Disclosure: I was invited to a Grand Opening dinner and this meal was complimentary, but I will always provide my honest opinion and assessment of all products and experiences I may be given. I have also been back several times since then. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own.
Finally, Portland has it’s own Fogo de Chão Churrascaria (authentic Southern Brazilian steakhouse)! It just opens in downtown Portland today (Friday, May 2) for dinner service, with lunch service beginning Monday, May 5.
I really liked this restaurant when I used to live in Chicago, but I haven’t been to it in years since there was no Portland location. I remember when my favorite uncle (also a huge wine lover) came to visit from Thailand, this was one of the places my family knew we were going to take him to dine.
Fogo de Chão is also how I discovered Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread that is made with sour cassava flour or tapioca flour so is also gluten-free, and is like an even better version of French gougeres because they are cheesier and chewy!) and I will forever be grateful for that.
Thankfully, Fogo de Chão has now opened this 24th location in the US in Portland! They have 9 additional locations in Brazil, where it originated when founded by brothers in Porto Alegre in 1979, though they didn’t expand into the US until 1997. They have expanding very carefully and strategically in order to continue to offer high quality food and service. I was fortunate to be able to attend their soft opening, where they literally cut the ribbon as they also provided a donation to Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon and cut the ribbon with a carving knife!
The concept of the churrascaria is from the centuries-old Gaucho culture (Gaucho is a South American term similar to “cowboy”) and the Gaucho way of roasting meats over pits of open fire for barbecues at festive occasion, especially family gatherings.
Here is a little bit more detail on the Gaucho way in this video: one quote I particularly thought encapsulated the philosophy is this: “We want to feed people, we want to feed you, try this, try that! what do you think about this? and we do that with passion… We want to deliver the tradition to the table”.
It’s a great story that it’s not just about a buffet of delicious meat. The video is also how I found out that it is not pronounced “Fogo de Chow” but “Fogo de Shone“.
The Fogo de Chão Portland restaurant is located in the former NikeTown space on 920 Southwest Sixth Avenue. I particularly liked that the feel of this Portland outpost has a lot more light than the darker restaurant in Chicago- it felt spacious and open, and in the back you can’t help but notice the huge wall of wine bottles.
Dining here is generally going to be a prix-fixe menu experience. You can order just the salad bar if you are a vegetarian or want to forego the meats. There are some special items that are also priced separately, and so instead of the meats you can also order some items à la carte such as a couple seafood items – just ask your main table captain/waiter. The evening we visited, they had a chilean sea bass with mango salsa, and also big shrimp cocktail. Here is our main table captain from the evening, thank you for your impeccable service.
Most will probably order the regular meal, which includes all you can eat salad bar and all you can eat meat. You can visit the all you can eat salad bar with more than 40 items, such as what you see below. It clearly has more than just your typical green salads.
Some people like to start with a plate from the salad bar, others might choose to start directly with the meat and then visit the salad bar for a break. I like starting there so I can pick some veggies and cheese to have on one plate that I can eat, while simultaneously my second plate in front of me will be for the meat parade. You might also want to finish before the sweet desserts with some of the cheeses they have here!
At the same time, the main course is delivered tableside to you. You have a two sided card, one side red, one side green, and when you flip it over to the green side different chefs come by, each offering you one of the 16 types of meat options.
These meat chefs walk around all night a la espeto corrido, or “continuous service,” so you can always have the meats available to you. It’s up to you to choose whether you want what they have, what side and how much they carve out for you. You can have as much or as little of any of the food as you wish, based on your preferences. You decide whether they stop at your table based on turning your card to the red for need a break, or green for go, ask me about meat!
If there is a certain cut you are looking for, feel free to wave a gaucho over and he’ll tell his friend or bring it to you himself. My friend and I both asked for medium rare slices of the Filet Mignon, and hers was a little more rare then mine and he remembered a few minutes later and came over to check on her and offer another less rare piece if she didn’t like it. Fortunately, I chose wisely in selecting a meat friend to bring and we both don’t mind red in our meat. Thanks for joining me S, and I still apologize for initially introducing you to a few people as a coworker rather than a friend. You ARE a friend! And, the gauchos are also our friends!
