Fogo de Chao – 661 N La Salle, Chicago
Once in a while, I guess you get a hankering to stuff your face into oblivion. For us, that time was last weekend – after an extremely long couple days at work for both of us, we felt like Fogo would be a great choice to fill that urge. And I’m thankful that my fiancee often suggest things like this. Yes, I know you’re jealous….
There’s probably not many out there reading this who don’t know what Fogo is about – it’s a Brazilian steakhouse, a churascarria where gauchos come around and slice off different cuts of meat on a stick. They started popping up like wildfire around 10 years ago in different chains – Fogo, Texas de Brazil, Brazzaz, Sal and Carvao, and some independant variations like Zed 451. Of these, I’ve always felt like Fogo is at the top.
The salad bar is impressive as well. In fact, I think 98% of people who dine here joke that they’re going to come back just for the salad bar (the other 2% are vegetarians who do that anyways). The salad choices are vast and range from standard lettuce options, to antipasti style roasted red peppers, mushrooms, and olives, along with a decent selection of cheese, some cured prosciutto and salami, and an out of place spread of smoked salmon. They added some nice endive leaves that I didn’t recall from last time, as well as a mango salad that freshend up the plate a bit.
One of the highlights of Fogo is the “pao de queijo” or the cheezy poofs, as I like to call them – Very airy, soft, melt in your mouth buttery rolls with hints of cheese that is reminiscent of a mild Mexican cheese, like a chihuahua or a queso fresco. Thankfully, there a number of recipes that we’re looking forward to trying when we start our kitchen remodel in a few days.
After finishing the salad, I flipped my coaster to green and started the extravaganza…..
My advice here is go for the Brazilian specialities – the quality of the meat is good, but not prime, so you want the meats that are better seasoned. I love the bone-on pork ribs here, great crust and a meaty texture like a St. Louis Rib with a smoky flavor that’s enhanced with a dense, salty dry rub (probably a bit too salty for most). The garlic beef is also a great cut that’s deeply marinated and cut a bit thicker than the rest of the choices. The chicken choices are surprisingly good, heavy on the salt rub, but very tender and fall off the bone. And finally, the linguica sausage is perfectly cooked, juicy on the inside and has a very different flavor and texture profiles than the rest of the cuts on the menu.
The filets, ribeyes, and sirloin cuts are solid, but nothing extraordinary. Stick with the Brazilian cuts and the spices – if you want good filet or ribeye, go to a steakhouse.
And ignore the sides – the plantains are good – the potatoes and polenta cakes are alright but just serve to fill you up faster……
Till next time…