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Fogo de Chao_AddisonTX_exterior_2015_c.jpg Photos courtesy of Fogo de Chao

MenuMasters 2018: Bar Fogo, Fogo de Chão

Translating greatest menu hits into a more approachable format

Presented by Nation's Restaurant News and sponsored by Ventura Foods, the MenuMasters Awards honor culinary excellence in menu development.

A typical meal at Fogo de Chão takes a fair amount of time and money.

The “full churrasco experience,” as CEO Lawrence Johnson calls it, is an all-you-can-eat affair, complete with a Market Table of salads, the Brazilian stew feijoada, and a dining room where servers bring out meats that they themselves cooked and carve them right in front of customers.

As much as customers might love that experience, in today’s rushed world, they’re unlikely to make time for it regularly.

Enter Bar Fogo, a menu served at Fogo de Chão bars that displays the 51-unit chain’s strengths in terms of expertly prepared meat, but without the time commitment and at flexible prices — as little as $4 during happy hour for sliders, empanadas, Parmesan polenta fries and hearts of palm-spinach dip. Among other items are a Picanha Burger, made from the distinctive Brazilian sirloin cut; tenderloin skewers; and Churrasco Meat Boards that let customers order individual portions of beef, lamb, chicken or pork.

“We have what we think is a really nice selection of items that are friendly and allow someone at a lower price point to enjoy the Fogo experience,” Johnson said. “Reception has been very good.”

Bar Fogo was a long time coming. The Dallas-based chain, with origins in southern Brazil, has been working on components of the menu since it opened its New York City restaurant in 2013.

“Then we put our innovation team to work and we were testing items, and we really focused on testing in 2016, and we were ready to start rolling it out in 2017,” Johnson said.   

Since then, the menu has been introduced at all new locations and remodels, which include enhanced bars and a wider cocktail selection.

Bar Fogo lets restaurants attract more customers during different dayparts, including lunch and after work. Johnson said he sees a chance for people, especially in urban markets, to add trips to Fogo de Chão as part of their regular routine.

“We now have the regulars who will do that maybe once or twice a week, and then rotate that every couple of months with the full churrasco experience,” he said.

That’s a significant increase in visits compared with the 1.6 yearly visits that the average Fogo de Chão customer makes.

“This is a platform innovation that we think has legs,” Johnson said. “We’re going to see this part of the business grow.”

Bar Fogo menu items include:

Brazilian Empanadas (above left): Flaky pastry stuffed with seasoned picanha, sautéed onions, garlic and bell peppers, served with chimichurri aïoli

Braised Beef Rib Sliders (above right): Xingu-beer-braised beef topped with caramelized onions and melted smoked provolone on toasted brioche buns

Picanha Burger: Ground in-house beef patty, smoked provolone, Bibb lettuce, tomato, onion and chimichurri aïoli on a brioche bun, served with polenta fries

Goat Cheese Sandwich: Hearts of palm, roasted peppers, goat cheese, marinated red onion, basil cream and arugula on a brioche bun, served with polenta fries.

Grilled Beef Tenderloin Skewers: Filet medallions grilled to customer’s preference, with chimichurri salsa

Garlic Shrimp: Four jumbo shrimp sautéed in garlic butter with onions and sweet peppers, served with passion-fruit sauce

Spiced Chicken Sliders: Marinated chicken breast with arugula, tomato, pickled onion and mango aïoli on toasted brioche buns

Read more:
Innovator of the Year: Fabio Viviani
Daniel Boulud, MenuMasters Hall of Fame
Meet the 2018 MenuMasters

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected] 

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

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