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.


Nakiya said...

I love this post!!!

I am SO surprised by the Fogo thing. It doesn't make any sense to me. I see that restaurant as a one-time experience. I went there, ate a TON of food and now I never need to go there again.

When I went there I thought the food was good, but I literally ate the most I've ever eaten in my life. I was so full that my heart was racing! I felt like I had to get my money's worth and try ALL the meat and then some. That place is just too much.

Also, I've never been to Salt, but I am also surprised that it's so high on the list....I don't feel like people talk about that place as often as some other restaurants in town.

Kit Pollard said...

Thanks, Nakiya!

And I felt the same way - there's something about "all you can eat" (or all you can drink, for that matter) that always makes me overindulge. I remember feeling sick for about 24 hours after my dinner there.

Conrad from Urbanspoon said...

Building the list, this was the biggest thing that stood out to me. I actually checked the data very carefully on this. Here's my hypothesis. The brazilian steakhouses tend to be celebratory overindulgence experiences . . . which have a higher than average rate of people sharing their dining experience. They also tend to be very large establishments - it's not a small hole in the wall with 8 tables - so be definition you get more volume. This is one of the reasons I made typified the list as "most popular."

Conrad from Urbanspoon

Kit Pollard said...

Thanks for commenting, Conrad! Both of those points make a lot of sense - and most of the other restaurants on the Baltimore list fall into those categories, as well.

I know you're not from Baltimore, but those theories actually make Salt's appearance on the list even MORE interesting - it's on the smallish side and I think of it as an upscale neighborhood restaurant vs. someplace people out of the city think of for celebrations.

It did receive a lot of attention a few years ago, when foie gras protesters picketed for a while, but that was a while back. It's an interesting puzzle!


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