Last week, Jonah and I were lucky enough to attend the complimentary media preview dinner of Fogo de Chão, the Southern Brazilian steakhouse that has just opened in downtown Portland. Taking over what used to be the Niketown on SW 6th, Fogo de Chão has transformed the space into an elegant dining room with space for 250 diners. At the center of the dining room is a beautiful salad bar with some neat pillar sculptures on either side.
In case you don’t know, because I certainly didn’t before reading about this event, here’s how a Brazilian steakhouse like Fogo de Chão works: you are seated at your table, and each diner has a little disc that is green on one side and red on the other. Green side up tells the gauchos to continue service (aka bombard you with beautiful cuts of meat), and red side up means you need a break (otherwise you’ll explode from a serious case of “meat baby”). In addition to unlimited amounts of perfectly cooked steaks, there was also a salad bar full of various kinds of green salads, chicken salad, potato salad, pickled cucumbers, grilled vegetables, hearts of palm, scalloped potatoes, rice… the list goes on and on.
Upon arriving, we were directed to the bar, where we chatted with one of the bartenders while he made us each a caipirinha, the national drink of Brazil. We were then seated, and hit up the salad bar before sitting down and flipping our discs to green. As soon as we flipped them, there were gauchos everywhere! Seriously! How were there so many of them?!
We started with a slice of picanha, a bacon-wrapped filet mignon, and some other slice of steak I can’t remember. The gauchos are incredibly kind and very skilled with their knives. The discs went back to red, and we dug in. Every piece of meat was perfectly cooked and seasoned. The fat was melty and soft, and the meat was perfectly tender. While we were digging into the meat extravaganza on our plates, we were given a basked of pão de queijo (pão bread!), caramelized bananas, crispy fried polenta, and garlic mashed potatoes. My favorites of these sides were certainly the caramelized bananas and the pão de queijo – I have serious weaknesses for both.
The caipirinhas kept flowing, the gauchos kept coming with more skewers of meat, and then there was dessert: caramelized pineapple and chocolate molten cake. We met Ron, one of the managers, and spoke with a few of the servers and gauchos. My favorite part of the evening by far was the service – everyone was so kind and friendly. It truly seemed like the servers were having as good of a time as all of us diners. We were very well taken care of and attended to, which was lovely.
Now, down to the nitty gritty: dinner at Fogo de Chão will run you $49.50 per person, but keep in mind that the price comes with all you can eat salad bar and beautiful cuts of meat. If you’re a vegetarian, all-you-can-eat salad bar is $26.50. Dessert and drinks are separate purchases. I recommend the caipirinhas 😉