I did a lot of traveling to cover Grand Prix and Pro Tour events, and many of the days blur together in my memory. One way I keep track of all these tournaments is by dinner. After a long day of work/play, it’s always a relief to be able to hang out with people I don’t get to see very often, while enjoying a tasty meal at a local eatery.
I’ve been all around the world and all across the United States while covering Magic tournaments, and I can say that the biggest benefit of these trips, bar none, is being able to go out to eat with various people. I’ve crept through the streets of France looking for a pizzeria with Mark Rosewater. I’ve played host three times to various groups of people looking to find good eateries in New Orleans. I’ve eaten at Morton’s Steak House in over a dozen cities, and at Fogo de Chao in three of their four locations.
In fact, today’s stories are about Fogo de Chao.
But before I go into my Fogo stories, let me just note that Mark Rosewater loves pizza. The man craves pizza. He is a human being that lives pizza, breathes pizza, and would own a pizzeria if he weren’t so busy designing the game. No matter where in the world I’ve traveled, Mark always wants Pizza. He wants Pizza in France, in San Diego, in Chicago (okay, no blame there), in Japan, in Australia – and he doesn’t just want it for one meal on a trip. No, he wants it every meal. He wants pizza for breakfast, brunch, lunch, snack, dinner, midnight snack, and all appetizers in between.
If you ever need to get Mark Rosewater a gift, get him gift certificates to various Italian Restaurants. Seriously! He will appreciate them greatly, because he will be able to order pizza. These gifts will not go to waste.
Anyhow, back to the stories at hand. Fogo de Chao (http://www.fogodechao.com/flash_index.php) has four locations in the United States: Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston. The restaurant is a Brazilian meat house. What exactly does this mean? It means that you are given a button when you are seated. One side is green, and the other red. When your button is green, it signals to the waiters that yes, you would like more of their sumptuous meats. When it is red, it means that you are about to explode from all the meat you have eaten in the previous hour. These meats include Filet Mignon, top cut Sirloin, roast pork, parmesan encrusted pork, plump sausages, lamb chops, and other meats. These are all brought to your table on skewers by an excellently trained staff. On top of all this, the salad bar is out of the world at Fogo – fresh mozzarella, choice prosciutto, and several types of salads are among the highlights.
Needless to say, I highly recommend the experience of going to Fogo de Chao.
I’d heard about Fogo de Chao from Carl James, a former Magic pro out of Texas. Carl lived in Houston and had been a couple of times, but it seemed that every time I was in town for an event, we wouldn’t get out until after Fogo had already closed. Fast forward a couple of years: I’m back in Houston for the Pro Tour in 2002, and the Pro Tour falls over my birthday. When Ed Fear hears about this, he decides that we’re going out for my birthday, to a place of my choice. Enter Fogo! We pack several people into my van (I had driven from New Orleans to Houston for this event) including:
Myself, Ben Bleiweiss, happy 26th Birthday!
Alex Shvartsman, who writes a week in review column for MagicTheGathering.com
Ed Fear, the notorious bad boy of the Pro Circuit (charmingly evil)
Gaming Jim, the loudest Magic dealer in the world
Scott Seville, a good friend of mine from my Neutral Ground days
Mike Pustilnik, Pro Tour champion and dead-ringer for Rick Moranis
There may have been somebody else there, but if it was you, I’m sorry I forgot about you!
We head out to Fogo, and the restaurant is all dreamed about and that much more. The ambiance is wonderful – soft noises all around, mixed with the bustle of literally dozens of waiters carrying around different meats and drinks to all the patrons of the restaurant. The food is fantastic, the company is great, and the service is impeccable. Well, almost impeccable.
Midway through the meal, Gaming Jim notices that Ed’s glass hadn’t been refilled with Coke for about two minutes.”That’s preposterous!” bellowed Jim, feigning mock outrage.”Every other drink at the table has been refilled in under thirty seconds – I’ve been timing it. I can’t believe you haven’t gotten a Coke yet.” Ed seemed incredulous.”Jim, I’ll bet you five dollars that someone will be by to fill my glass in under a minute.””You’re on!” Ninety seconds later, the glass was filled.”Excuse me sir,” Jim told the waiter,”but could you please get the manager for us?” The manager came over.”It’s not a big deal, but I was noticing that it took my friend almost three minutes to get his glass filled, when the rest of us had our glasses filled every minute. The service has been great so far, but that’s unacceptable.”
Yeah, Jim really does things like this over dinner. It’s hard to tell if he’s serious or not. Either way, the manager took his complaints to heart.”Oh no sir, I’m so sorry! I’ll make sure that our staff stays on top of your drinks for the rest of your stay.” This would be difficult, because to everyone except Jim, we had already been swarmed by waiters for the entire meal! Somehow, we were paid even more attention from that point onward.”Is there anything else I can do for you sir?”, the manager asked of Jim.”Yes. We would like to have some more of the parmesan pork – we haven’t seen it come out in a while.” The manager clasped his hands and nodded.”An excellent choice sir. It will be done in three minutes.”
Jim Bruso and Ed Fear went in double or nothing. A minute later the manager stopped by again. We know it was a minute later, because Jim was staring at his watch the entire time.”Sirs, I just wanted to let you know that your dish will be out… in two minutes.” We all cracked up laughing. A minute more:”Sirs, your meat will be out in… one minute.” A minute passed, and the pork wasn’t out.”Well, that’s disappointing,” said Ed.”Wait,” Jim cut in.”The manager said it would be done in three minutes – it’ll probably take a few seconds to get to the….” and before Jim could say table, the waiter carrying our parmesan pork burst through the kitchen doors and made a beeline for our table. Time: Three minutes and fifteen seconds.
A good time was had by all, except for Mike Pustilnik – Ed insisted that everyone cover my tab on account of it being my birthday, and the plates were $50 a head pre-tip to begin with. Mike was the only one who didn’t know the price of the restaurant ahead of time and was none to happy about having to pony up $90 for the dinner!
Cheer up Mikey P! At least you’re part of a story of Magic’s tradition and flirtation with Fogo De Chao.
Tommorrow: More Fogo stories! How can you contain yourselves?