Though there are several Brazilian restaurants in Philadelphia, there is only one Brazilian food truck – Braz-BQ.
Owner Adriano Redante said he decided to open Braz-BQ in June 2013 after his time working as a cook at Peddler’s Village in Bucks County and Chima in Center City. While Brazilian cooking has always been a passion of his, becoming a food truck owner was not the idea he had in mind when he immigrated to the United States in 2000.
“When I arrived here, one of my first jobs was a cook and that’s what got me interested in the food business,” Redante said. “I originally wanted to move to the U.S. to learn English, then move back to Brazil to become an English teacher, but I think where I am now is working well for me.”
After he opened Braz-BQ, Redante said he traveled all over the city to cater different events and serve various neighborhoods throughout the week. Redante said this decision was not just by choice, since there are complicated issues surrounding parking locations.
“I used to take the truck to Drexel, but now I’m kind of random with city spots – I go more to Ventureforth on Eighth Street and to some office buildings in the suburbs now,” Redante said. “When I wanted to try to come to Temple, I thought it was going to be hard to find parking, and I was right.”
After meeting Debbie Dasani, owner of Samosa Deb’s on Montgomery Avenue between 12th and 13th streets, Redante said she offered him a deal. They agreed to rotate trucks during the week in the same parking spot so they could both have selling time at Temple. Braz-BQ is usually on campus on Tuesdays and Wednesdays starting at 11 a.m.
“I’m really happy that I can come to Temple. It’s awesome,” Redante said. “The Brazilian community is very excited about having a Brazilian food truck represented here. I think it’s very important to represent the tastes of your country to different communities.”
Redante grew up in southern Brazil, where he said his cooking background lies. Braz-BQ’s best-selling item is the Hamburgão, a quarter-pound of sliced beef topped with smoked ham, bacon, melted cheddar and a fried egg piled with corn, green onion, lettuce, tomato, potato sticks and homemade mayo on a Kaiser roll. Redante said his cuisine is representative of his hometown and culture.
“Brazilian cuisine is very vast,” Redante said. “Every part of Brazil has a different ingredient base, so I’m bringing the taste of southern Brazil, where I’m from. We have the traditional steak experience like Brazilian steakhouses with the truck because there’s a churrasqueira [grill] in it.”
Redante said he also tries to put an American spin on some Brazilian dishes so customers aren’t afraid to try a new culture’s food, but are still getting the experience of southern Brazilian cooking. One of these options is the Brazilian cheesesteak, with steak, cheese, lettuce, fried onions, tomatoes and a homemade chimichurri sauce on a roll.
“I feel like you have to ‘American-ize’ a little because people get scared of things that are exclusively Brazilian or things like that,” Redante said. “We don’t do Brazilian cheesesteaks in Brazil, but I created one for the truck.”
Redante said he enjoys the freedom that owning a food truck has brought him after working in the restaurant business for more than 10 years. The experience as a truck owner reminds him of living in Brazil, where he said street vendors have a strong presence.
“I wanted to learn to do something new [when I moved here] and that led me to where I am today,” Redante said. “[My menu is] based off of Brazilian street food. I wanted to bring the street tastes of my home to the U.S. so people can enjoy it like I did.”
Ariane Pepsin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.