First Look: Enjoy Brazilian street food and drinks at Buteco in Grant Park
Since opening at the end of July in the Beacon Atlanta development near the Beltline in Grant Park, Buteco has expanded its footprint with a new multilevel patio decorated with brightly colored ceramic tiles.
But the combination coffee shop and bar still boasts a cozy neighborly atmosphere, and serves up a menu of Brazilian street snacks prepared in a food truck parked just outside the front door.
Owner Rafael Pereira (known as Rafa) grew up in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and began studying drums and percussion at age 12.
Since moving to Atlanta, and earning a music degree at Georgia State, Pereira has recorded and toured with artists such as Janelle Monae,Zee Avi, India Arie and Shawn Mullins.
Still, Pereira was inspired by the coffee shop his father owned in Brazil, where he worked during his teenage years. And for many years after, he dreamed of having a similar place.
Much of the menu at Buteco was created by Pereira’s mother, Tania Abdalla, featuring dishes such as chicken cheese coxinha, cone-shaped, deep-fried croquettes served with spicy habanero aioli.
Other items include a traditional pureed black bean soup, crispy tapioca cheese tots, steak or chicken skewers, and fluffy waffles served plain with guava jelly or with savory additions such as bacon, egg and cheese.
The beverage menu ranges from cappuccino and cortado to sneaky strong cocktails made with cachaca, local beers on draft, wines by the glass, and an international selection of soft drinks.
Recently, while classic jazz was spinning on a turntable next to a stack of records, Pereira sat down at a table at Buteco, where he talked about finally putting the concept together with help from a couple of fellow musician friends.
“It’s been on my mind for a long time,” Pereira said. “Buteco means bodega in Portuguese. And anywhere, that means a place where you go from morning to night to get food and drinks. So the experience here is basically a coffee shop during the day, a light lunch, and then a bar at night.
“It’s all street food that comes from the truck. That’s why the menu is limited, but we do food all day, and close the kitchen at 10 p.m. And I think this is the first brick-and-mortar place in Atlanta with Brazilian street food and that concept in mind.”
Among the offerings Pereira is most excited about, the waffles are a personal favorite.
“The waffles are a new thing in Atlanta,” he said. “We have five types, and they’re gluten-free, tapioca-based. But instead of the cheese bread, called pão de queijo, we decided to make it in a waffle form because it’s fresher that way, and we can get creative with other ingredients.
“The caldinho de feijão is very traditional in Brazil when you’re going to a buteco bar. It’s a bean soup, and it’s delicious and fun with drinks. It comes in a cup topped with bacon and scallions so you basically drink it. But the big hits have been the coxinha chicken croquettes and the tapioca tots.”
As far as the beverage menu, bar manager Ballard Lesemann had a hand in designing the cocktails. And the Caipirinha Tradicional, mixed with Novo Fogo Silver Cachaca, organic cane sugar, and fresh lime, tops the list.
“That’s very traditional and straight-forward but delicious,” Pereira said. “But we also make a strawberry mint version, and we’re going to expand to more versions. The Brazilian Buck is our version of a Moscow Mule but with cachaca and Jamaican bitters.”
Looking further ahead, Pereira expects the patio to become a place that takes the energy of Buteco to another level.
“Obviously, there will be live music at some point,” he said and laughed. “And with the Beltline right here, we’ll see what’s going on. I want people to feel welcome and at home here. We’re trying to share food, share drinks, share some music, share some love, and enjoy life together. That’s really the point. It really is.”