Brazilian steakhouses in Chicago?

My husband is taking me out for a birthday dinner and since I’m on a strict low-carb diet he suggested a Brazilian steakhouse. I know there are two in the River North area, which is easy for us to get to, Fogo de Chão (661 N. LaSalle), and Brazzaz (539 Dearborn). Has anyone been to either one of these? Any recommendations of one over the other, or tips on how one goes about the whole meal?

(We need to make reservations, since we will be going on Friday)

I’m not in the Chicago area so I can’t speak to those two restaurants, but if they’re anything like the one I’ve been to in North Carolina (and glancing at their websites, they definitely are), going about the meal is pretty easy and fun.

They’ll give you a little card with a red side and a green side. When you want meat, flip it to green. Waiters will stop at your table offering meat. When you’re done accepting meat, flip it to red and enjoy your meat. When you want more meat, flip it to green again.

The meat is usually divided into individual portions, so you can sample most of what they have in a single dinner, and if you find you really like, say, the chicken wrapped in bacon, you can request multiple portions next time it comes around. Sampling is really the only sort of ‘strategy’ I’d advise; find out what tastes good on the first go-round, then after that you can pick and choose as you like. It’s really a lot of fun, and the atmosphere is rich but laid-back.

Thanks Bosstone! Most restaurants want you out of there asap so they can turn the table over, but it sounds like a meal at a Brazilian steakhouse can last a while. We should probably go to the movie before, not after, the meal, so we don’t have to hurry.

It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet, really, it’s just that it’s brought to your table. The two times I ate at the one in NC we never felt rushed to leave, and the staff was very generous and helpful. (This may vary depending on your serving staff, of course.) On the other hand, it didn’t really take up any more time than a regular dinner that I noticed. But yes, especially since it’s a birthday dinner, I’d definitely encourage you to relax and take your time with your meal. It’s meant to be a fun experience.

Happy birthday, by the way. :slight_smile:

The one thing that worries me is that I can’t have anything that’s been marinated in sugar/anything sugar-like. I’m low carb because of diabetes, not to lose weight, and I am super-duper sensitive to sugar. It’s :rolleyes:, I know, but I have to buy special brands of sausage and bacon and bratwurst that have not been cured in sugar/had sugar added in any way. I have yet to find ham that’s acceptable. I even have to make my own mayonnaise. It’s a freaking pain in the ass. If I were going to “what the hell, it’s my birthday, go off for the night, blood sugar be damned” it sure wouldn’t be at a Brazilian steakhouse, I’d be eating Indian food you betcha (oh god I miss rice). If I’m going to be good, I have to be 100% goody two-shoes and that means watching the marinade. I have this feeling that the “gauchos” will roll their own eyes if I even mention it.

ETA: thanks!

I ate at Fogo de Chao in Baltimore this week, and before that have been to 3 or 4 others.

If the level of service is similar at Fogo de Chao in Chicago your server will be happy to find out about any marinades or seasonings if s/he doesn’t know already. I didn’t notice anything that seemed sugary, but I also didn’t have any of the ribs.

The server was different from the gauchos and I got the feeling ours would’ve gone out and waxed our car if we’d asked him too.

Of all these types of restaurants that I’ve been to this is the only one that brought side dishes to the table, just the starchy ones (3 sides and yummy cheesy popovers). Vegetables were on the salad bar.

I’ve been to both restaurants and I strongly recommend Fogo de Chão over Brazzaz. Brazzaz wasn’t terrible but Fogo’s food is simply better, though the price does reflect that. I’m pretty sure that you’ll be fine as far as the diet restrictions go, there was nothing that I can recall that had any sugar or glazes. However, keep in mind that Brazilian meats are universally very heavily seasoned. The food is very salty and strongly flavored. This isn’t like going to a fine steakhouse where you get a spartan and delicately cooked filet.

I would recommend that you take in the movie first. It’s not because the meal takes all that long, you are going to be eating a ton of meat but they bring it on fast and furious. There’s no menu or ordering going on so you pretty much have food on your plate the second you are seated. The reason you want to do the movie first is because after you are done with the meal you’re going to be stuffed and probably want to do nothing other than unbuckle your belt and sit down and digest and maybe doze off. You will get the meal sweats and food coma if you are doing it right.

These places are fun, but they are pricey and you’ll be eating a ton to make it worth the money. They have an excellent “salad bar” that’s an optional add-on IIRC. I usually skip it since I want to save space for dead cow, but people generally give it very high marks so that should also ensure you’ll be able to work around your diet happily.

IIRC, the salad bar at Fogo was included in the price, and while I didn’t take too much advantage of it, I remember it as being worth a go. And Fogo is entirely worth the money. I don’t think any of the meats have sugar marinades–the classic meat rub in Brazilian steakhouses is VERY salty. The other trick is that somehow, every Brazilian steakhouse starts off with the cheap cuts of meat and works up to the expensive stuff. I don’t know how they manage it, but you’ll always get the chicken, sausage, and top round first off, and the prime rib and filet when you’re stuffed and have to force it down. Skip the chicken and top round (the sausage is entirely worth it to me) and hold out for the good stuff.

Thank you for the responses and information gwendee, Omniscient and Drain Bead!

laugh Sounds good.

I checked and it’s $49something per person for dinner. The husband of the household, who was out of town on business and forgot my birthday last year, says that’s juuuuust fine with him*. :stuck_out_tongue:

Yep, I think we’ll try Fogo this year.

Good tip! I can see how and why they try to fill you up with the lesser cuts/meats first. It’s not something that would have occurred to me so definitely, thanks.

Thanks again folks. I appreciate the tales and tips!

*really, I’m not the kind of wife who pays attention to or keeps track of/holds grudges about such things. He was the one who reminded me that he was gone last year. Hell, neither one of us remembers our anniversary of the day we met. But when I suggested we do lunch at the Brazilian steakhouse to save money, he did say that no, it was going to be dinner because of last year. Cool with me!

I can’t speak to Chicago’s location, but I’ve never detected any deliberate order to their meat-bringing on my visits to Fogo. In fact, if you ask for a particular cut of meat they’ll have someone bring it to you. It’s never been an issue for us; they come fast and furious. Relentlessly, even, unless you temporarily opt out with your card.

Fogo was the first churrascaria in Atlanta, and remains (in the opinion of myself and many others) the best, albeit the most expensive. Occasionally we’ll go to a cheaper location where the selection is more hit-or-miss, but if money is no object it’s definitely Fogo.

I’ve only been to one of these, in Boston or the People’s Republic of Cambridge. It might have been a Fogo, and it was excellent. “Meat! On the March!”

Fogo is far and away the best of the Brazilian themed all you can eat places. Note that desserts and drinks are not included in the price and can be really pricey.

I loved the salad bar, amazing cheeses and salmon. Watch that you don’t fill up too much on the starches they give you. They are free and filling.

You all have definitely convinced me. I made reservations for Fogo today for Friday.

Those won’t be a problem for me, no carbs=no starches, desserts or liquor (well, some liquor is ok, but I’m not that much of a drinker and can easily substitute iced tea). All I have to watch out for regarding filling up beforehand are the veggies and cheeses on the salad bar.