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Behind The Dream: Cafe Do Brasil

Since 2004, Yelp has worked to connect millions of people to the best in local business. In that time we’ve met thousands of passionate small business owners, a group as hardworking and diverse as any you’ll find. In this series, we share stories of just some of the people who, through their commitment to building great local businesses, are sustaining the vibrant local communities we call home.

Midtown’s Cafe do Brasil has become the heart of Brazilian culture in Oklahoma City, and owner Ana Paixao Davis brings the Brazilian art of warm, easygoing hospitality to every guest. For Ana, the food is just the beginning. Waving her hand, Ana explains her mission: “here, our customers get a little bit of everything from Brazil – not just food and drinks, but also the culture, language, music, art, the colors, a hug, a kiss on the cheek – everything.”

Ana was raised in a big family in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. “Twelve children, four girls, eight boys, I was right in the middle.” Her mother was a “fabulous cook, making three large meals every day.” The family had a neighbor who was originally from North America, and she grew up hearing his tales of life in the US. One summer, he returned from a trip to New York, full of stories for the siblings. That afternoon, Ana and her brother Luis decided they needed to try their hand at life in America.

The next day, they visited their local travel agent to book passage to the US. The travel agent asked them, “But, specifically, where in America?” and they found they didn’t have an answer. They opened a map, Luis closed his eyes, drew a big circle on the map with his finger, stopped, and opened his eyes: Oklahoma was revealed as their destination. The Paxaio siblings moved to Oklahoma in August of 1983 and Ana began school at Oklahoma City University.

Ana started her journey to restauranteur with “lots of dreams,” after working at Johnnie’s and Cocino de Mino, where she eventually became general manager. “After a few years, I was thinking, I enjoy this so much, I wonder if I could do it on my own.” Ana and another brother, Mario, began to dream about a lunch restaurant specializing in muffins, soups, salads.

In 1994, with $10,000 in savings and a few credit cards, More Than Muffins opened at NW 18th and Classen. The restaurant quickly proved to be popular and financially successful, but Ana felt she was missing an opportunity to bring Brazilian food and culture to a city that was ready for more than Tex-Mex.

Ana started serving Brazilian food on Saturdays, and as her following grew, so did her menu options. By 1998, Ana knew she wanted to focus on Brazilian cuisine. For the next few years and while continuing to run More Than Muffins, Ana began searching for a new location. Meanwhile, she also worked to develop a true knowledge of Brazilian cuisine, including taking cooking classes with Brazilian chefs, to “learn more about the different regional cuisines.”

In November 2005, Ana opened Cafe do Brasil at 11th and Walker. Today, the menu serves as a veritable tour of those regions through their most popular dishes: Prato Sao Paulo, Pastel de Camarão (from Espirito Santo), Picanha ao Vino (from Rio Grande Do Sul), and of course, Feijoada, the national dish of Brazil. Ana travels to Brazil once a year to update her culinary skills by working alongside chefs all over the country.

Thirty five years after a chance encounter with a map in a travel agent’s office in Belo Horizonte, Oklahoma City’s culinary and cultural landscape is forever changed by the big dreams of one petite powerhouse.

Hungry for more? Bookmark Cafe do Brasil on Yelp and check out their wonderful reviews and photos.