Here are the things I know about Brazil, and I apologize in advance:
- They like big butts and they feel no need to lie about it
- They drink sugarcane liquor called cachaça (may lead to big butt appreciation)
- Giant Jesus statue (proportional butt to his size)
Pretty much the only non-butt related information I have comes from Cafe Do Brasil (yes, it’s spelled with an “s” as that’s how the people of that country spell it) and their excellent food.
But first, a slight diversion to talk about what a cool, funky old building Cafe Do Brasil lives in. Walk in the front door and you’re greeted by a host stand and then taken down a short set of stairs to the sunken dining room. Even at mid-day, the restaurant has a moody, sun-dappled look—a coolness that is offset by the nearly neon-bright colors of the menu and the art on the walls.
Upstairs is the Bossa Nova Bar and outside, the patio is laying in wait for the perfect day to suck down rum-infused drinks while nibbling on croquettes and savory pastries as Midtown moves around you.
Stepping into Cafe Do Brasil feels a little like teleporting into another world, whether its Brazil or just a larger metropolitan city. In its way, the restaurant feels “too cool” for Oklahoma without ever being too cool.
It’s a place that imbues you with its cool, making you feel at home even as you’re exploring a culture that feels quite foreign. And what better way to get to know a new country than through your mouth?
There are mainstays on every menu and Cafe Do Brasil is no different. You will have to pry Brasilian Pie ($6 for a slice, $9 for a combo with soup, fruit, or salad) from their cold, dead hands. Actually, you won’t. If you order it, they’ll use their warm, alive hands to just give it to you.
It’s a slice of buttery, flaky pie with layers of shaved ham, mozzarella, and a blend of sauteed spinach, garlic and onions. It’s rich and it’s delicious and it’s a struggle not to order it every time.
My friend Karlie grabbed that one, while my enemy Megan (nah, she’s pretty great) ordered xin-xin ($11) (pronounced “shin-shin”) and it’s one of the prettiest bowls of yellow that I’ve seen.
In some ways, it’s a Brazilian curry, a mix of chicken and shrimp cooked in a sauce of coconut milk, cashews, peanut butter, dry shrimp and herbs. It’s kind of a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure dish, because you can mix and match different bits to create the meal you most desire.
We all share an order of coxinha de galinha ($10), which are fried croquettes filled with a blend of crumbled chicken and herbs, which comes with an order of catupiry, which is a house-made cream cheese.
Thank goodness for the catupiry, because the chicken-and-herb croquettes were a little dry otherwise. The flavor is good, though a bit mild, so the tangy richness of the cream cheese sauce was very welcome in both flavor and texture.
The next appetizer I get will probably be feijoada rolinho ($10), which are fried spring rolls full of Brazilian favorites, like black beans, rice, and shredded pork. They’re greasy and delightful and they come with fried collard greens. The only thing they needed was hot sauce, which I’d keep handy while dining at Cafe Do Brasil. The food is good, but Brazilian food isn’t particularly spicy or bold, so if you need to amp up the flavors a bit, a dash of vinegary hot sauce will provide the pop you need.
I’d even put it on picanha ao vinho ($12), because it’s perfect, but it can be more perfect. It’s also gluten-free, if that’s a thing you care about. Turns out lots of delicious things are. This dish includes thin slices of steak pan seared with onions and cherry tomatoes, which are then deglazed in red wine and served with rice, black beans, and fried plantains.
Seriously, this is a mighty tasty steak lunch at just $12. If you’re packing a real hunger, this is the cure.
Two very similar dishes I highly recommend are perere ($12) and tissao ($11). These are dishes to eat if you’re planning on doing some extremely difficult manual labor soon.
Perere is a blend of sirloin, bacon, sausage, black beans, and collard greens mixed into a bowl of Brazilian rice and served with a fried egg on top.
Tissao is basically the same thing, except they sub in shredded pork and malagueta peppers for the steak and bacon.
Crack that egg yolk and mix it in. Hit it with a dash or three of hot sauce and hold on. These dishes are so ridiculously satisfying. They’re warm and they’re heavy and oh my god, it’s like eating a blanket. Tissao and perere are like eating heavy winter blankets. They’re delicious and hearty and you are probably invincible for 30 minutes after eating them.
Yes, they are the equivalent of getting a star in Super Mario Bros.
Cafe Do Brasil isn’t perfect, at least not for me. I love the food, but I also find the spicing to be a bit on the conservative side. Then again, I’m a fan of very heavy seasoning. But! Lots of people prefer their food a bit milder. That’s okay. I don’t mind cranking the heat up as high as I like after the fact. Besides, this food is so hearty and wholesome, if all it takes to make it go from good to great is a little work with a salt shaker and a bottle of hot sauce, I’m there for it.