Fogo de Chao in MSP [Moved from Midwest]
I tried Fogo de Chao a couple weeks ago for my parents' anniversary. The service was impeccable and the meat was absolutely delicious. I was also impressed by the beautiful salad bar and the way I could not even sit down once without my chair being held out for me. It's definitely worth it! And try the dessert!
Went to Fogo de Chao last night and although we enjoyed it, my wife and I both thought we would never return. Dinner price was raised from $38.50 to $44.95 - not sure if that is a weekend price or not - but combined with high sales tax in Minneapolis and a 20% tip, turned that into $60 without a drink.
Our waiter was obnoxious - razzing me that I didn't have any wine, as did the rest of my party. He also never returned the steak sauce that my wife asked for - it's her preference, get over it. All agreed he was annoying, and we would have cut the tip if not for the many carving servers.
Drinks are obnoxiously priced - $8.25 for a Bloody Mary (with no celery or celery salt). It's a shame they can't even serve a decent beer - mostly domestics and Heinekin, although they said they had a Guiness-like Brazilian beer, but I passed.
And the meat - well, nothing special. The "House Special" is a top sirloin, certainly not a terrible cut of meat, but it was pushed so often it made me over-conscious that it is a relatively cheap steak. Most of my servings were the doneness I requested, but not all - the ribeye I had was barely Rare, and one serving of Filet Mignon was well done when I asked for Medium. I think it's something you just have to deal with in this venue, although you of course you don't have to eat it.
Loved the salad bar, which I used as more of a Antipasto bar. Sides are lousy - they don't go well with the meal, although the fried polenta is the best of the 3 - we did not care for the cheese bread - the dough was too wet for us, although we think that is authentic. If you do go - don't be afraid to ask the floor managers to bring by the meat cut that you want - they came and checked with us several times, kudos to them. If you are shy, you will suffer here.
I was driving, so I wanted soda after an initial Bloody Mary, but soda are bottled (no refills) - Iced tea gets refills though. I stayed with the water - which they asked if we want flat or sparkling, then tap or bottled. When we responded flat tap, our waiter told the staff in an almost haughty voice. It added to the feeling that we were looked at as "marks" to take money from.
Desserts were good, but joined the pricing for drinks at $7-$8 each, so most couples split them.
In the end - it was good, but not great - if you don't mind throwing away $100 bucks a head for a relatively mediocre meal (except for the salad bar), but an interesting experience - have at it. We wished there was something a little more special with the sides to break up the meal a bit. My wife was wishing for some seafood to interrupt the parade of heavily salted meat - and I agree, a shrimp offering would really help break things up a bit, but it is what it is.
Prices (from memory)
3 Bloody Mary's - $24.75
1 Diet Coke (8oz) - $2.25
1 Iced Tea - $2.25
2 Dinners - $90
2 Coffees - $4.50
1 Dessert - $7.50
with Tax & Tip - $170
Went with friends a few weeks ago. Got there early on Saturday evening and was seated immediately (in fact, a few minutes before they officially opened). Within 15-20 minutes, the place filled up like a tour bus had arrived. First time through, you get the elevator speech about how everything works, drinks are ordered (n.b., soft drinks are not refilled for free) and you're let loose to the salad bar.
As others said, the salad bar is a destination by itself. It's available separately, AYCE, for under $20 at dinner (maybe less at lunch). Everything looked fresh and nicely prepared. There was a variety of fruits and vegetables (including items like hearts of palm and sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, some meats (Serrano ham placed near the melon slices), some breads, and some "salads" (marinated mushrooms, what looked like chicken salad (maybe Waldorf??). Very tasty, but I didn't eat all that much of it so I had room for meat. Be aware these are about the only green vegetables you will see for the rest of the meal. :-o
They delivered a bunch of sides: mashed potatoes (forgettable); fried bananas (not plaintains on our visit, but real bananas, which I thought were too sweet for the meal); fried polenta (never had it before but I liked theirs); and cheese bread (seemed a bit out of place). The sides are replaced as soon as there's one or two pieces left on the dish, which I'm sure wastes *a lot* of food since they didn't even ask if we wanted more.
I generally enjoyed the meat. I did not try everything, fearing a lingering "meat hangover". You are offered as many slices as you want, usually removing the almost-cut piece with little tongs you are given for the meal. People who prefer their meat well-done may have to settle for an outside cut or wait a bit longer for the server with the "well-done" skewer to make its rounds. I liked the lamb, a meat I don't see in restaurants often enough. The picanha was tasty. I really liked the linguica (but I'm not a linguica expert). I washed it down with a glass of one of the house reds, which did a good job of cutting through all the grease.
