Thursday, May 17, 2012
Brazilian Steakhouses: What's Up With That?
Brazilian steakhouses get all the love. Isn't that weird?
Let me back up. I am a huge fan of Urbanspoon - no surprise since the site is run by restaurant-loving data nerds. Since I am also a restaurant-loving data nerd, I especially enjoy when the Urbanspoon crew mines their data. This week, they evaluated their entire database to determine the 250 high end restaurants that receive the most attention from users, bloggers and traditional media.
And do you know what their results show? Coast to coast, people cannot stop talking about Brazilian steakhouses.
Fogo de Chao received the most attention - it's on the short list in 14 different cities, including Baltimore, where it is the third most talked about restaurant (behind Waterfront Kitchen and Wit and Wisdom). This fits with my own Google stat knowledge - searches for Fogo drive quite a few people to my 2008 post about the restaurant.
Considering Fogo only has 18 locations in the U.S., the fact that 14 of them show up on this list is pretty impressive. (Beverly Hills, Las Vegas, Denver and Miami are the locations not included.)
In addition to Fogo, seven additional Brazilian steakhouses make the list (maybe even more - those seven have obvious names). In nine of the 70 cities included, a Brazilian steakhouse takes the top spot (that's 13%). Several cities have more than one Brazilian steakhouse on their list - in Washington D.C., where there are a lot of good restaurants, Chima Brazilian Steakhouse is #1 and Fogo is #2 (three out of Chima's four locations make the list).
So back to my original question - what is it about these places?
I have to admit that I didn't love my experience at Fogo de Chao. I didn't hate it, but it was hectic and some of the meat was overdone. We went once four years ago and haven't been back since. For me, going out to dinner is active - I talk and observe and try other people's food. I don't just passively sit, waiting for someone to serve me. But in the end, I usually find dining out relaxing. Fogo was not a relaxing experience. I like relaxing experiences in restaurants.
But apparently I'm in the minority, at least among people using Urbanspoon.
My guess is that most people feed of the energy in Brazilian steakhouses - that's why they like them. I also think people just like being around all that meat.
And, let's be fair, there are worse things than being surrounded by tons of meat.
Aside: Other interesting things about the Baltimore list - Salt is #5 and Woodberry Kitchen is #6 out of 6. I think Salt is great, but Woodberry definitely gets more press - I'm surprised that Salt would even make the top 15 in terms of attention. Woodberry's lower score might be because Urbanspoon doesn't capture all of the national press the restaurant gets. But I'm still puzzled by Salt's high ranking. Good for them - they deserve it. But I didn't expect to see them there.