Baltimoreans' love affair with red meat took an exotic turn with the opening last week of Fogo de Chao (600 E. Pratt St., 410-528-9292), the Brazilian steakhouse. Fifteen different cuts of meat (beef, pork, lamb and chicken) are slow-roasted by Southern Brazilian cowboys - sorry, authentic gaucho chefs - who also bring them to your table and carve slices onto your plate.
Not enough food for you? The buffet bar has more than 30 items like cheeses, cured meats, vegetables, polenta, red beans and rice, fried bananas and cheese bread. And save room for the signature dessert, papaya cream.
The menu is fixed-price, all-you-can-eat. Lunch costs $22.50; $16.50 for the buffet bar only. Dinner is $42.50 or $19.50 for the buffet. (Just be glad you aren't visiting the Beverly Hills Fogo de Chao, where dinner is $52.50.)
Bowling and bearnaise --By now you may have heard about Mustang Alley's, the upscale bowling alley, bar and bistro (1300 Bank St., 410-522-2695), where it costs as much as $55 an hour to bowl. What you don't hear much about is the bistro part of the equation, which has equally highfalutin aspirations. There's a full kitchen staff with chef and sous-chef, turning out what one of the owners, Kyle Koch, calls "higher-end Americana food leaning toward the Southern."
The executive chef, Billy Kelley, was formerly at Harryman House, and Koch calls him "a seafood specialist."
Entrees run from $12 to $17, and the menu includes pan-seared salmon, a selection of sliders, lobster mac 'n' cheese and specials like the recent seafood pizza with lobster, tuna, crab and a lobster bearnaise sauce.
The best seller so far is pickles fried in an ale batter with creole tartar sauce.
Ooh-la-la WIE --The old luncheonette counter downstairs at the Woman's Industrial Exchange, which has been closed for the last decade - the counter, not the Exchange - is about to become Sofi's Crepes (333 N. Charles St.), an offshoot of Sofi's Crepes next to the Charles Theatre. You'll be able to enter through the Exchange or off Pleasant Street.
One of the owners, Ann Costlow, told me they are sprucing it up but trying to incorporate the charm and character of the original space into the new look.
"We are keeping the counter so patrons can sit and watch your crepes be made," she said, "but we will wrap them up and hand them to you just like we do at our Charles Theatre location." There will also be a few cafe tables outside.
The menus will be the same at both places, both savory and sweet crepes.
Costlow is hoping for an opening date of Sept. 16, but you know how iffy opening dates are.
Send restaurant news, trends, questions of general interest or observations to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or fax me at 410-783-2519. Snail mail works, too: Elizabeth Large, The Sun, Box 1377, Baltimore 21278.