At their core, Fogo de Chao (117 E. Washington St., 317-638-4000) and Tucanos (13225 Levinson Ln., Noblesville, 317-770-6988)—Indy’s two traditional all-you-can-eat meat houses—operate from the same playbook. Skewer after skewer of just-grilled flesh is brought to the table, regulated by a color-coded system where green means “go” and red means “stop,” and plopped directly onto your juice-smeared plate. But each restaurant (both national chains) places its own stamp on the experience.
Fogo De Chao
Price Point: Dinner rings up at $48.50, and lunch is $29.50, with the salad bar–only option going for around $20, depending on the time of day. After drinks and desserts, your wallet won’t need to go on a diet.
Location: Downtown in the former Zipper building, with valet parking.
Ambiance: A muted air of sophistication.
Presentation: Servers are well-oiled, gaucho-sporting machines who glide through the main room, confidently slicing meat and swapping out used plates.
Salad-Bar Highlights: Cold marinated veggies: bell peppers, mushrooms, and asparagus; pillows of fresh mozzarella; smoked salmon; salami; prosciutto; and an eye-catching wheel of Parmesan cheese.
The Meats: Sixteen choices of beef, chicken, lamb, and pork speak for themselves, minimally seasoned and cooked to melt-in-the-mouth succulence. Do not pass on any of the beef options. If you need to skip a course, make it the dried-out Parmesan-crusted pork loin.
The Sides: Garlic mashed potatoes, polenta fried to perfection, warm cheese bread, and caramelized bananas are brought tableside.
Sweets: Papaya cream deliciously and mercifully aids in the digestion of meat.
Price Point: The bill comes in at a svelte $22.95 for dinner. Lunch is $15.95.
Location: Hamilton Town Center in Noblesville, with ample parking-lot spots.
Ambiance: Bright colors and lacquered tables packed in closely.
Presentation: The less-polished waitstaff seem more chatty and casual—perhaps more friendly, even. But they are occasionally less adroit with the knives and spears. “We have a sausage down!”
Salad-Bar Highlights: Variety is the key. Standard salad-bar items accompany traditional Brazilian farofa (a crispy, nutty condiment made of toasted flour), fried bananas, and rice and beans, while pastas, sushi, and lobster bisque are also included in the “festival.”
The Meats: The belle of the beef is the picanha, but make sure to try the contra coxa, a juicy cut of bone-in chicken thigh in a sweet-and-sour sauce. All but the staunchest pescatarians will want to avoid the parched salmon and over-battered fried whitefish.
The Sides: The menu offers a full lineup of fast-casual appetizers, like nachos and calamari. But why bother?
Sweets: The star of the dessert menu is a substantial mango butter cake topped with mango sorbet.
This article appears in the June 2014 issue.