My vegetarian lunch at Fogo de Chão: enjoying warm spring days one Watermelon Fresca at a time!

Maybe it’s just me and my preconceived ideas, but eating veggies is not something I would normally imagine myself doing at Fogo de Chão. Mention the name of this restaurant and more often than not I’ll have a vision of endless meats roasted over an open fire in a Brazilian steakhouse (aka churrascaria). There is drama and magic in the play of the fire, and the chefs look like illusionists taming a spirited force which turns rawness into deliciousness. And yet, Fogo de Chão is not exclusively about the gaucho way of preparing meat – on skewers impressively maneuvered by the chefs for hours on end – but also about veggies: wholesome, fresh, flavorful veggies meant to satisfy your appetite and to make your hot day lighter, healthier, and overall more bearable.

I visited Fogo de Chão in Rosemont IL for lunch recently following their invitation to try out the new salads featured on their summer menu. I had swollen feet, was feeling dehydrated, and needed something light and nutritious to pick me up after a morning spent on a doctor’s appointment and shopping at the mall. Since I can’t drink alcohol, I was looking forward to trying Fogo’s Watermelon Fresca mocktail, featuring watermelon, pure cane sugar, freshly squeezed lime juice and mint blended and served over crushed ice. Refreshing and delicious, with the flavors of watermelon and mint being in complete balance and harmony, this mocktail was just what I needed to quench my thirst the flavorful way:

Fogo’s new seasonal salads are part of their Market Table & Feijoada Bar weekday lunch option, which also includes imported cheeses and cured meats, smoked salmon, Brazilian traditional black bean stew, soup, fresh fruit and leafy greens and more. Fogo’s Market Table dishes are traditional staples of Southern Brazilian cuisine, and as Fogo puts it, they represent “Brazilian inspired recipes that celebrate the bounty of the season.”

The three new salads available at Fogo de Chão this summer are Heirloom Tomato & Mozzarella (red, yellow & purple heirloom tomatoes layered with buffalo mozzarella and basil and topped with extra virgin olive oil and cracked black pepper), Watermelon Feta (watermelon tossed with feta, summer basil, fresh mint and cracked black pepper), and a nutrient-dense Chickpea salad (featuring chickpeas mixed with basil, fresh parsley, red onion & roasted red bell pepper, and dressed with a house-made lemon Dijon vinaigrette).

The fiber-packed chickpea salad came out on top of my preferences, which isn’t surprising since I have been a fan of pulses for as long as I can remember. The vinaigrette provided a light touch of flavor to the satisfying chickpeas, while the pepper and onion were there to add crunchy freshness and seasonal appeal. I ate this along with the other new salads, whose delicate balance of flavor and summery vibe I also thoroughly enjoyed. Fill your plate to the brim, eat the color palette below, and your nutrient-craving body will love you!

Sitting pretty: Fogo de Chão’s new seasonal salads

Fogo’s Market Table menu includes many other dishes in addition to these salads, such as their roasted antipasti (how fitting, right? :-)). I couldn’t wait to try the roasted bell peppers, one of my favorite foods ever:

I decided to pair the roasted veggies with Fogo’s Ancient Grain salad, which had wild rice, quinoa, chia seeds, toasted buckwheat, apples, oranges and pomegranate, all tossed in a house-made vinaigrette.

The roasted peppers and zucchini were sweet and lightly seasoned, and they held their own against the assertive fruity undertones in the Ancient Grain salad. Meanwhile, the marinated mushrooms provided protein-packed meatiness without the extra calories or fats. Taken separately, these elements were flavorful enough. Taken together, they were unbeatable.

Here it is: the perfect vegan plate of the upcoming summer 🙂

If you’re looking to eat clean and fresh this summer, Fogo de Chão’s Market Table vegetarian/vegan offerings (both old and new) are sure to please and to excite you. The vibrancy of summer is captured by wholesome flavor notes, which successfully combine starchy goodness with roasted sweetness bite after bite after bite. From among the new items I recommend Fogo’s Chickpea Salad and Watermelon Fresca for their refreshing quality, but you are welcome to try all dishes mentioned in this review and report back – or maybe add some of your own favorites to my list. Go to Fogo for the Watermelon Fresca, and stay for more. After all, the summer season is only getting started 🙂

*Disclaimer: While I received a complimentary tasting to facilitate this review, all opinions expressed here are my own.


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