This dinner service is intended as a replication of the Gaucho way after working all day, gauchos would gather to grill meat in ground pits (Fogo de Chão means fire on the ground. Ha, men and meat and fire… tale as old as time). As you saw from the video, the way the gauchos and their families eat really does involve carving meat for each diner from a large skewer and community vegetables and sides. Portland’s location has an open grill kitchen so you can look through the glass and see the skewers as they are getting ready for you and as the gauchos skewer and check on them to make sure they are just right before bringing them out to serve.
I had every intention of trying to track which meats were which as they were being served to me- but they come so fast and furious, and all smell and look so good, and the gauchos are so handsome and friendly, I just kept saying yes and lost track. Ooops.
The 16 cuts of meat to be looking out for:
- Picanha (2 versions)- prime cut of top sirloin, either traditional light seasoning or garlic version
- Alcatra – a special Southern Brazil cut of top sirloin
- Filet Mignon (2 versions)- besides the traditional filet mignon cut from the beef tenderloin, there is also a bacon-wrapped version
- Beef Ancho – marbled prime rib eye
- Fraldinha – juicy bottom sirloin
- Costela – beef ribs
- Costela de Porco- baby back pork ribs
- Lombo – pork loin filet crusted with Parmesan cheese
- Linguica – cured pork sausage
- Codeiro (2 versions)- lamb chops or tender leg of lamb with fresh mint marinade
- Frango (2 versions)- chicken legs or bacon wrapped chicken breasts
Desserts (such as Chocolate Mousse Cake, Strawberry Cheesecake, and South American Flan and ones we didn’t try like Papaya Cream, creme brulee, key lime pie and molten lava chocolate cake) are extra cost to the lunch or dinner price. I really enjoyed the South American Flan as a lighter dessert at the end after all that heavy meat.
You might also consider trying their various cocktails (also priced separately), including Brazilian cocktails- Caipirinha anyone?- only Brazil’s national cocktail comprised of cachaça (sugar cane hard liquor), sugar and lime. It’s a perfect mix of the sweet and sour of a margarita with the light freshness of a mojito. They also have a tropical version that has more fruit if you wish.
They also have an extensive wine list of more than 200 items befitting a steakhouse, particularly they have a lot of South American wines and they have their own line of Fogo de Chão wines as well. That night we were sampling more than a few times the Fogo de Chão Malbec, which had a spicy characteristic to the wine that complimented the meat.
They don’t have a happy hour and bar food menu
yet (Update: now available weekdays in the bar only 4:30-6:30 PM), but I hear it is in the works if you don’t want to do the full buffet experience but still enjoy a few bites and take advantage of the delectable cocktails and fine wine selection, perhaps more details to come in the next couple weeks as they open. I was teased that one of the bar food items are sliders made with that cheesy pao de queijo bread and picanha meat! I am definitely keeping my eye out for more. I have visited Fogo many times in Chicago, and am planning to do so now here in Portland!
You can make reservations online or by calling (503) 241-0900. Lunch service is scheduled for Monday – Friday 11:30am – 2pm | $29.50 | (Salad Bar Only – $22.50) Dinner service | $49.50 | (Salad Bar Only – $26.50) Children 6 and under are complimentary. Children 7 to 12 are half price.
- Monday – Thursday, 5pm – 10pm
- Friday, 5pm – 10:30pm
- Saturday, 4:30pm – 10:30pm
- Sunday, 4pm – 9pm
Other bloggers photos/recaps, if you are interested in more!
Disclosure: I was invited to a Grand Opening dinner and this meal was complimentary, but I will always provide my honest opinion and assessment of all products and experiences I may be given. I have been back there several times since the Grand Opening myself! The views and opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own.