This weekend John and I ventured to good old Chicago once again to take in a concert, sleeping, and enjoying each other on a full time basis :-)
Last November, I saw this advertisement for a local restaurant "hot spot" named Fogo de Chao. I was curious then but I wanted to actually try it this time, so we made our reservations and let me just tell you about this so called "hot spot".......
The history of Fogo de Chao can be found on their website:
But in summary, it's a Brazilian steakhouse that is supposed to have Gauchos who prepare numerous types of skewers of meat that come to your table and serve you this meat right off the open roasted skewer. You indicate your desire for the main course with a little place card that is green on one side (yes, I want meat) and red on the other (no, I think I'm going to puke). You flip these over as you decide :-)
Now, for my opinion...... I honestly don't know how I feel about this restaurant! When I read about it and watched the advertisement for it, I was sucked in (as most ads are supposed to do for our hungry american culture). I was fascinated by the idea of all this meat and how they served it. How all those types of meat could taste different, and how these authentic chefs focus on your table and are pleasant and LOVE there jobs, and believe in their culture...... I felt this way before we decided to reduce meat consumption in our house so i still wanted to give it a go and experience this "Brazilian" way of dining.
Yet, here's some of the conclusions I came to.....
1. Gaucho chefs. Right. If you can make me believe that all the people they had working the meat skewers were truely gaucho chefs, I will fall out of my seat right now. The way I see it is they will hire MEN (cause females apparently are not gaucho "chefs") that are of ANY hispanic heritage. A Gaucho, if you will, is a "cowboy" for better lack of words. Not a chef. Gaucho is a poor, nomadic, herding and hunting culturally based word that is used to describe a certain class of people. I'm almost positive that Gaucho's cooked food on open fire pits because they lived in the wild and that was there means of cooking the food they hunted that day. However, if you take a word like Gaucho, attach it to the word chef, and wrap it in a fancy package, well then, you can sell a restaurant.
2. RUUUUUNNNNNN!!!!!! Seriously, John and I went to have this "relaxing" meal but as we sat there observing the waitstaff and other various employees, I swear to God most of them were continuously RUNNING from table to table. It even afftected MY OWN demeanor. It made me feel like I needed to hurry with everything I did. Hurry to the salad bar, eat as fast as you can, cram it all in! The only good thing about this was that John and I got a good chuckle out of counting how many times certain people would run past our table :-)
3. Preparation. John and I knew this was going to be a heavy meal for the night so we tried to watch how much we ate all day to try and "prepare" ourselves for the red meat onslaught. Light breakfast, light lunch, and we were definintly hungry when we got there. But it still wasn't enough! I seriously don't know how the stomach can prepare itself for THAT much food..... I can't possible tell my stomach to eat that much meat and not feel sick from the heavy feeling in my tummy! Any person on a normal diet should know better too..... (which means I was dumb!)
4. Variety. I will give them that. You have a whole assortment of meats to try. Not just cow, but lamb, pork, chicken, it's all available. At one point I had Filet Mignon, pork ribs, sausage links, Picanha, and lamb chops all on my plate at once. You know what though? They all tasted almost exactly the same. They all were just meat. Some were more tender then others, or more fatty but it was just a plate of meat. So does variety really count? Not really.....
5. Heart Attack Nation. It's kind of like going to a buffet or going through Hardee's for a Thickburger, or ordering the biggest steak on the menu at a steak house. (Little background.... I have one soap box I get on every once in awhile about obesity in American culture. I form the opinions and disgust I have for it from many aspects that range from working in a buffet to working in the medical field. I've taken care of MANY unhealthy bodies that are derived from our culture of unhealthy eating and unhealthy, sedentary lifestyles. I also know it's not politically correct to chastice an obese person, but I never acclaimed to be politically correct at all times.... it's a choice people.... everyone is capable of making that choice.... K, off the soap box now, I'm getting all fired up!) Yet this restaurant must be a haven of comfort food for these bad choices we make. I can honestly say I saw a large amount of very "unhealthy" people come through the doors of Fogo de Chao. I sat there watching some of these people and I felt like I wanted to warn them on their 4th plate of red meat that their heart is PRECIOUS! It's supposed to last a life time! And a restaurant like that just speeds up the ticking time bomb hiding in our chests. Yes, I made the choice to eat there as well and I'm sure I suffered right along with them but.... ok, I'll stop while I'm ahead before everyone thinks I'm a negative person :-)
6. Salad bar. This was actually the absolute highlight of the meal for me. FIVE STARS! For fresh vegetable lovers, it was top notch. Fresh cilatro chop salad, pepper salad, regular salad, fresh and crisp tomatoes, asparagus, cucumber, artichoke hearts.... the list could go on. My favorite was the raw asparagus drizzled with a basil sauce I found in the dressing section, sided with a small swiss cheese wedge. WOW! I could have licked my plate :-) I actually think i committed a crime..... I did my salad first, then some meat, and then I almost felt like I had to go back to the salad bar to give my tummy some more good food to follow all the meat I had just consumed! It actually did help though. I didn't over fill myself with meat, I did it with asparagus and my stomach never hurt, not once!
7. It's still just a restaurant. It's still geared to feed us, make us full and happy, provide "nice" service, bill us, and then we leave. It was nothing more. A friend once told me, "Does it really matter if it's a nice restaurant? Nice restaurant or McDonald's. Fifty bucks or five bucks.... we still feel full in the end, that's the goal in eating out right?" Point taken.
So those were just some of the after thoughts that I felt compelled to put down into words. Granted, I'm still not 100% vegetarian. I do still like red meat on occasion. I don't however like feeling like I ate an ENTIRE cow in one sitting :-) I can honestly say that I wanted to experience Fogo de Chao, I ate less then it was worth, I payed my expensive bill, and I left. I probably won't ever be back either. I'm headed to find some asparagus...... and I'm gonna make that basil sauce from my own basil plant :-)