The Brazilian Experience That’s Right Here in Dallas: Fogo de Chão, not your ordinary steakhouse!

This past week, I had the absolute pleasure of attending the
grand unveiling of the newly renovated Fogo de Chão, of Plano. Fogo de Chão
(pronounced, (fogo-dee-shown)
has a total of three locations in Dallas, the
Plano location being their flagship restaurant. I was excited about attending
this opening: I mean, what meat lover wouldn’t be excited about eating steak
at a world-class steak house?
But I must admit, it was not the food that was
the first thing to grab my heart; it was the atmosphere. Immediately upon
walking through the doors, there was an instant shift in the energy around me,
almost as if I had just walked through a portal into another a dimension. LOL,
perhaps that sounds a bit dramatic, but the atmosphere of Fogo de Chão was that
intensely charged with positive energy – happiness, liberty, relaxation, family,
acceptance, significance, etc…
There were a number of positive emotions
that greeted me as I entered, and I knew at once that this was a place I wanted
to visit again.

The people that “live in the house” have the greatest influence
on the over all feel of the atmosphere. This could not be truer of the great staff
members, who were simply phenomenal. Every one of them seemed genuinely happy
to be there. They were each warm and inviting and attentive. Truth be told, I
can be a little shy in a room full of unknown people and it was quite crowded on
this night, but the staff immediately made me feel at ease and at home.

After adjusting to the unexpected surprise of how pleasant
it was just to be around such great people, I began to scan the restaurant for
a seat. I was prompted to sit in the bar and lounge area, where the renovations
have been done. Most often, I easily gravitate to a certain type of appealing
spot to be seated, when at a restaurant. However, I found it hard to choose a seat
in this well designed bar area. Around every wall, around every corner and in
every nook and cranny, this place was just stunning to look at. The color schemes
were calming, the furniture inviting and each table setup appealing. There was
no “one spot” that was better. It was just an altogether beautiful and charming
place to be, no matter where I chose to sit. Furthermore, Fogo de Chão is a
place that will fit any occasion for which I choose to visit – whether to wind
down, have a business meeting or go on a date. As a matter of fact, I could compare
the décor, seating and table arrangements to that perfect pair of, visually
appealing yet comfortable slacks, which can be worn for casual, business or semi-formal
occasions (smile).

After completing the “challenging task” of choosing one of
these wonderful places to sit, a refreshing Basil Margarita was placed
before me, which paired nicely with the rounds of delicious appetizers that
kept coming. The Warm Hearts of Palm and Spinach Dip, served on freshly
made toasted bread, was one of my favorite appetizers. My guest was served the
house special cocktail, Fogo Caipirinha and something delicious in a
shot glass that had a pineapple base. These drinks and appetizers are all a
part of the nicely priced happy hour line up, ranging in price from four
dollars to eight dollars each, every Monday through Friday, from 4:00pm to
6:30pm, in the bar and patio area. We were also served rounds of sumptuous meats
– lamb chops, beef ribs, prime rib, steaks and other selections – that were
cooked to utter perfection and melted in our mouths. Dessert did not disappoint
either, a mouth-watering slice of chocolate mouse cake that was rich and moist.
That cake made me feel a little selfish and greedy because I did not want to
share one morsel of it, LOL!

After wining and dining at Fogo de Chão for about 90 minutes,
taking in the beautiful decorations, comfortable seats, wonderful atmosphere
and delicious foods and drinks, I was anxious to meet the visionary who was
responsible for the wonderful evening I was having. I spent 20 minutes speaking
with Chief Executive Officer,  Barry McGowan,
after which it became so clear to me why eating there was such a great
experience. Barry’s humility and gratefulness exuded from every word spoken
about his vision for Fogo de Chão, a 40 year old brand that was founded in
Southern Brazil, in 1979. The meaning of the phrase Fogo de Chão is “fire
on the ground”, which is a reference to the traditional way to roast meats. Barry’s
goal is to be the number one leader in churrasco (pronounced, choh-rross-coh)
around the world, which is the centuries-old Southern Brazilian cooking
technique of roasting high-quality cuts of meats over open flames; all of which
are carved tableside by Brazilian-trained gaucho chefs. The meats at Fogo de
Chão are so succulent because of the art of this style of cooking and the fact
that every meat is butchered in-house, cooked fresh, and seasoned only with rock
salt. The only thing you taste when you bite into each morsel of Fogo meats is their
delicious natural flavor, cooked the churrasco way.

Mr. McGowan is also very passionate about his Brazilian
heritage. When he made the decision to bring Fogo de Chão to America, it was
about more than just sharing roasted meats and making a profit – he wanted
others to experience the magic of Brazilian culture. Barry beamed as he talked
about the people of Brazil – how warm, loving and inviting they are. As
he described his people, I thought to myself, “Where have I felt that
before? Oh, I remember – the moment I walked through the door!”
Mr. McGowan
continued to share his heart, stating, “At Fogo de Chão, we are more than a
restaurant, we are an experience – like actually traveling to Brazil.”
to what he was sharing was effortless, as I recalled the “dimensional shift” I felt,
crossing the threshold into the restaurant. Barry went on to explain how his
restaurant is different than other steak houses, prompting me to look around
and observe the demographic of people that filled the house. Unlike the
traditional steakhouse, which can sometimes resemble “the good old boys club”, Fogo
de Chão was filled with many women, families, mixed cultures and young-adult

Barry was grateful, but proud, for his accomplishments as a restaurant owner; repeatedly referring to his chain of 54 eateries as a “small company”. To date, his company has opened 42 restaurants in America, the first of which was opened right here in Dallas, 22 years ago. He also has locations in several other countries around the world – including brazil, Mexico City and the Middle East. Though humble, Mr. McGowan is aware of how admirable his accomplishments are, as he shared with me how rare it is for an international company to come to America and open locations all over the world.  But it’s no wonder to me, when everything about Fogo de Chão is so excellent. Barry McGowan has done something quite remarkable, and I was able to experience it firsthand. In his words, “The magic of Fogo is the guests, we’re simply serving hospitality.” I’ve never been to Brazil, but if my experience at this restaurant is a foreshadow of a visit to this country – I know that I want to go; I know that I want to stay for a while…

For more information about Fogo de Chão, the new culinary additions or to make dining reservations, please visit


SouLah the Legend aka Laneen “Dr. Intimacy” Haniah

Senior Editor,