All Fogo De Chão Restaurants Are Not Created Equal

As much as we would like to believe that all chain restaurants are created equal, more often than not, there are subtle differences that create preferences for one location rather than another.  Nothing frustrates me more than expecting something you enjoy from a place and it being different than you remembered or expected at another.  I have visited three Fogo De Chão locations in Baltimore, Washington D.C, and Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA).  While I have thoroughly enjoyed my experiences, I have noticed a few differences among the locations.  So let’s examine what these difference are at my beloved Fogo.

baltimore fogoMy first experience was in the location in the Baltimore Inner Harbor located at 600 East Pratt Street.  I was dating a huge carnivore at the time, so an unlimited Brazilian steakhouse seemed like a pretty awesome idea.  We were both dressed to impress because in our minds, steakhouses are typically require nicer dress attire.  After fighting with the Inner Harbor traffic, we pulled up in front of the restaurant and valet was there to greet us.  The cost was about $8 at the time.  It has since increased to $12 now and I think it may get higher.   We were greeted by a welcoming hostess who took us to our reserved table.  I had no idea a reservation was made and it was a good call because the restaurant was quite busy.

fogo tablesWhen we sat at our table, the server went over the Fogo De Chão dining experience.  The Full Churrasco Experience which includes the Market Table and Feijoada Bar (salad bar) totals $51.95.  We would start at the salad bar for our first course.  When we were ready for the meat service, we would flip the cards that were on our table over to the green side and the meat service would begin.  Once we had enough or needed a break to enjoy the meat already served, we would flip the card to the red side. Simple enough.

fogo salad barThe salad bar had a few pre-made different lettuce salad and cold salad options to select.  You could build your own salad with the various chopped veggies and array of salad dressings available.  They even had fresh butter lettuce that can be used for lettuce wraps.  There were several options of sliced cheeses, charcuterie, smoked salmon, and even bacon.  They have a huge parmesan wheel to add fresh cut parmesan to your salad.  There were also cold grilled-sliced vegetables available to add.  Off to the side, but in the same general area were 3 or 4 buffet warming trays of rice, black beans, and scalloped potatoes.

At the table the servers bring over a few side dishes to include the warm cheese bread (fav!), mashed potatoes, caramelized plantains, and fried polenta.  Once you flip the card to the green side, it is literally like opening Pandora’s Box.  The servers kindly approach you with various cuts of beef to include top and bottom sirloin, several filet mignon option and one served wrapped in bacon, rib eye (my personal favorite cut!), and beef ribs.  The servers also had custom beer and brandy marinated chicken wings, bacon wrapped chicken breast, roasted pork sausages, parmesan-crusted pork loin, leg of lamb or lamb chops.

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My date and I are foodies and because it was our first time, we wanted to try everything to determine which would be our favorites when we decided to return.  I was not overly impressed with the pork options. They were good but I came there for beef.  I’m not a fan of chicken breast but wrapped in bacon could make me a believer.  The chicken wings were quite tasty and we enjoyed several pieces BUT again, we came there for the beef!  The filet mignon was well seasoned and very tender.  The wrapped in bacon option was good but I found it to be unnecessary because the beef was already great.  The beef ribs were good but it was a large cut of it and with all the other food served, I didn’t want to spoil it on ribs. The top and bottom sirloins were probably offered the most.  They were good but it began to get overwhelming after a while.  The rib eye was my favorite of the beef cuts served. It was so very well-seasoned, tender, juicy, and just a treat for my taste buds. The rib eye is considered a specialty item and does not come out as frequently as the other cuts.  I had to ask for it because I wanted to end my dinner with another piece.

Fogo DessertMy date told the server that were celebrating our anniversary and we were given a complementary dessert.  I didn’t think I had room for it but there is always room for a warm chocolate lava cake served with vanilla ice cream drizzled with sauce. Always! That too was amazing! I left not feeling as cute as I walked in considering that I felt like a stuffed bird but I had a wonderful experience.  I enjoyed every minute of it and I couldn’t wait to go again.  And neither could my date because we ended up returning the following day for lunch. (Don’t judge us please.)

