Have you been to a churrascaria?
Churrascaria (chew-rah-SCAR-ee-ya) is a Portuguese word for barbecue. It’s not the kind of ‘cue cooked in a pit with sauce, but a technique where meat is cooked on a spit over fire.
Churrascaria means “fire in the ground” (i.e., campfire), and describes the traditional cooking method used by gauchos (cowboys) on the pampas (plains) of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay: the spit and a fire dug in a hole in the ground.
As it expanded beyond its gaucho origins, churrascaria evolved into a rotisserie-style restaurant, where meat from the spit was carved at the table.
The concept is rodizio, all-you-can-eat. You don’t have to over-consume; you can eat as modestly as you like.
The traditional Brazilian churrascaria further evolved, in recent decades, to include vast salad bars.
It is much more than a steakhouse. It’s a cornucopia of foods in an environment that’s festive, engaging and elegant-yet-fun, where you can get up and walk around (browse the salad bar) when you need a break from sitting.
That’s how a carnivore, a vegetarian, a vegan and a pescatarian came to dine together at Fogo de Chão, a churrascaria that began in São Paulo and now has more than 30 locations globally.
Our closest location, in Manhattan, is right across the street from the Museum Of Modern Art (MOMA). The architecture of the restaurant is itself a work of art.
Fogo de Chão started and has now come to our town, New York City, where it is one of the most beautiful restaurants in town [photo #5, which does not come close to reflecting the impressive architecture].
And the food: equally beautiful. There is something—much more than merely “something”—for everyone, along with a very pleasant and hospital service team.
Yes, there are some more than a dozen meats, brough to your table on a spit, right off the grill [photo # 3] and expertly carved at your plate from the skewer [photo #3].
Eight different cuts of beef include cowboy steak, filet mignon, rib eye, picanha [top sirloin cap, our favorite, photo #1], ribs and sirloin.
Lamb lovers can have chops, [photo #2], leg of lamb or both.
Chicken breasts are wrapped in bacon; chicken legs are marinated in beer and brandy.
You grow wide-eyed as the choices keep coming. Have as much as you like, or take a rest.
You don’t have to be a meat eater to eat well. For seafood lovers there are:
We counted some 40 items on the vast salad bar [photo #4]. While some are cheeses, charcuterie, candied bacon and smoked salmon, the majority are fruit- and vegetable-based, plus soup.
A complete antipasto awaits, along with salad fixings that enable one to build a fantasy green salad, with all the fixings one could desire.
Although not vegetarian, the salad bar also offers Brazil’s national dish, feijoada, a black bean stew with sausage, served with rice, fresh orange and farofa (baked yuca flour with bacon).
For our first pass, we made a plate of artichoke hearts, beets, fire-roasted bell peppers, hearts of palm, marinated mushrooms, tomatoes and mozzarella.
For the table, scalloped potatoes, yucca fries and sautéed bananas appear, as if there weren’t enough to eat (we reveled in the sautéed bananas and vowed to make them at home, often).
Yes, there are desserts; but who has room? We didn’t even have room to go back to the salad bar for mango, papaya, pineapple and melon (among numerous other tempting fruits).
We started our dinner with Caipirinhas and then moved on to glasses of Brazilian wines. Beyond the famous malbec, there are chardonnays, rosés and sparkling wines.
On the night we attended, there was a half-price offer on bottles over $ 100. Finding a $ 50 bottle of wine in a good restaurant is a welcome bonus.
If all you want is to stop by for a drink, a lovely cocktail lounge awaits, with tasty bar bites.
Whether it’s a special event or a lunch, brunch or dinner with family, friends or colleagues, the Fogo de Chão experience is waiting for you.
Prix fixe menus include all you can eat of the meats and salad bar (prices vary at lunch, dinner and weekend brunch). There is a lower price for salad-bar-only and for kids.
Prices in New York are higher than elsewhere, but competitive with other restaurants.
Check online for your city. You can make reservations online, at FogoDeChao.com.
A tasty and fun time will be had by all.