Fogo De Chao is not a Brazilian steakhouse. It is a piece of Brazil, and part of the heritage of the country, right here in Jacksonville. Yes, it is big and beautiful and yes it is a chain restaurant and yes there is a corporate aspect to it, but Fogo is Brazilian and the experience there is unique to churrascaria. The family that started the first Fogo De Chao in the countryside of Porto Alegre, Brazil wanted guests to have the experiences they had growing up. Their family’s ranch had cows, chicken, and fish from a lake, and their mother grew all of the vegetables they ate. The only thing their family needed to go to the market for was salt. Everything else came from the ranch.
The Brazilian gaucho tradition comes with respect for the meat from start to finish- from animal to butchering to cooking to serving. Each gaucho is responsible for preparing and cooking the meat they serve. So when they come to your table and slice meat onto your plate, it is akin to a chef cooking and serving you personally.
The team at Fogo De Chao Jax is made up of gauchos and other staff who are Brazilian and trained as gauchos in Brazil before bringing their craft here. Executive Chef Marcio is Brazilian like all of the gauchos and so many of the staff at Fogo De Chao. He came up through the ranks, starting with cleaning the floors at a Fogo back in Brazil. To come from cleaning floors and work your way to executive chef sounds like a uniquely American story, but it is a human story, and it is a Brazilian story when it comes to the proud history of gauchos.
The food at Fogo is of course meat heavy, but that is not all Fogo De Chao offers. Meals range from $15 for the Market Table for lunch to $48.95 for the full Churrasco Experience for dinner. If $48.95 is a little rich, you can go with the Brazilian Cuts for $39- this includes several popular cuts of meat (including the Brazilian specialty, Picanha) and the Market Table and Feijoada Bar. One step below this is the Select Cut for $29-$32. With the Select Cut you choose steak, pork, chicken, or lamb as your meat and you also get the Market Table and Feijoada Bar.
Let’s break down some of the unique foods and specialties you’ll find at Fogo De Chao:
The Market Table is the centerpiece of the restaurant. It is beautiful and full of fresh fruits, vegetables, various salads (chicken salad, bean salads, etc.), cheeses, and charcuterie. You’ll find foods like pineapple, papaya, marinated olives, grain salads, prosciutto, salamis, bleu cheese, brie, baby swiss, manchego, sundried tomatoes, whole grain mustard, fig jam, marinated mushrooms, marinated artichokes, leafy greens, and so much more. There are always seasonal salads on the Market Table like the winter citrus salad that is being served now. There is a green dressing you shouldn’t miss on the market table. It is not near the lettuces, but I promise it is delicious as a salad dressing or dipping sauce.
The Feijoada Bar is included with the Market Table. There you can find feijoada (a black bean stew with sausage), rice, seasonal soup such as Butternut Squash, parmigiano reggiano, and black pepper candied bacon.
During your meal your server will bring out a few Brazilian sides to your table: garlic mashed potatoes, caramelized banana, polenta, and some savory, cheesy popovers called Pao De Queijo which are baked with yuca flour and parmesan cheese. These all go nicely with various meats and most of them are straight from Brazil. The pao de queijo are one of my very favorite parts of dining at Fogo De Chao. They are warm, soft and squishy, and there is some cheesy goodness waiting for you in the middle.
There are more types and cuts of meat at Fogo De Chao than you will remember, but the ones that wowed us were the picanha, top sirloin, chicken leg, and sausage. Picanha is quintessential churrascaria. The meat is shaped like a half moon with a fat layer on the outside edge. It’s a type of top sirloin and one of the most flavorful meats you will try. You have to get a little fat in each bite for the full flavor. The top sirloin is sliced thin and has a nice crust on the outside. Don’t skip it just because you are being offered filet mignon and garlic steak. The chicken leg is a surprise hit. I mean, chicken is the tofu of meat, right? Not this chicken. It is marinated in beer and brandy for 24 hours and has flavor for days. Leave room for a chicken leg (or five) when you go to Fogo. The pork sausage is called linguica, and it has a nice savory, herby flavor.
I would be remiss not to mention the wine and cocktails at Fogo De Chao. They have an extensive South American wine library and can recommend a number of wines you will enjoy that will compliment your food. Additionally, they have my personal favorite cocktail- the Caipirinha. The Caipirinha is the national cocktail of Brazil and it is refreshing and dangerous. It is made of lime, sugar, and cachaca, a Brazilian spirit. Fogo De Chao offers seven iterations of the classic caipirinha. Having tried the classic, the strawberry hibiscus, and the mango habanero, I am confident that any caipirinha at Fogo De Chao would be a delight.
We don’t usually pay much attention to chain restaurants, but there is something different about Fogo De Chao. It’s not just another chain restaurant, and it’s not a themed restaurant. It’s a piece of Brazil, wrapped up in a bow and cooked over an open fire, where gauchos continuing the tradition of their families and culture welcome Jaxsons to partake in the fruits of their finely honed craft.
Note: From time to time we’re invited out to try a restaurant or to taste new menu items. This meal is usually comped, as this one was. We’re under no obligation to write a positive review or any review at all when we’re invited out to try a place. Every review you see on our site will be an honest review of the place whether or not the restaurant provided us with the meal at their cost.