Review: Fogo de Chao opens in Orlando with more delicious food than you can shake a skewer at

in Food, International Drive, Reviews

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.

Fogo de Chao 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.

Fogo de Chao

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.

Salad bar - Fogo de Chao

Salad bar - Fogo de Chao

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.

Parmesan wheel - Fogo de Chao

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.

Salad and cold cuts - Fogo de Chao

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:

Lamb Chops - Fogo de Chao

Picanha - Fogo de Chao

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).

Sides - Fogo de Chao

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.

Kitchen - Fogo de Chao

Kitchen - Fogo de Chao

Kitchen - Fogo de Chao

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.

Molten Chocolate Cake - Fogo de Chao

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.

Flan - Fogo de Chao

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.

Payapa Cream - Fogo de Chao

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.)

Wine room - Fogo de Chao

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:

4 Comments

  1. Jeff Lynch

    Ricky — thank you for another excellent column. Here is what I like about your writing: you are always so positive and emphasize the good about every experience you have. On 90% of the Disney sites out there, all I see is complaining — it’s like there’s nothing but Eeyores breeding out there who love complaining about everything. Those people seem to hate being alive and look forward to finding new things to complain about when they leave their houses every day. You, on the other hand, LOVE LIFE and leave your house looking for adventure and you love sitting at your computer and sharing those adventures with other people. I just loved this restaurant review from you. I live in Chicago and have walked by Fogo many times before, but I’d never eaten there as the price is too expensive for my budget. But, your article on it made me want to try it in the future. I think it’s worth putting aside $10 or $20 a month into the cookie jar and saving up to be able to go at least at lunchtime and experience some of what you described here. I will DEFINITELY be having dinner there the next time I can afford to go to WDW (which looks like it won’t be until the fall of 2013 or spring of 2014).

    Thank you for giving me something new to look forward to — and to save up for! That’s why I love reading Ricky’s articles — they make me excited to see or try something new, and they very often show me a new cool thing that I might only be able to dream about right now but that I can look forward to trying in the future.

    And Ricky has such a way of describing things — he makes it feel like I’m THERE now, as I read about whatever he’s talking about. THANKS!

  2. Jiff Lanch

    Ohhh, so this place is exactly like Texas De Brazil except.. um, er, ok so it’s EXACTLY like Texas De Brazil. Hopefully it’s cheaper or there was no point in opening it.

  3. Dan the Light Man

    We have one of these in Denver and it is AWESOME!!! Great meat and the salad bar is to die for but it is very expensive and a “special occasion” place… just like a trip to WDW! Try it and you will fall in love 🙂

  4. Kyle

    Ricky,

    Need to balance out the comments and say I appreciate you for the objectivity you bring to your coverage. You are not afraid to tell us when Disney disappoints.

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