A cafe for the community

A place where food is not just sold but the experience is what draws people in, this cafe is a reason to bring all kinds of people together no matter their background. 

A small cafe on the southeast side of Portland is the place not only to eat but to also interact with others. Favela Brazilian Cafe opened in August 2019, offering Brazilian-sourced coffee, juices and smoothies. Food options include “sanduíches,” and salgadinhos, meaning snacks such as pão de queijo (cheese bread), coxinha (chicken cone), all of which are popular foods in Brazil. Also served is Brazilian beer and saquerinha – a well-known alcoholic drink in Brazil.

Owners Rodrigo and Dunya De Souza, from São Paulo, Brazil, opened Favela “to have people over” and celebrate life no matter who you are. “We don’t sell Brazilian coffee or food; we sell Brazilian experience.” De Souza said that the cafe has a welcoming atmosphere that makes people want to be there.

The cafe’s name adds to the experience that De Souza wants from the place. He explained that the word “favela” is a negative term in Brazil. The word is associated with slums, violence and drugs. Rodrigo said that he lived near a favela and would play soccer there. He noted that the people are actually very hard working, real people and “only 5, max 10% are the ones that do the bad things.”

The restaurant, though, has become a place within its community. The cafe serves as a place for people to feel that “they are part of a bigger community and not Brazilian, but a community where people come and actually ask each other’s name, and not just buy a coffee and leave,” De Souza said.

De Souza noted that the cafe is “an excuse to have people connect with each other using Brazilian culture as a glue.” 

In the eight years that De Souza has lived in Portland, he has organized many Brazilian community events from carnivals to festivals. He had “felt a lack of a place where people could gather.” There was no way to know how many Brazilians live in Portland, so he wanted to create a place where people from all backgrounds could hang out. 

Rather than a full restaurant, De Souza designed his business as a “lanchonete,” or a place to converse and meet over drinks and food.

Music is also an important aspect to the café. MPB (música popular brasileira) and pagode are examples of what one could hear while trying Brazilian food and drinks. These factors all play into De Souzas’ vision of building an original Brazilian cafe in Portland.

The cafe also holds events, including movie nights, live music events and more to create a bigger community around the business.

“Here is a place for people to taste, to experience from the food to music and everything,” De Souza said. Customers are satisfied not only from the food but also from visiting a unique cafe that takes them to a different culture they may not have encountered before.