I went to heaven last Friday. Alright, maybe not heaven proper, but at least a satellite location in the Chicago Loop. It’s called Fogo de Chao and I want to spend the rest of eternity there. When I first heard about this Brazilian steakhouse or “Churrascaria” I, like many of you, assumed my friends were talking about “chiaroscuro,” the Italian term referring to the balance of lighting and shade in a painting. I was wrong.
Fogo de Chao is best described as a brothel for meat eaters. For those of you unfamiliar with this carnival for carnivores, let me cover the basics. Dozens of men wearing Aladdin pants approach your table holding skewers of meat bigger than your torso and give you as much as you want of everything. It is where vegetarians go to die.
As a person who lacks both self-control and an appreciation for sustainable eating, Fogo de Chao is a dangerous place to visit. Within 30 seconds of sitting down, my plate was filled with enough meat to keep an average-sized butcher shop in business for at least a week, and I didn’t say the word “no” for an hour and a half. Over that 90 minute period, I consumed an entire state fair’s worth of livestock. Filet mignon? All of it. Pork sausage? Abso-freakin-lutely. Chicken wrapped in bacon? Does the Pope crap in the woods? Top and bottom sirloin? Go ahead and slice them directly into my mouth please.
Should future paleontologists ever unearth the assortment of bones covering my plate by the end of the meal, they will assume they have discovered the missing link between birds and bovine. It was like witnessing a miracle. At one point, I had four different animals in my mouth at the same time (chicken, cow, pig, lamb). Five if you count the finger I accidentally chewed in my haste to make room for an incoming wave of parmesan pork. Do you know what it’s like to eat your way through a pile of meat only to discover more meat on the other side? It is a vision of surpassing beauty unrivaled anywhere in nature. Seriously, at times it was difficult for me to continue chewing due to the tears of joy streaming down my face.
In other news, I’m told Fogo also has an excellent salad bar. Several friends have reported that the fried plantains and garlic mashed potatoes that accompany the entrees are to die for. I wouldn’t know. The marvelous displays of iceberg lettuce and delectable hors d’oeuvres sat untouched as one cast member from Charlotte’s Web after another was shoveled into my mouth. Even taking a sip of water felt like a sin as it used up valuable stomach real estate. This was not a meal, this was a massacre.
There is, however, one downside to a place like Fogo de Chao. I refer, of course, to the biological condition known as “the meat chills.” While “The Chills” are laughed off by many as a hoax, I am convinced they are the only thing keeping the Brazilians from conquering the world. Put simply, the meat chills are the natural and unavoidable response to consuming roughly twice your body weight in red meat. Your body is confronted with the reality of having an entire farm inside of it and temporarily shuts down as it attempts to process the new arrivals. Blood is rushed from the extremities to the stomach. Vision blurs, the face grows pale, and the victim utters nonsensical things like, “I never want to eat meat again.” Thankfully, The Chills typically pass after 15-20 minutes, and the victim will often request another flank steak.
Even the horror of the meat chills, however, is not enough to detract from the heavenly aura that surrounds my Fogo de Chao experience. In two short hours, the Wendy’s dollar menu was unceremoniously supplanted as my favorite restaurant, and I don’t expect it to retake the top spot anytime soon. For the first time since 15,000 BC, the dream of an all-meat diet a reality, and we have some saintly South Americans from Sao Paulo to thank for it. If you have never been to a Brazilian steakhouse, if you have never been served pork ribs off a saber, if you have never eaten a lamb shank smothered in steak and wrapped in bacon, get yourself to the nearest Churrascaria post-haste.
Yes, it is exorbitantly priced. Yes, we are facing our worst economic recession since being booted out of Eden. Yes, it is worth it. We need places like Fogo de Chao now more than ever. They remind us of all that is good in this world. These are not resuarants, they are temples to man’s dominion over the animal kingdom.