting of fresh strawberries blended with premium ice cream and topped with crème de cassis. It is just the right amount of sweet, while at the same time light enough to appropriately follow the feasting event that preceded it.
To complement the food and drink, the service is excellent at Fogo de Chao. As stated above, if you forget to turn your card from green to red it can sometimes feel like you are too taken care of…not that I’m complaining.
Fogo de Chao is a culinary experience. And I mean that, as a member of the society that overuses the term.
5 out of 5 stars. Every time.
Until we meet again Fogo,
Credit: Fogo de Chao image by AgnosticPreachersKid (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons