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But somehow, once I set foot in the door and smell the steak, I forget all about the idea of just eating salad.
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Fuegovivo is the third Brazilian churrascaria in Houston. Fogo de Chão on West­heimer is the original. Then there's Nelore, a cozy little churrascaria located in a cottage on Montrose. It has a limited salad bar selection and a tiny bar, but it suits its Inner Loop patrons just fine. Several other Brazilian steakhouses, including Rodizio and Avenida Paulista, have also operated in Houston at one time or another.

The Houston Fuegovivo is the fourth location of a Florida-based operation that was originally called Fogovivo. Fogo means fire in Portuguese, while fuego means fire in Spanish. The Fuegovivo chain changed its name after a dispute with Fogo de Chão, according to our waiter. Dallas-based Fogo de Chão has 12 locations in the United States and six in Brazil.

The meat is fresher when the restaurant is full.
Troy Fields
The meat is fresher when the restaurant is full.

Location Info

Map

Fuegovivo Churrascaria

11681 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX 77077

Category: Restaurant > South American

Region: Memorial

Details

Hours: Lunch, Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner, Monday through Thursday 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday brunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Lunch: $25.95

Salad bar lunch: $19.95

Dinner: $42.95

Salad bar dinner: $29.95

Sunday brunch: $42.95

11681 Westheimer, 281-597-8108.

The two Brazilians, Fogo and Fuego, are evidently battling it out in several U.S. markets. The Houston branches are very much alike. Both are large operations located on Westheimer; Fogo is close to Dunvale, Fuego is outside Beltway 8 near Kirkwood. The restaurant's all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouse menus are all but identical. Fogo charges $32.50 for lunch and $48.50 for dinner, Fuego gets $25.95 for lunch and $42.95 at night.

So which one is the better choice?

I stopped by both restaurants on a recent weekday evening for a comparison. I give the edge to Fuego in the atmosphere department; the three-level dining room is a little more elegant than Fogo's cavernous expanse. Both have inviting bars.

The salad bar at Fogo is essentially a selection of raw ingredients. You have to assemble the naked hearts of palm, generic-looking sliced tomatoes and lettuce leaves into a salad and dress it yourself. Fuego's salads are much more appealing, and so is the seafood and carpaccio. Although I haven't eaten there in a few years, I am willing to bet that thanks to a larger clientele, Fogo has the edge in meat variety.

But Fogo's main advantage is in the wine department. The restaurant has a huge temperature-controlled wine cellar and an extensive selection of great red wines from around the world. I wouldn't buy an expensive red wine at Fuego because the reds appear to be stored at room temperature. The red wine by the glass list at Fuego is also a snooze. Besides a couple of mid-range selections from the Argentine winery Trapiche, there's nothing but wines you see every day at the supermarket.

So the swashbuckling meat-on-a-sword fight between Fogo and Fuego is a draw by my scorecard. Go to Fogo if you want good wine. But if an awesome salad bar and an elegant dining room are more important, you are better off at Fuego. Either way you're gonna get some great Brazilian-style steak.

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