By Tom Blair
Is a restaurant that serves 16 cuts of pork, lamb, chicken, beef and sausage a good fit for one of the fittest cities in America? "Absolutely," says Adam Schroeder, the GM/gaucho of Fogo de Chão, a Brazilian churrascaria (Portuguese for "steakhouse" or "barbecue") opening for dinner August 24 at the former site of Borders Books in the Gaslamp.
Fogo de Chão's offerings fit perfectly with the popular Paleo Diet (consisting of meats, fish, vegetables and fruit), aka the Caveman Diet. One thing that would be lost on cavemen, however, is the hospitality.
"Our service is extraordinary," Schroeder says. "The gaucho is the butcher, chef and server. The food is the show. We feel we execute the churrasco style to the extreme. It's all about how attentive our staff is."
Current menu specialties include picanha (thin-sliced top sirloin, seasoned with sea salt), frango (chicken breast, in this case wrapped in bacon) and cordeiro (lamb chops marinated in white wine, fresh mint and lemon pepper).
Hundreds of years ago, Brazilian gauchos cooked meats in a hole in the ground, and then served them to family and friends. The Fogo de Chão (literally, "fire of the ground") story began in the 1970s, with two young Brazillian brothers learning the traditional churrasco method of roasting meats. In 1979, the Coser brothers opened their first restaurant in Porto Alegre, Brazil, later expanding to Sao Paulo. In 1997, they exported their concept to the U.S. with a restaurant in Dallas. By the end of 2013, they will have eight locations in Brazil and 22 in the U.S.
These days, each Fogo de Chão restaurant serves up to a thousand patrons on a Saturday night, and the meats are roasted over an indoor, open-flame grill.
"Of course, we can't cook them in the ground now," says Schroeder. "The health department would frown on that."
668 Sixth Ave., Gaslamp
What's At Steak
Other Brazilian restaurants around San Diego
Rei do Gado
With a name that means "King of the Herd" in Portuguese, this churrasco has ruled the Gaslamp but will soon be fighting for turf with newcomer Fogo de Chão.
939 Fourth Ave. Gaslamp.
Brazil by the Bay
A modest venue adjacent to the Sports Arena, this restaurant and attached market are big with Brazilian transplants, many of whom live nearby in Point Loma.
3770 Hancock St., Sports Arena;
A small, unpretentious restaurant on Pacific Beach's main drag, this one's best known for Peruvian and other Latin dishes, and is a relative newcomer to Brazilian fare.
1142 Garnet Ave., Pacific Beach;
Sabor de Vida
This North County outfit caters (literally) to steak-loving customers, providing Brazilian-style privateparty barbecues and churrasco chefs for any occasion.
215 S. El Camino Real, Ste. G, Encinitas