Café Belô Ethnography
As I walked up Washington Street from the bus stop under McGrath Highway, my first thought was that Google Maps had yet again led me astray. I’d barely ever heard of Café Belô before Wednesday, and its location seemed far less vivacious than the neighborhood of Union Square on the other side of the highway. Walking towards the entrance, I noticed a run-down diner in front of the restaurant, as well as an empty strip mall next door—neither of which was particularly appetizing. Café Belô itself, housed in a nondescript brick building, bore no external signs of the dance parties, karaoke, live music, and excellent Brazilian barbecue I had been promised. Somewhat disillusioned, I headed for the front door, wondering all the while: “Well, what next?”
For those patrons-to-be wondering the same thing as they step through the door, Café Belo makes good on all of its favorable hype. For those interested in performing (or watching others perform), the restaurant moonlights as a karaoke bar on Sundays and a dance club on Fridays. Giant television screens play the Globo channel, which features Brazilian soap operas, sporting events, and daily news. For foodies, Café Belô offers an eclectic buffet beyond the realm of traditional Brazilian food—one of their most well-known buffet offerings is ziti in a creamy tomato sauce—where you pay for your meal by the pound, and also offers the option of eating rodízio-style, where you pay a fixed amount for unlimited skewers of meat. This multipurpose restaurant offers both the culinary and the cultural comforts of home, perhaps due to the desire to make the Café Belô chain the center of the greater-Boston Brazilian enclave. The Brazilian community maintains a strong connection to its origins, and Café Belô is no exception—they have not only opened their doors in Somerville, Everett, and Allston, but also feature a related branch in Pernambuco, Brazil.
I am a very big fan of eating meat, a bigger fan of eating red meat, and the biggest fan of public singing and dancing, so it was a joy to walk into a place where I could indulge in all three of these activities at once. For my next visit, I plan on coming back on a Sunday both for the good of my research and for my appetite and overall experience—Sunday afternoons feature live music with one’s meal.
Hungry yet? Take a look at our food review.
Return to Café Belô main page.