Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Go Fo Fogo

The immense salad bar notwithstanding, vegetarians may feel a bit uneasy as the gaucho chefs at Center City Philadelphia's Fogo de Chão (1337 Chestnut St., 215-636-9700) breeze through the dining room with cut after cut of barbequed meats. Fogo de Chão (pronounced "fo-go dèe shoun") is a Brazilian churrascaria, or steakhouse, and at a recent weekday lunch, we enjoyed a savory, if at times overwhelming, gluten-free dining experience.

With more than 10 kinds of beef, pork and chicken, a 30-item salad bar, and side dishes of addictive pão de queijo (warm cheese bread), crispy hot polenta, garlic mashed potatoes and caramelized bananas, Fogo is a gluten-free paradise. The amiable manager told which items were not safe - just a few items such as the tabbouleh and bread on the salad bar and the beer-marinated chicken on the main menu. (As selections may vary daily, check with a manager when dining.)

Diners start their meal with offerings from the salad bar, loaded with a variety of vegetables, cheeses and sliced meats. When you return to your table, make sure your dining card (green for "go" and red for "stop") is red-side up, or else you'll never get to finish your starters. Once you flip the disc over, the meats come fast and furious. (So fast that I wasn't able to snap any pictures of my own.) My favorites were the tender filet mignon and the juicy picanha, but there were many others from which to choose.

There are gluten-free dessert options such as flan and crème brûlée for those that somehow still have room left in their stomachs.

Fogo serves lunch Monday through Friday ($32.50 - which includes salad bar and sides - and $22.50 for the salad-bar-only option) and dinner seven days a week ($49.50; $24.50 for salad bar only). Children 5 and under are complimentary, and kids 6 to 10 are half price. There are other locations throughout the United States, in cities such as Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Scottsdale, Houston and Miami.

Fogo de Chão Churrascaria on Urbanspoon
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1 comment:

  1. After reading this post I decided to go to Fogo for Mother's Day. My 7 year old daughter has celiac and it was unbelievable. There were only 3 or 4 things in the entire place she could not have. The waitstaff was knowledgeable about celiac and very helpful with the menu. In fact, one waiter (unsolicitedly!) brought dressing from the kitchen b/c he was concerned about cross contamination from the serving spoons on the salad bar. It wasn't cheap but it was wonderful to have the freedom to eat almost anything she wanted. And, of course, there's the novelty of having the gauchos walking around serving the meats.