It’s a surprise birthday dinner for our friend Mickey as my daughter Kathleen and I headed up the 405 to the 101 to La Cienega through an area that doesn’t at all look like the place I used to hang out in my teens. Restaurant Row has a whole new and obviously more contemporary vibe. There are so many more choices now for dining. Whatever you yearn for, there is someplace somewhere that can fill that craving.

Fogo de Chao is a Brazilian Steakhouse that takes up half a block. It is Saturday night, and it is packed. We have a nice table in a corner so the birthday balloons wouldn’t smack anyone in the face. Mickey wasn’t as surprised as we thought he would be, but he was obviously glad to have us and my son Jeff celebrating with him.

This restaurant is amazing. It is a fixed price menu which includes an elaborate salad bar with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, salads, various cheeses, prosciutto, salmon, salamis, and dressings and sauces to please every taste. Bowls of incredible mashed potatoes, fried plantains, and polenta are brought to the table to accompany the meat courses.

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Then come the servers dressed in their gaucho pants and knee-high boots carrying large skewers of roast beef, ribs, bacon-wrapped filet and chicken, lamp chops and leg of lamb. You can choose any or all that they offer. They will come to your table when your coaster is on the green side (Yes, Please). If you are taking an eating orgy break, flip your coaster to the red side (No Thanks). It is a simple procedure that works quite well. When you are ready for more, the server is at your side in a flash.

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Beverages are extra and we brought a special birthday cake for Mickey. There was gift opening, toasts and a slightly off-key happy birthday song.

One other thing — If you want privacy and a quiet dining atmosphere, this is not the place for you, but for the sheer fun and the gluttonous opportunity to really pig out on some very tasty food, Fogo de Chao is the place to go. We had a good time!!