Step through the front door of the Brazilian Bakery, and you'll find yourself amid a chatter of Portuguese. Gleaming bakery cases that line the far wall are brimming with sweet and savory pastries, rolls and cookies of every shape and size: sandwich wafers filled with guava paste; a thick layer of caramel spread between delicate seashell-shaped butter cookies; whole cakes, their multiple layers dense and sweet with condensed milk. The vast variety may leave you feeling a little dizzy. "This is your first time here, huh?" a boy behind the counter says. Thus begins a culinary tour of Brazil.
Brazilian cutie: If you can tear your eyes away from the gluttonous array of goodies in the case, you'll notice what a charmer Brazilian Bakery is. Modern tables and chairs, tidy tile floors and a neatly lettered lunch menu on one wall lend a bright and cheerful air to the place. The staff consists mainly of teenage boys, so it's no surprise that a succession of girls with long ponytails and short skirts come and go, flirting with the boys in Portuguese.
Get Stuffed: Behind one of the bakery cases is a board with a huge list of made-to-order sandwiches, tortas (savory pies) and deep-fried pastries filled with everything from chicken to hearts of palm. The pastries are a thing of beauty -- they look like empanadas on steroids. It's a distinctly unladylike task to hoist the thing to your mouth, but you'll get over it as soon as your teeth sink into the flaky pastry, melted cheese and spicy shredded chicken.
Love at First Bite: The mash-up of flavors in the lombinho (pork loin) sandwich is so unlikely and yet perfectly in tune -- roast pork, cheese, lettuce, tomato, pineapple and crispy potato straws. It's a funky combination, but the sweet, savory and salty all play off each other beautifully. A side of crispy yucca fries makes the meal.
Sweet Surrender: Among the sweets, tropical flavors dominate: coconut, guava, passion fruit. Bite-sized rolls are filled with sweet cheese and soaked in sweetened condensed milk, topped with a sprinkle of coconut. Breads are dense and buttery, the consistency of brioche. A thick custard surprises with a sharp burst of flavor -- it's passion fruit, tart and almost astringent, with a ribbon of caramel swirled over the top to mellow the intensity.
Juice it Up: Fresh juices are an absolute must-try. "Juice" isn't even an adequate word. "Pure essence of fruit" might be better. It's thick and frothy, almost like a frappe, with fresh mint blended in. Pineapple is so sweet it could qualify as dessert; melon is light and refreshing.
An exotic little gem like Brazilian Bakery, tucked away in a faceless strip mall in the suburbs, is a place that inspires hope for Atlanta. The corporate scourge may be trying to take over the world, but it hasn't conquered every corner just yet.