It shouldn’t have been a major surprise, but we realized back in January that the otherwise culturally diverse Bay Area has been slow to pick up on a major culinary trend: the Churrascaria (a/k/a the all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouse). You sit back at your table and relax as Gaucho waiters bring you choice slabs of meat, generally on skewers. At your request, the Gaucho cuts off slices or chunks of the meat, and at a good restaurant, the process repeats itself once every two or three minutes. For meat lovers, the experience is nothing short of awesome, and even vegetarians (the non-squeamish variety) can find incredible salad bars at most Churrascarias – asparagus as thick as a fat highlighter, roasted peppers, etcetera.
Because of the quality and quantity of food they offer, Brazilian steakhouses have made rapid gains in popularity across the United States, with Texas, Georgia, and Illinois scoring franchises of some of the more impressive international chains, such as Fogo de Chao and Texas de Brazil. New York has the reputably outstanding Churrascaria Plataforma, while South Africa has its own spin on the concept in the Carnivore restaurant. Until recently, Southern California has had more than a few places – Green Field Churrascaria does a pretty good job, and another place called Amazon around here isn’t too bad. San Francisco? Well, they have a tiny place called Espetus, but that barely counts.
All of this comes to mind because we now have a much better option: Fogo de Chao (pictured above) just opened in Beverly Hills, and since the Chicago location is one of my all-time favorite restaurants, I went up to Los Angeles for Fogo’s opening night last Thursday. It lived up to all of my expectations, and then some. So now, with the new Buyers’ Guide done, I’m thinking that a celebration at Fogo is in order. That’s assuming I can get anyone out of bed (or out of their various cities) to join me this week.