Fifteen open-flame roasted cuts of beef, pork, lamp and chicken in unlimited portions should be all anyone needs to hear to decide to visit the newest Fogo de Chao restaurant. The latest addition to the Orlando Brazilian churrascaria scene officially debuts its mouth-watering cuisine to the public for dinner tonight, after celebrating its grand opening last night with a ceremonial ribbon cutting.
Located a quarter mile south of Sand Lake Road on the tourist-drawing International Drive, the new Orlando location of Fogo de Chao (pronounced fo-go dèe shoun) is the 18th restaurant in the chain within the United States, with another 7 locations in Brazil. And Brazilians will agree that this restaurant offers some of the tastiest, juiciest, and most authentic churrascaria experiences around.
Its closest competitor, both in cuisine and proximity, is Texas de Brazil, another churrascaria located on the north end of International Drive. With slightly lower prices and a more inviting, casual, and relaxing atmosphere, Fogo de Chao opens as the best option in Orlando for Brazilian fare of this style.
Take a quick tour around the new restaurant, including inside the fire-filled kitchen in the video below.
Video: Fogo de Chao on International Drive in Orlando
Those who have visited Texas de Brazil, the churrascaria at Universal Orlando CityWalk’s Latin Quarter, or even ‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Resort (same style dining, different culture and cuisine) will be familiar with the way dining at Fogo de Chao works. It’s one price for all-you-can-eat meats, side dishes, and access to an elaborate salad bar. For dinner, the cost is $42.50 per person. There’s also a salad bar only option at $19.50. Lunchtime offers the same exact menu options at a much better price, $26.50. (The salad bar only option remains $19.50 at lunch.)
The stars of Fogo de Chao are the many meats that servers bring around on giant skewers, fresh from the kitchen flames. But before getting to that stage, diners are encouraged to sample the salad bar. It’s far too easy to fill up on the tasty offerings the salad bar features, from Italian cold cuts to roasted peppers to beans and Brazilian farofa.
There’s even an entire wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, from which patrons can break of chunks. Depending on how much you take, that alone could be worth the price of dining.
Though I sampled a bit of almost everything from the salad bar (seen on my full plate below), I made sure to save plenty of room for the many meat servings to come. Everything I tried from the salad bar was delicious and the $19.50 salad bar only option would easily fill up anyone not in the mood for meat.
But as I wrote above, the meats are indeed the star of the dining experience here. Every diner gets a token to flip from red to green, indicating to the countless servers continuously walking the restaurant that meat is desired.
Here are a couple of the skewers in action:
It’s important to note that while servers are regularly coming by with a variety of meats, some of the 15 selections don’t make their way around quite as often as others. But they are all available, so be sure to ask if you’re looking for one in particular and they’ll bring it around.
I tried almost every offering at Fogo de Chao and while most were succulent and perfectly cooked to ideal temperatures, a couple fell short of delicious.
My favorite meats included the picanha (referred to as the “house special”) and the fraldinha (bottom sirloin). Though quite salty, every bite packed a flavorful punch, melting in the mouth upon every bite. I would have been perfectly happy eating nothing but these two meats all night long.
Good but less perfectly prepared meats were the filet mignon (tender but somewhat under seasoned) and alcatra (quite moist but far too fatty). The lamb chops were well seasoned and moist, though just a touch overcooked, but nowhere near enough to ruin them. Leg of lamb was hit or miss, depending on the cut off the skewer.
Chicken legs were anything but dry, moist down to the bone and full of salty flavor with some crispy skin.
The pork linguica sausage was enjoyable but not as bold as other linguica offerings I’ve had. And the pork tenderloin filets dusted in parmesan were the worst option of the bunch, overcooked to the point of them being chewy and nearly inedible. The open flame cooking doesn’t always suit all cuts, particularly ones as temperamental as pork loin.
I missed the chance try the bacon-wrapped filet and chicken, as I was simply too full to continue by the time they came back around. Likewise for the pork ribs, though another diner at my table seemed to enjoy them.
Served with the meats are three side dishes: caramelized bananas (perfectly delicious), loaded garlic mashed potatoes (rather ordinary), and polenta (fairly uninteresting).
Other sides like the above-mentioned black beans and potatoes are available near the salad bar. Also served to each table is warm pao de queijo (cheese bread), which to the eye appears to be ordinary rolls, but the cheesy surprise in the middle is most welcome.
Upon touring the kitchen, I discovered that most of the meats served at Fogo de Chao are quite simply prepared, with a generous rubbing of rock salt acting as the only seasoning before meats are skewed over the fires. It’s a kinetic kitchen, with fresh meats replacing those that have been cooking over the fire.
For those who somehow leave room for dessert, Fogo de Chao makes it available for an extra cost. Since last night’s grand opening preview was on the house, our table gladly indulged. I ordered the Molten Chocolate Cake ($9.25) which was less decadent than it appears in the photo below, but still quite good.
My wife ordered the Flan ($8.50) and described it as one the best she’s ever had – and she’s a big flan fan.
Another of Fogo de Chao’s popular desserts is the Papaya Cream ($9.50), topped with creme de cassis. It was devoured at our table.
Fogo de Chao does offer a tremendous wine selection from their “cellar,” stocked with bottles costing up to $4,000. (Though that most expensive offering isn’t necessarily their best.)
Though the price is somewhat high, those who arrive with a hefty appetite will surely leave satisfied with something for everyone at Fogo de Chao. Nitpicks aside, there is enough high-quality and delicious food literally going around the restaurant at all times to create an entirely enjoyable dining experience.
Fogo de Chao begins dinner service tonight on International Drive and will start serving lunch daily as of Monday, March 19. More information on this and other locations is available at FogoDeChao.com.
More photos from Fogo de Chao in Orlando: