This past weekend, Taste of D.C. dominated culinary headlines across the city. Right across from the event’s entrance, however, Fogo de Chão awaited with promises of meat and more meat — and an awesome salad bar if you’re into greens.
The famous restaurant chain offers an authentic Brazilian churrasco experience, which is essentially a “beefed” up version of a barbecue, offering more meat than you could imagine. Indeed, as you are seated in the spacious main dining area, the waiter explains the culinary adventure on which you are about to embark.
Essentially, all you need to know about is the renowned double-sided card, one side being green and the other red. When you are ready to be served meat, you turn your card green side up, at which point waiters holding giant skewers and machete-esque knives start swarming your table with 15 different types of meat, ranging from beef and chicken to pork and lamb. The red side, on the other hand, signals that you need a break from this flavorful overload on your stomach.
Before you get to the meats, however, you can hit the salad bar. This area sits at the center of the dining area and provides delicious offerings, including grilled and roasted vegetables, fragrant cheeses and cured meats, as well as delicious Brazilian side dishes. Although the temptation to eat starters from the salad bar is powerful, I would advise you to exercise restraint, since there will be plenty more eating once the main event begins. Personally, I avoid the salad bar almost entirely, having decided after years of churrascaria experience back home in Rio de Janeiro that the salad bar is an unnecessary evil that gets in the way of the best part of the meal. But the choice is yours.
Caramelized bananas, garlic mashed potatoes, crispy polenta and pao de queijo, a warm cheese bread, accompany that plethora of meats. These side dishes are placed on your table and refilled almost immediately after they are finished. The sides are wonderful additions to the avalanche of beef and chicken, and they prove to be perfect snacks while you take a break between protein binges.
To help wash down all you eat, the restaurant offers a number of Brazilian drinks — in addition to traditional choices — that provide a refreshing taste to complement the savory food. I especially enjoyed the Guarana, a smooth, sweet soda made from a fruit of the same name, and the caipirinhas, alcoholic beverages made from the sugar cane run cachaca, a fruit of your choice and sugar.
Finally, it comes time for dessert. Though not included in the price, the desserts prove to be just the end you need to your meat feast. Serving traditional options in addition to some Brazilian favorites, the restaurant makes a papaya cream that perfectly blends sweet flavor with smooth texture.
Even if you do not enjoy eating beef, chicken, pork or lamb, you will like this restaurant. The salad bar truly is spectacular, and the restaurant offers a lower-priced option that features only this buffet-style spread. The prices are a little on the expensive side, but considering the amount of food you eat, it is somewhat reasonable. It should be noted, however, that the lunch price is significantly lower than the dinner one.
Fogo de Chão really does bring part of Brazil to D.C., and the traditional churrasco is definitely worthy of comparison to one prepared in the homeland itself.