It’s taken almost six years, but this summer, a dream of two friends will finally come true. It will be in the form of Paulista, a Brazilian restaurant and craft beer bar, headed to the former Rumbo al Sur location in Oakland’s Glenview district.
But Paulista won’t be a Brazilian restaurant of the churrascaria steakhouse sort; instead, it will focus on home-style comfort food drawn from the wide range of native and immigrant cooking in the South American country.
Co-owners Jesse Madway and Alex Yamamoto met as parents of kindergarteners at Glenview Elementary in 2011. The two immediately hit it off and began talking about their passions — Madway is a longtime home brewer and self-described craft beer nerd and Yamamoto, who was born in Brazil, is a lifelong cook and Brazilian “food enthusiast.” During these discussions, they came up with a vision for a craft beer taproom that serves Brazilian cuisine, the kind of food that locals eat on a daily basis. They believed such a restaurant, bolstered by a hyper-local beer list, could be a real community draw in their neighborhood.
Yamamoto told Madway that there are plenty such places in his hometown of São Paulo, but for whatever reason, the trend hasn’t yet caught on in the states.
The partners started drawing up plans for their restaurant, but life continued to intervene. It took until last summer for the idea to truly take hold. And as it happens a new restaurant space, perfect for their vision, had become available. The old Rumbo al Sol, with its large bar and 160-seat dining area, was open.
It’s right down the street from both Madway’s and Yamamoto’s homes and will offer patrons plenty of space to bring their families and friends.
“There are so many young families here,” said Yamamoto. “Paulista will be opening in this little strip of businesses that are all really small. It’s challenging for them to accommodate families. … We want to make Paulista a place where our kids can come and have fun too.”
Added Madway: “Paulista … is going to be a gathering place with great food and great beer, an anchor for the community where they can meet for food and drinks at all hours. … Our neighborhood doesn’t currently have that.”
The partners have already involved families in their planning process. They knew they wanted the restaurant to have a Brazilian name, but Portuguese tends to be challenging for Americans to pronounce. So they enrolled a group of kids to test out over a dozen different restaurant name options to see what what easiest to say. The answer was Paulista, which translates to “a person from São Paulo.”
Madway and Yamamoto intend for Paulista to be open all day long, from around 7 a.m. until at 10 p.m., and later on the weekends. It’ll serve its menu in phases, starting with healthier breakfast options like acai bowls and smoothies, and moving towards heartier fare, in both individual and sharable sizes, as the day progresses. Yamamoto will run the kitchen and Madway will be “the beer guy,” he said.
Yamamoto, who ran a similar restaurant called Yes Brazil in Hiroshima, Japan in the 1990s, is drawing on a range of influences for the menu. Its highlights include coxinhas, Brazilian croquettes with chicken and cheese or vegetable filling; feijoada, a rich, soulful stew of sausages, collards, oranges and black beans; moqueca, a Northeastern Brazilian stew made with fish and coconut milk; and esfihas, flatbreads of Arabic origin with a range of flavorful toppings. Much of the menu, especially at dinner, will be structured around shareable small plates.
“The menu will be Brazilian fusion because the country is such a melting pot,” said Yamamoto. “There’s African and Arabic influence, and there is even Italian influence in some dishes.”
What there won’t be are servers walking around with grilled meat on sticks.
“It’s been a challenge for me to find traditional Brazilian homestyle food here in the states,” said Yamamoto. “Most of what we see here are steak houses, which are delicious, but that’s not what we eat every day.”
For his part, Madway hopes to celebrate the growing cadre of beer makers in the East Bay to populate the restaurant’s 30 taps. “We’ll have a hyper-local craft beer focus,” he said. “We want to take advantage of all the beer being made here and highlight all of the new brewers we have.”
His local tap list will, he said, be a natural extension of the restaurant’s community focus. “We may have some beers not from the immediate area, but the focus will be on the best, the freshest beers we can get.”
Paulista will also serve wine, but will not have a full bar.
Madway and Yamamoto are currently in the process of applying for a new conditional use permit to operate the restaurant all day long. (Its current permit is only for evening hours.) Once the permit has gone through — “We’re feeling good about it,” said Madway — they will begin construction.
Madway said he hopes to be up and running by July 1.