2 Brazilian churrascarias set their sights on Fort Lauderdale. Who has the mightiest meats?


Brazilian churrascarias — with their rodizio-style bonanza of meat — are taking over the Fort Lauderdale steakhouse scene.

Lasso Gaucho, an independent churrascaria created by four veteran steakhouse operators, debuted July 27 at 2457 E. Sunrise Blvd., across the street from The Galleria mall. Two miles south downtown, Fogo de Ch?o, a long-running international chain, is scheduled to open Aug. 19, at 201 E. Las Olas Blvd., on the ground floor of The Main Las Olas downtown high-rise. They join Chima Steakhouse, a stronghold that has served chic Brazilian feasts on Las Olas Boulevard for two decades.


The close timing of both openings may be pure coincidence, but for these churrascarias, the competition is welcome — and the steak knives are already out.

“Not to put Fogo down, since they’re the biggest name in the industry, but I think that restaurant forgot about how to take care of their guests,” says Edson Munekata, co-owner of Lasso Gaucho.


Adds Alessandra Jochem, another Lasso Gaucho co-owner: “There’s a diverse clientele in Fort Lauderdale and our competitors are doing really well, but our product, I can say, is much better than theirs.”

For his part, Wanderson Oliveira, general manager of the new Fogo de Ch?o, says his restaurant’s Fort Lauderdale location touts high-end prime cuts that Brazilian steakhouses don’t usually carry, such as wagyu ribeyes, New York strips and dry-aged tomahawks.

“Why not be better than other steakhouse competitors?” Oliveira says. “We have the resources, we have the great steak, and ours is one of the best.”

Sounds like an old-fashioned steakhouse showdown is brewing. But if there’s something they share in common, it’s this: At both churrascarias, meat is the star. Beef is barbecued without adornment, the salt more emphasis than seasoning — though chicken and lamb are spiced overnight in rich marinades of cognac, mint, lemon pepper and rosemary.

It’s an experience for the senses: The spectacle in the kitchens of both restaurantsengage the eyes and nostrils at the same time. Racks of picanha and lamb legs rotate in ovens on skewers as big as tentpoles. A symphony of kerchief-wearing servers, referred to as “gauchos,” fan out in sprawling dining rooms, parading back cuts of red meat, flame-licked and glistening with sea salt. Nearby steam tables are stocked with more salads, soups and charcuterie than a supermarket.

“We want guests to see the fire and smell the fire,” Fogo’s Oliveira says. “The charcoal grills are right there, and the gauchos are shoulder to shoulder, working the sausage, the chicken, the pork, with timing and precision and diligence.”

“You serve yourselves as many times as you want,” adds Lasso Gaucho co-owner Antonio Jochem. “It’s important to bring a big appetite, or even skip a meal beforehand.”

So which steakhouse serves the mightiest meats? Here’s everything you should know about Fort Lauderdale’s newest Brazilian barbecue spots.


Image 1 of 21

Lasso Gaucho comes from steakhouse veterans Rudimar Rech, the Jochemsand their out-of-state partner, Munekata, who owns 11 restaurants including South Carolina’s Cowboy Brazilian Steakhouse.

Rech and Antonio Jochem, who cut their teeth as managers and gaucho chefs for Fogo de Ch?o, created Lasso Gaucho to directly compete with their former chain. Jochem barbecued in S?o Paulo and Porto Alegre before opening his first Fogo in Miami Beach in 2007, and he’s made a point to hire eight gauchos with experience in Brazil’s southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, the birthplace of churrasco.

That makes a difference, Munekata says.

“Maintaining and conveying our traditions is important at churrascarias,” he says. “You can see the extra steps our guys are taking. Greeting the guests, pulling out their chairs, folding the napkins properly. You have to truly care about service. If you go to a place charging $100 a steak with no service, it’s almost unforgivable.”

The restaurant charges $57.95 for a “full experience,” a choice of 18 proteins that include filet mignon to bacon-wrapped chicken to queijo coalho (salty grilled-cheese skewers that are firm enough to hold up under open flames and dressed in a subtly spicy honey). Meat cuts are fired on twin gas-powered Scheer grills.