I have gone to the Baltimore location several times since and have dressed up or down. I’ve been for lunch, brunch, and dinner and the customer service has been wonderful.   During one of my many visits, the server introduced me to their assortment of sauces that you have to request at no additional charge, which included homemade hot sauce, chimichurri, horseradish sauce, mint jelly, and a few more options.  Since making my life style change, I started to take it easy on the sides and use the butter lettuce for lettuce wraps with the meats and with their delicious chimichurri sauce.  My Seven Mac Score for the Baltimore location is:

Fogo De Chão (Baltimore Location)
Criteria Scale Score
Parking/Accessibility 1-10 10
Customer Service 1-20 20
Cleanliness 1-10 10
Food Presentation 1-10 10
Price Value 1-10 10
Taste of Food 1-30 30
Overall Experience 1-10 10
TOTAL: 100

However, my experiences at the DC and DTLA locations have proven different scores.

DC

dc fogo

Located on the corner of 11st NW and Pennsylvania Avenue NW.  It is a lot more difficult to get to if you don’t know what you are looking for.  The foyer of the restaurant is small and with multiple people waiting can feel a little cramped.  This location is two levels so there are two separate salad bars per floor but the quality of the bars are not the same.  The location is not as big as the Baltimore location so everything just feels cramped.  The quality of service was still the same and the people were quite friendly and accommodating.  The Full Churrasco Experience price increased to $54.95.

However, the biggest disappointment was the taste of the food.  It appears that the chefs in DC are a little more heavy handed with the salt seasoning than in Baltimore.  In addition, my research found that many people feel that all of the different cuts all taste the same.

The Seven Mac Score for this location drops down to an 89 with points deducted in the accessibility, food presentation, price value, and taste of food.  I have not been back to this location since my first experience.  But all of the people I know who have visited this location and also gone to the Baltimore location, would much rather prefer the Baltimore location.  A few others were turned off from the restaurant altogether.

DTLA

la fogo

I recently visited this location for a birthday celebration with my mom and family friend on a workday evening.  Evening traffic around this location was horrible and this location was rather difficult to find.  It is located on the corner of 8th and Figueroa but if you are on 8th Street, you would miss the valet parking located on the Fig side. I apparently parked in the wrong location and did not realize that valet parking was available. The foyer at this location is a nice size but the bar was a little smaller than other locations.   I remember sitting on a nice comfy couch while I waited for my party to arrive. This is the only location I’ve seen with a nice waiting area.  This Full Churrasco Experience price increased to $58.95 so they better bring it!

The salad bar included a few additions that I had not seen before in my east coast locations.  The location of the salad bar was further in the back and while I was there on a rather slow evening, I can imagine that it can get a little tight back there on a busier evening.  The service was excellent as always but the biggest disappointment at this location was that the garlic mashed potatoes were not served.  They had roasted potatoes which were not as good as the mashed option.  So I was instantly bummed.  And we cannot even argue that mashed potatoes are a seasonal thing. I made the request but I apparently would have needed to do that ahead of time to give them time to prepare if it could even be accommodated at all.  Food was great but the warm cheese bread had to be sent back because it wasn’t warm enough and was served hard.  The wine service was wonderful and they made sure that your drinks were full.  I usually order cocktails but this was a special occasion so a bottle of wine was served.

The Seven Mac Score for this location drops down to an 88 with points deducted in the accessibility, value, taste, and overall experience.  I have not been back to this location and would be more interested in the Beverly Hills location on La Cienega Blvd in Restaurant Row.

Final Thoughts

No matter the location, the customer service and cleanliness are always on point.  You always feel taken care of and the complimentary desserts for special occasions are a wonderful plus.  Some locations cannot accommodate the necessary space for the salad bar but the quality of the food within the salad bar is always well done and they make effective use of the space provided.  All locations should offer consistent sides to minimize customer disappointment or ask the customer for their preference and have both available.  It is like Chick-Fil-A not having waffle fries!! But either way, none of these differences are enough to keep me from going back.  I have not visited the location is Beverly Hills but the architecture from the street looks amazing and the parking lot always looks full in the evenings.  The Full Churrasco Experience price in Beverly Hills is $61.96 but the lunch price is $37.95.  At the end of the day, my favorite Fogo De Chão location to date is in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

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