I was warned: go to Fogo de Chao on an empty stomach.
Other warnings included: "prepare for meat sweats" and "if you were planning to go with one of your crazy Portlandia-ish Vegan friends, don't."
Fair warnings noted, with an empty stomach, mental prep for an impending food coma/meat sweats, and with my very NON-vegetarian husband, I recently attended the local pre-opening ribbon cutting and dinner service of Fogo de Chão. It was an experience like no other that was thoroughly enjoyable, exhilarating, and slightly exhausting - in the best possible way.
Fogo de Chao in Portland, Oregon
Fogo de Chão (pronounced fo-go dèe shoun) is an authentic Southern Brazilian steakhouse. It was founded in 1979 and expanded to the United States in 1997. Now, there are 24 locations throughout the United States.
On May 2, 2014, they opened in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. My husband and I got a sneak peek at a special pre-opening dinner on May 1st, which started with an official presentation of a $3,000 donation check from Fogo de Chão to Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon.
This kind gesture was followed by the official ribbon cutting ceremony using -- what else? -- an extra large steak knife!
Excellent for group dining
Upon entering Fogo de Chão, you are welcomed by the greeting station immediately, with the bar to your right, and then the space opens up to an expansive dining area with high ceilings and classic upscale interiors.
If it's your first time visiting, I recommend that you attend in a group. The large, bustling atmosphere and open layout lends itself well to family dining, girls' night outs, and double dates.
When you arrive, you simply must begin with a round of Caipirinhas - the official drink of Brazil - for everyone. This cocktail typically contains cachaca (a sugar cane hard liquor), muddled lime and sugar. It is a refreshing start to prep your palette for what's to come.
For starters, I recommend the classic shrimp cocktail, which Fogo de Chao does exceptionally well. I know everyone says to go here for the meat, but I have to say: I was heartily impressed with the seafood options here. Delicious!
The sliders are also tasty, and help ease you into the meat feast that is soon coming your way.
Fogo de Chão is a classic Churrascarias. It features an open fire cooking technique of the gaucho chefs.
The prix fixe menu mirrors the classic Brazilian experience through espeto corrido, or “continuous service.” The gauchos are the ones who cook the meat and serve it table-side.
Each diner is given a disc, and you turn it to the GREEN side when you are ready for more meat, and the RED side when you do not need anymore meat served to you.
16 cuts of meat
It's a frantic dance that begins in a busy kitchen, full of gauchos monitoring the 16 different cuts of meats available.
Then once a customer turns over their disc to GREEN on their table, the dance picks up and the gauchos begin by getting the prepared meats and heading to your table . . .
Again (because it bears repeating), there are 16 different cuts of meat from which to choose.
From pork to chicken to beef to lamb, from ribs to sirloin, once you flip the disc over to green, you will be presented with the options and you can choose to have a bite, or pass.
If you pass, the next option will come along within maybe 30 seconds by another gaucho. And then another. And then another.
As I said, it's an intriguing dance as the gauchos quickly and skillfully weave their way through tables.
If you decide to have some of the meat presented to you, the gaucho will slice off a serving for you right at your table.
The filet mignon and bacon-wrapped-chicken breast were two of my favorite cuts. They were juicy, tender, and full of flavor that was allowed to shine through thanks to minimal seasoning and sauce.
This is one of the things I loved about the culinary experience: these are non-fussy meats prepared to allow you to fully enjoy each cut in its unique deliciousness. They aren't drenched in complicated sauces or adorned with unnecessary embellishments. They are delicious because they are prepared well, and simply.
Entrees are joined by a trio of traditional Brazilian side dishes, including: pão de queijo (warm cheese bread), crispy hot polenta, garlic mashed potatoes and caramelized bananas.
Seafood and Vegetarian Options
Lest my pescatarian and vegetarian friends worry, Fogo de Chão also features a top notch selection of fish and shellfish. Plus, there's an impressive salad bar with more than 30 items. Choose from smoked salmon, fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses, and more.
Leave room for dessert! If you're not already stuffed, definitely try one of Fogo de Chão's hearty desserts. Just like their main entrees, they take their desserts seriously here.
My husband tried the traditional Signature Papaya Cream while I decided to try the chocolate layer cake.
Because if you're going to go all out and indulge, you've got to do it from start to finish, right? Their desserts are large, filling, and delicious.
In the end, I am glad I heeded my friends' advice to go on an empty stomach. We walked out with full, happy bellies ,and a memorable dining experience that we're sure to recreate again in the future with friends and family.
Fogo de Chao Churrascaria
930 SW 6th Avenue