You don’t have to hop on a plane down south or on a bus to Brooklyn or mainland Queens to experience authentic Brazilian or Mexican cuisine. Brazmex Cafe has brought the best of both worlds to Beach 116th Street.
In the mood for some authentic Mexican cuisine? Try the tacos complete with carne asada or chicken, topped with cilantro and onions, with a side of rice and beans, or a burrito stuffed with rice, beans, chicken and topped with mole poblano sauce. Don’t forget to start off with homemade guacamole and tortilla chips to scoop it up with. Or maybe you want to expand your palette and try something different? Treat yourself and splurge on Brazil’s traditional dish of feijoada—a stew of pork, beef and black beans served with rice, collard greens and orange slices. And if you really brought your appetite, you might want to go all out and experience Brazilian churrasco—a platter complete with steak, chicken, pork and chorizo, served with rice and black beans. If you still have room, finish your meal off with a caramel flan or passion fruit mousse for dessert. These are just a few of the flavors of Mexico and Brazil that you can now try without having to leave the peninsula. Brazmex Café, offering all of this and more at 241 Beach 116th Street, is now open for business.
When Jorge Lima moved to Rockaway from Astoria three years ago, it didn’t take long for him to realize the lack of diversity of cuisine that is so readily available in Astoria. As a native of Brazil, he noticed that there was only one Brazilian restaurant in town—Beach Bistro 96, and it wasn’t there for long. About a year ago, the restaurant relocated to Manhattan. The realization of a lack of options coincided with an idea for his next move. As he nears retirement age, Lima, a chef for more than 30 years, wanted to do something for himself. The idea was encouraged by his business partner and sous chef, Levi Veliz, who he’s worked with for about 14 years. “He said, ‘Chef, why don’t you and I open something?’” Lima recalled. The idea stuck and the search for a location began. Wanting to bring something to his new hometown, Lima began looking for storefronts in Rockaway and soon came across the space that formerly housed Paninico.
Originally, Lima considered opening a small café, but seeing a need for something different, he and Veliz decided it was time to give Rockaway a little something more. In this joint venture, Lima and Veliz decided to bring the best of both of their worlds. With Lima being from Brazil and Veliz from Mexico, both know what’s behind authentic Latin cuisine, and they decided to share it with others. They came up with the simple concept of BrazMex, a restaurant with a menu offering the best of what Brazil and Mexico has to bring to the table. In July, they officially rented out the location and took the time to build it out, completing the décor with artwork from both of their native lands and clocks that display the times in America, Brazil and Mexico, making guests feel connected to the places that inspire the cuisine that tantalizes their taste buds.
And the food already has people coming back for more. Since opening on January 14, Brazmex has already expanded its hours and has repeat customers. “People started coming. They want to try new stuff, new flavors, and they like it, they really like it,” Lima said. “Everyone is coming back. When we first opened, we were open for five days and now we’re open six and will soon be open seven days.” With fresh ingredients and plenty of flavor, it’s no wonder Brazmex has customers returning. “It’s something different, something new here,” Veliz said. “It’s exciting.”
Brazmex is just getting started. While they currently offer lunch and dinner, Lima says they’ll soon add brunch to the mix on Sundays, offering a pre-fixe, three-course menu with plenty of options. They also have big plans for summer. “I think we’re going to be really busy in the summer,” Lima said. With quick bites like tacos and light summer dishes like the Rio tropical salad and a grilled shrimp salad, Brazmex will be a go to on and off the beach. And to make it easier, the food will come to beachgoers who don’t want to brush off the sand and put on shoes to grab a bite. “We’re going to deliver to people right on the beach,” Lima said.
The restaurant doesn’t offer alcohol yet, but Lima says they may apply for a beer and wine license in the future. However, they do offer a selection of water, soda, coffee and tea, and even Brazilian and Mexican sodas to go with your meal.
Lima and Veliz are hopeful for Brazmex Café’s future. “Levi and I put a lot of energy and love into this place. We want people to come in and sit here and simply enjoy the food. It’s already happening, and we hope to see a lot more of it,” Lima said.
Brazmex Café, located at 241 Beach 116th Street, offers dine in, take out and free delivery. They’re open from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Call 929-254-2192 to order.
By Katie McFadden
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