All meals begin with access to the unlimited salad bar (part of the “full experience,” or $32.95 by itself), which includes items such as warm p?o de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread), black beans, polenta, mashed potatoes, farofa (toasted yuca flour tossed with herbs), and sauces such as salsa criolla and chimichurri.


Since opening, Lasso has averaged 60 diners a night, and their most-popular cut is picanha, a flavorful top sirloin cap ringed with a crescent of fat.

“In Brazil, picanha is so big for us, and many guests so far come just for that,” Antonio Jochem says. “The layer of fat lets the meat stay juicy while shielding it from burning over the flame.”

With 251 seats and two private rooms, Lasso Gaucho is massive, with a salad buffet and russet-colored walls splashed with paintings of folkloric gauchos, 18th- and 19th-century South American cowboys who roamed cattle-ranching grasslands.

Towering wine racks frame the dining room with South American vintages. Meanwhile, servers circulate the room with cocktail carts, mixing caipirinhas tableside for $14. Happy hour runs from 4 to 7 p.m. Sundays through Fridays, when caipirinhas are half-off.

The 43-year-old, Plano, Texas-headquartered Fogo de Ch?o keeps growing in South Florida, with seven new locations planned by year’s end (a Coral Gables outpost opened in April).

The Las Olas location plans to employ 110 staffers, including a battalion of 20 gaucho chefs. Its 226-seat dining room is adorned with ornate chandeliers, white tablecloths, floor-to-ceiling windows and an open kitchen where customers may watch side-by-side Scheer charcoal grills roasting fraldinha (bottom sirloin) and lingui?a de porco (spicy pork sausage) from the comfort of their dining tables.


Fogo charges $60.95-per-person for its “churrasco experience,” which features 14 cuts and includes access to its buffet market table ($32.95 separately), brimming with feijoada (black bean stew with sausage), salads and cured meats. Beyond standard churrascaria proteins, customers may splurge on so-called “indulgent cuts,” including 21 day-aged prime wagyu New York strip ($135 upcharge), 21 day-aged wagyu ribeye ($145), and 42 day-aged tomahawks ($98).

“The other day, I had a guest tell me the wagyu was like steak on crack,” says Oliveira, the general manager.

Oliveira began at Fogo in 2007 as a server and bartender, later debuting new stores in Philadelphia, Boston, New York and Miami Beach. He takes pride in training gaucho chefs on how to barbecue and carve meats tableside with surgeon-like precision.


Dining out, cooking in and all the South Florida restaurant news and information you need.

“To be a gaucho is simple: You need passion, you need to be a hard worker and, of course, be able to juggle multiple skewers at once,” says Oliveira, who was born in Minas Gerais.

Yes, he does train American-born gaucho chefs who have never worked in Brazil’s churrasco capital — some will work in Fort Lauderdale — but he says passion, not the country of origin, is more important.

“We have Americans who want to be gaucho,” he says, adding that three of his chefs are from southern Brazil. “But they dress the same, the communication is the same, and they all share the same passion, because they love hospitality. That’s something you can’t fake.”


The Fort Lauderdale location will offer fire-roasted meats by the pound ($15-$28) and by the cut ($20-$58), such as marinated chicken legs, filet mignon, Atlantic salmon, beef short ribs and bone-in ribeyes. Fogo dry-ages their proteins in meat lockers on-site.

Fogo expects its Happy Hour to run all day Saturday and Sunday, with $5 beers, $7 wines and $9 Brazilian-inspired cocktails.

Lasso Gaucho Brazilian Steakhouse, at 2457 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 754-223-4663 or visit LassoGaucho.com.

Fogo de Ch?o, at 201 E. Las Olas Blvd., Suite 100, Fort Lauderdale (within The Main Las Olas building), is scheduled to open Aug. 19. Call 754-900-3111 or visit FogodeChao.com.


Leave a Comment

Related Post

Pest Control News

Pest News South Florida

Latest Posts