Brasil Legal Cafe, Pronounced “Lay-GOW”

Brasil Legal Cafe

While getting off the subway near my home after work a few days ago, I noticed yet a few more restaurants that had opened for business in the short stretch of Milwaukee Avenue between the roundabout and Diversey Avenue. Sure, that means Logan Square is steadily undergoing more revitalization. However, this also made me wonder what eateries I may have missed in the neighbouring Bucktown. The intersection of Milwaukee Avenue, Damen Avenue, and North Avenue is already a Wonderland of boutiques, cafes, coffee shops, and magnets for hipsters. Still, there could be some enticing spots that are overlooked because the Magic Intersection is “the” draw for the Wicker Park and Bucktown crowd. Well, while trying to find some place off the regular path, I happened by Brasil Legal  Cafe at 2161 N. Western Avenue. Much like my neighborhood, Logan Square, Bucktown has its surprises. And I love surprises.

Guarana Antarctica

Guarana Antarctica

Coxhina e Risole Camarao

Coxhina e Risole Camarao

Because I had arrived early, the main dish that I wanted had not been prepared. I had to wait for the feijoada. That alone told me that I was going to the feijoada cooked to order. So, I decided to have a coxhina and a risole camarão while I waited. When I was in São Paulo and in Recife, I basically went overboard stuffing myself with this very same street food and Brasil Legal Cafe did not disappoint. With a Guarana Antarctica soda within reach, this was a fantastic start to my lunch. And when the time arrived that the feijoada was done cooking, I had a plate of the beans and rice, greens, and farofa. Now, although I’m pescatarian and have been bending rather liberally in my diet as of late, I was aware that the beans had ham hock and sausage in them. But I was okay with that, evident of absolutely nothing on the plate except for gravy when I was done devouring everything.

Feijoada

Feijoada

For those of you who may want to delve into some Brazilian cooking in your kitchen, Brasil Legal Cafe has a small selection of grocery items. As small as the cafe and grocery store is, I spent majority of my time looking at the food that I was scooping up to my mouth and occasionally watching some soccer team giving the Brazilian team a run for their money. What I will say is that as minimal as the menu is, the offerings are still worth a visit. I have had feijoada at a few Brazilian restaurants in and around Chicago. Brasil Legal Cafe definitely dishes up authenticity, very much like Taste of Brasil in Oak Park. Give it a try. After you have your first bite of some of the appetizers or a forkful of one of the entrees, I bet you will find yourself shouting, Lay-GOW, and then giving a thumbs-up. Mark my words. And now if some Brazilians would surprise me even more by opening a cafe in Logan Square.


Brasil Legal Cafe on Urbanspoon

Loving the Whole Brazilian Food Experience

Brazilian Bowl

When you have lived in Chicago, Illinois, for eighteen years, there are a few things that you do not take for granted. The traffic is not easy on those of us who drive manual shift cars. You really do not need a car living in the city proper. People go on red and stop on green. The temperatures do not warm up until mid to late June, albeit there will be a few days of teasingly warm temperatures between February and May. It’s the latter that makes me hanker for being able to split my time between Chicago during the warmer months and Brazil during the rest of the year. I can dream, though. And I can also go to one of several Brazilian restaurants in the city when I need something to put me in the mind of being in a warmer climate like that of Brazil. And on a certain frosty evening after work, I met up with a friend in Chicago’s Lakeview at Brazilian Bowl at 3204 N. Broadway. Well, since I can’t get to Brazil the way I would like, the alternative is accepting the fact that a bit of Brazil has come to Chicago.

Steak Bowl

Brazilian Bowl is a relatively small cafe that has a few high tables and a lot of character as far as the Lakeview scene goes. I had gone twice in 2012 shortly after the cafe had opened. They were still in the throes of finding their place. Many kinks had to be ironed out and with crowds pouring it, I am sure they were biting down really hard while having to entertain long lines of customers heaving exaggerated sighs. Much has settled since and it was time to return for another sampling of something traditional. For me, I ordered a Brazilian lemonade, a coxinha, and a feijoada. My friend ordered a steak bowl and a flan.

Flan

Japanese do it well. Mongolians do it well. Koreans do it incredibly well. Now, it is apparent that Brazilians do it equally well. The steak bowl is not just some concoction thrown into a bowl as though someone is coming up with their own version of goulash. My friend had commented briefly that it was doing the trick and after seeing that he had polished the whole dish off with very little conversation, I was not going to argue with his assessment. Steak, corn, carrots, mushrooms, cheese, and rice joined forces to do their wicked bidding on his taste buds and he smiled. And I knew there certainly was no denying that the flan he had bought was worthy of the comment, “Oh, wow, ‘this’ is really, really good.” The steak bowl and the flan will be two items that I will have to be certain to add to my list when I return.

CoxinhaAs for me, I had ordered two of the more well-known traditional dishes — coxinha and feijoada. The coxinha was a huge tear drop pastry filled with chicken, corn, and some spices that went over very well. This falls more in line with street food, such that you can walk around with it and eat it from your hands, no utensils required. The feijoada was a bowl of rice, black beans, sausage, ham hocks, and greens mineira style was worthy. After a few scoops of the feijoada, it was quite clear that Brazilian Bowl is the second Brazilian cafe in Chicago to prepare the dish the way that I remember from my trip to Salvador Bahia. There was a lot more authenticity in the flavouring than what I have had in some small Brazilian cafes scattered throughout the United States. The Brazilian lemonade was, hands-down, the real thing. It’s not a failed attempt and fancy packaging. Only at Taste of Brasil have I had it authentically and now Brazilian Bowl matches the wow in the flavour exactly. The balance of tart and sweetness as well as the creamy consistency tell it all.

Feijoada

There are two other Brazilian restaurants in Chicago that I love to frequent — Taste of Brasil and Sabor Express. After the most recent visit to Brazilian Bowl and seeing that they have settled into a fantastic routine, I now can say that there is a third Brazilian cafe that I will frequent. I love the big box eateries like Fogo de Chão, Texas de Brazil, Sal y Carvao, Brazzaz, and the like, but there are times when you want something that puts you in the streets and along the beaches where the flavours reach out to you and tempt you to try what’s being prepared for your culinary delight. Hmm. Maybe sticking it out through the cold temperatures in Chicago isn’t so bad. Yes, I can dream of being in Brazil where it’s warm. Some delicious food from Brazilian Bowl will help me have clearer visions when I do start to dream.

Brazilian Bowl on Urbanspoon