All you can eat for one set price: how can that be a bad thing?
Well, most AYCEs are detrimental because they are heavy on carbohydrates. The Pizza Hut luncheon buffet leaps to mind. Now there are AYCE salad bars and nights where chicken wings are 10¢, but those aren't true AYCEs.
We're talking about a meal (protein, carbohydrates, vegetables) for one price. Well, I wanted to try an up-and-coming AYCE that includes all three categories, but doesn't have to be carb-intensive.
Brazilian steakhouses can be found in most major cities these days. These aren't anything like Ponderosa or Bonanza from the 1970s. Gauchos come out and bring you meat on a spit. They ask you how you would like your meat done, and they cut off the right temperature.
For the experiment, I selected the Fogo de Chao in downtown Chicago. The set price is rather expensive -- $48.50 ($29.50 for lunch), so you better bring your appetite. I don't pig out much anymore, but I brought as much stomach as I could handle.
The salad bar is lovely, a word rarely used for salad bars. It is true if your date is vegetarian, that you could take them for just the salad bar ($19.50).
You do get some carbohydrates with the meal: rolls, mashed potatoes, fried bananas, and fried plantains. This is included, but I don't know whether you got seconds for free. I wanted to minimize my carbohydrates for this meal. So I had some of the fried bananas and a very reasonable amount of rolls.
Had to save room for the meat. When you are ready for meat, you flip the disk on your table to green (red meant Stop).
I was in guy heaven.
When you order meat medium-rare, you know the center is medium-rare, but the ends can be more done. With this, the ends were medium-rare. I truly never had anything like it. I even had a couple of disagreements where I got rare and the server insisted it was medium-rare. It was rare, but also hilarious in the grand scheme since my arguments with waiters are usually over them claiming that a medium steak is medium-rare when it isn't.
The cuts were a bit salty, which I did know going in. Not too bad, quite frankly. The first few pieces were borderline sinful. The quality dropped a little after that; if you liked something, it was difficult to get it back. But then again, how many meals do you get several different cuts of steak, chicken wrapped in bacon, lamb, pork, and sausage.
But how much was too much? I wanted to go for it without bursting, but I haven't tried to do a meat-eating contest since I was a kid eating butter fondue and dipping pieces of steak in the hot butter.
I ate a lot, could not even tell you how much, but I was busy for awhile. When it got close to the end, my disk was much more red than green. And when I had to truly stop, it was because I couldn't think about eating anything. Not the salad bar (on my second plate), not the carbohydrates (little eaten), and certainly not meat (couldn't imagine eating a steak for a week).
In carbohydrate-dominant AYCEs, I can still think about food. After this meal, I couldn't imagine eating anything ever again. That was full. I didn't feel good about how much I had ate, literally.
So even though I ate a lot of protein and likely saturated fat, I felt great about the rest of the meal: plenty of vegetables, proper sizes of fruit and carbohydrates. But I did eat too much meat.
I did it once, and can't imagine doing it again anytime soon. I just can't do the AYCEs of my youth anymore. It's literally too much. I did love the joy but not the struggle afterwards.