Brazilian Market & Cafe (2424 Williams Blvd., Suite N, Kenner, 504-468-3533) opened in 2006 after Greyze Vieira moved to town on the hunch that he could build a business serving the influx of fellow Brazilians drawn here for post-Hurricane Katrina recovery work. The market stocks imported Brazilian groceries in front. In back, a deli serves plate lunches, meat pies and other savory pastries, fresh cane juice and, following Brazilian custom, burgers crammed to overflowing with unusual toppings.
What do you think differentiates traditional Brazilian food?
Vieira: People sometimes tend to combine Central America and South America — like we're all Latin, so we all must eat the same food. But it's very different. The feijoada shows this. It's like the bean casseroles of southern France and Spain and Portugal, but in Brazil it was something the slave owners gave to slaves, and they'd mix in these different pieces of the pig and other ingredients and what you have now is feijoada. So Brazilian food is a mixup of African, European and what we'd call native Brazilian cooking.
Your market seems to function as a clubhouse for Brazilian expats. Was that your intent?
V: People come in for food and because they're homesick for certain dishes, but some of them are new immigrants and they ask us for advice about where to get legal help or they ask us to help with paperwork for passports. They're looking for jobs or employees or where to go for health care. So we put up these boards where we can post information and it's turned into like Craigslist for Brazilians.
No one dresses a hamburger quite like a Brazilian. What's behind this custom?
V: I can't prove this, but I think it's just when Brazilians are cooking the same thing they try to add more and more to it to stand out and market themselves to customers. So you start with just a hamburger, and they add sausage, they add a hot dog, they have vegetables in the kitchen so they add corn and then potato sticks and you end up giving the customer everything at once. I could take you to bars in Brazil and you just wouldn't believe what they come up with. Eventually it became the tradition. — IAN MCNULTY