The service was attentive -- perhaps overly attentive. One had to resist the impulse to flip your red/no green/yes card as a waiter went by just to watch them stop on a dime. The staff was very good about directing other waiters to our table when we wanted something that hadn't yet passed by. Water glasses were kept filled, dropped napkins and silverware replaced almost before we noticed they were gone. Note that, while the room is wheelchair accessible space-wise, when it's full, it would be rather difficult for someone in a wheelchair to get to a rest room or out the door.
Would I go again? Yes. It's expensive, but the food wasn't bad and dining there is an experience that cannot be duplicated in The Cities. I probably would go with "newbies", though -- or just go for the salad bar.
Just went a few weeks ago...I really enjoyed it.
Salad bar is delicious - loved the cheeses, sundried tomatoes, artichokes, hearts of palm...they also have a few potato salads - one is just like the kind I would eat in Brasil.
As far as the meat goes, it's pretty good. I recommend the lamb, garlic beef and the pork sausages.
If you want to have the real deal, ask for farofa (a Brazilian-type of flour), rice and beans. This is what is traditionally served at churrascos. They'll make it fresh for you for no extra charge.
And order a caipirinha - probably one of the best I've had in town.
I didn't try the desserts but the key lime pie and tres leches looked delicious - I think the plantains are enough of a dessert (and they're free!). Make sure to save room, though!!!
Report back here and let us know how it went!! Have a great time!
Well... overall I think it was just OK...
We had a reservation at 8:00, didn't get seated until 8:40... it was very very busy.
Loved the cheese biscuits type things and the plantains.
The meat was decent... I enjoyed the bacon wrapped filet and the specialty ribeye. We ordered a caipirinha.... never got it.... had to ask a few people before we recieved a the drink! Looked like they were still trying to get their act together...
If I were to go back, i'd just get the salad bar..
Overall for the cost....... I agree with foureyes...would rather have a steak from Manny's anyday!
We went last Friday night as my wife had never been to one and I can't say no to meat, even though I find the idea of this place obscene.
The cocktails are surprisingly inexpensive (J&B + soda $6.50, tagueray + tonic $6.50), there are some good South American Malbec's on the wine list (as Dara mentioned) which are likewise reasonably priced, the service was still getting it together, but it was relatively good. Single espresso was $3.
The way the service works is somewhat bizarre. There are at least 6 different types of floor staff (hostess, waiter, back waiter, goucho, captain, floor manager, shift manager or GM, there might also be seperate bussers) which is odd as the place is teaming with staff. Our waiter was very nice (it was the guy in the picture in the CP article) and had been in the country for several weeks and admitted his English was not terrific. His speech was very good, but his comprehension was a bit off, so speak slowly. He did forget a chimmichuri we requested and charged us for a cocktail we did not have. The guachos are fast and the meat arrives hot. The speed with which they move made us feel rushed even with our cards turned to red. Keep this in mind.
Salad: The salad bar was awesome. If I had it to do again, I would just get the salad bar. The smoked salmon was great, cured meats were good, the mozzarella balls were good, the parm reg was good, the marinated artichokes were not overly vinegared, asparagus were fat and well cooked though cold, the parsely salad was the highlight for me, like tabouli without the bulger and very tasty.
Sides: The plantains are heavenly! My wife liked the polenta, though I thought it dry. Skip the potatoes, they are awful. Anyway, eat a bite of meat, then a bite of plantain...so good.
Meat: You can get most of the info from Dara's article, but I will add: try not to get the outside pieces on the bigger cuts. They are heavily heavily salted and dry and overcooked, particularly on the sirloin and lamb leg. The lamb chops are the highlight, (make sure you get some) but we had to ask a manager for them to appear at our table. The sausages were underspiced. The parm crusted pork was good. The traditional brazillian cuts you see in their ads in in-flight magazines are good. Now, the weird part: most of the beef is sirloin, and all of these tasted stongly of liver. I love liver and understand that sirloin has that strong iron flavor, but this was out of the ordinary heavy. Large sirloin pieces tasted as though I was eating very tough liver. Not bad, just be aware this is what we found.
Funny story, when ordering our wine, I asked for the house BIN 707 which was a $40 bottle of Malbec. When I ordered it, the waiter gave me this nod and "terrific choice sir" comment that I thought odd for such a common bottle. When he arrived with it, it was a Penfolds 1997 BIN 707, a bottle that probably costs about $300-$400 in restaurants. Luckily I knew what I was looking at for if I had just said "open" I'd have had a hard time explaining this to the manager. A simple simple mistake. Hopfully they will re-BIN their 707 to avoid this near disaster.
Our bill for 2 cocktails, bottle of wine, 2 dinners, coffee, tax and tip was around $200. Reasonable. But I would take one great steak from Manny's, Murray's or Morton's over this anyday. Just remember to take it slow.