By Steve Dolinsky Saturday, October 25, 2014 11:47PM CHICAGO (WLS) -- If you asked someone to describe Brazilian food, you might get the usual answer, which lies somewhere between all-you-can-eat steakhouses and platters of rice and beans.
But a tiny storefront in Lakeview has been dishing up authentic, homemade Brazilian dishes for nearly two years under most people's radar. And there's a lot more than beef.
You can hear the Portuguese flying pretty much every day, whether it's the customers ordering feijoada or the cooks asking for more farofa. Brazilian Bowl is more than just a little quick-serve, fast food joint; it's a portal to some serious home cooking, from the limited number of grocery items to the recipes that were lifted straight from someone's mom.
"It's basically homemade Brazilian food," said owner Tony Ferreira. "We have pan de quejo - which is the Brazilian cheese bread - we have fried plantains, we have Brazilian bowls, which is one of our main items."
That feijoada is a classic: slow-simmered black beans join white rice as a starchy base, then comes several ounces of stewed sausages and rib meat. Collard greens are shredded, then sauteed and wilted along with spices and a load of fresh garlic. Farofa - essentially roasted and pulverized yucca root - is scattered over the top along with pico de gallo. Bowls are customizable here, so you can add a number of fresh items to your beans and rice including corn, collards, zucchini, lettuce, steak, pork or vegetables.
Ground beef-stuffed empanadas are also worth noting, but so is the coxinha, a unique fried sphere with a potato shield.
"It's just a potato croquette stuffed with chicken, all kinds of spices on the chicken," Ferreira said.
Desserts are also noteworthy - whether you go for the tiny chocolate truffles called brigadeiro, or even a silky flan or Brazilian custard. One thing they've noticed from their regulars - they're slowly improving their Portuguese.
"Now they get here, they order, they say it better than us sometimes," Ferreira said.
So Brazilian food is a lot more than just those all-you-can-eat steakhouses. There are a lot of other dishes from that South American country that don't have meat.
Afternoons tend to be busiest, with students and Brazilian ex-pats stopping by for snacks, but the line moves pretty quickly.
Brazilian Bowl 3204 N. Broadway 773-857-2002 http://www.brazilianbowl.com/