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Locally Richmond: Brazilian Coffee House & Restaurant Goiano

on October 16, 2015

Locally Richmond is an occasional series of profiles that highlights the small businesses that contribute to making Richmond a unique community. 

In a small table near the entrance, Angelica Watkins helps her son David finish his homework. The wind chime that hangs from the front door sings and she walks to the counter to help an afternoon customer.

This is not the first time Watkins and her son work on math and writing problems there, and it probably will not be the last.

Watkins works at her parents’ Brazilian Coffee House & Restaurant Goiano on San Pablo Avenue near highway 80. The restaurant, run entirely by family members, is one of two Brazilian eateries in Richmond.

“You get to see new people everyday,” Watkins said. “That’s the good thing about it. It’s good when people come in and say, ‘this reminds me of my mom’s food,’ or ‘this reminds me of my house back home.’”

The family arrived to Richmond 15 years ago. Watkins and her mother Estela Lima worked cleaning houses together until Watkins became ill and returned to Brazil to receive medical attention for three months.

While Watkins was in Brazil, Lima stopped working, cared for David, and started making food to sell out of her home. Her clientele quickly grew as customers spread the word. Soon, she had dozens of customers, not just Brazilians, knocking on her door.

City officials were called to the home twice, advising the family to rent a space and start a restaurant. Watkins was back in town by then and told her mother they ought to look for a restaurant space to rent.  During their first search for a space to lease, they stumbled upon the small restaurant strip where they now are located.

“We still have people that come here that used to go to the house,” Watkins said.

The majority of the restaurant’s customers are Brazilian, some from South American countries and others native to the Bay Area. The Consulate General of Brazil in San Francisco estimates more than 40,000 Brazilians live in the Bay Area.

The restaurant has no menu because the family cooks a different variety of entrees and pastries daily. Lima cooks all of the pastries herself, and her husband, Antonio, cooks many of the entrees. The most popular dish served at the restaurant is feijoada, or bean stew, and the most popular pastry is pão de queijo, or cheese bread.

“We don’t have the names (on display) because they change everyday,” Watkins said. “It depends on how they’re feeling in the kitchen.”

Alongside Brazilian cuisine, the restaurant offers other typical foods of Latin America.

The walls were repainted last year during the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. They now carry the colors of the Brazilian flag – blue, yellow and green. The restaurant receives an influx of soccer fans on Brazil game days. The restaurant is also available for event rentals.

The business has been relatively stable with normal declines during tax time and major holidays, when Watkins said things runs slower.

In the four years the restaurant has been open, it has had no problem with the local community, Watkins said. Only recently did they experience a break in with a stolen cash register and, on a second occasion, a broken window.

“Otherwise, no problem,” Watkins said.

The restaurant is open daily from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, closing earlier on Sundays.

“Mom is a really hard worker,” Watkins said. “She’s here seven days a week, 365 days a year. If she’s not here, we cannot open the business.”

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