Fogo de Chao: A Culinary Delight

Last night I was sitting at home just playing around online and talking to a few people on AIM. I was just having a relaxing night in when I received a phone call from my wonderful cousin Christine (it used to be Chris but she changed it.) She and her husband Jim (it has always been Jim) were at the Omni Hotel in downtown Indianapolis spending one last night before they headed back to the much nicer desert. They had just finished up at the Colts game and were having some drinks before heading out to dinner with one of her friends. She called and asked if I was interested in joining them and I decided that after just watching Yes Man, the new movie with Jim Carey, that I had to oblige. I was going to anyway because who can turn down some drinks with family?

So I head downtown and meet them at the bar in the Omni. We begin talking and her friend calls her to tell her that she is interested in going to the Brazilian steak house that just opened downtown. She was confused with the location and the concept and asked me what the situation was all about. I just happened to know not only how incredible the restaurant was but also have had eaten at one in Las Vegas. (I am pretty sure, however, that the one that I ate at in Las Vegas was not an actual Fogo de Chao. But it was very similar if it was not that exact location.)

So I begin to tell her how incredible this place is and how much fun they were going to have when she asked if I was going to be joining them. Um, yeah, I will be joining you. This place is incredible. This will blow any Panera Bread out of the water. And please, Mr. Bread, do not take offense to that. So we head out to make our way to the restaurant (after I made quick reservations before we walked all that way and could not get a table) and all I could hear was Christine complain about how long of a walk this was. OK, 6 blocks in the middle of downtown is not that far. She is just lazy.

So we finally make it to the destination (after meeting her friend on the street in route) and sit for what they were about to experience as a meal of a lifetime. Or at least the month. We begin with the highly acclaimed salad bar. And this was not your typical salad bar. This was a multi-choice lettuce festival of dressing, toppings, meats, and cheeses. I begin with a light salad of spinach as I know what to expect next. (They actually have things on the salad bar that have natural enzymes in them. This is a chemical that helps with digestion and you never really understand why until a few moments later when you begin your adventure for dinner.

They had provided us instructions at the beginning of the meal. They had stated the coaster, that was red on one side and green on the other, is used at your own caution. The guys that control the meat shaving will only pay attention to the card. This is to be used as your green light for go and red light for I am full. And sure enough, by the end of the first ten minutes of shaving that is exactly what I had experienced. The red light for full.

I begin with some fillet Mignon. Then some rack of lamb. Then to the ribs. Then over to the chicken. Then the special meat (still have no idea what it was) then the herb and Parmesan crusted poultry, then the garlic beef. My plate is nearly full when I realize that I need to save space for the mashed potatoes, the plantains, the blocks of queso (thanks for the Spanglish Chris) and the never empty water glass beside me. We had gone from empty plates to heaping piles of meat in about three minutes.

We begin to eat and about a half hour later I was ready for some new samples. They have an ongoing array of 15 meats as well as a special meat of the day. This does not include all the seafood found on the salad bar. Or the sides. I was so full by the time the second round came again I was cautious in my selection. I chose the bacon wrapped rib eye and the chicken wings. I mean, when a place can actually make “fall off the bone” chicken wings you know that they mean business.

By the time dessert was about to make its way around the table we had all given in. Red coaster was facing up, the white towels were folded on the table, and after dinner conversation had begun. It was literally a perfect meal from the amount you get for the money. (Thank you Jim, you did not have to do that.)

But, I do have one simple complaint. And that is in the word that this place has on the streets. I mean, yes, this place was perfect from the attention to detail, the ability to pick and choose your meats, to the amount of selection on the salad bar. But the service, as incredible and spotless as it was, was annoying. I understand this is a very friendly and open space, but when you have ten guys walking around carrying meats shaving on plates here, plates there, it gets old very quickly. Also, every time I took a drink from my water glass it was filled immediately after I sat it down. I mean, is that necessary? There is no need to fill after every single drink. Of course I do base the tip off of the amount of refills I receive, but this was just a bit much.

But all in all this was a near perfect meal. It was quick, incredible quality, and they were very quick to provide what we needed. I asked for bacon wrapped fillet, and I got bacon wrapped fillet. I asked for more mashed potatoes, I got more mashed potatoes. I asked for direction to the restroom and they gave me directions to the restroom. It was literally spotless on all fronts. Welcome to Indianapolis Fogo de Chao.