The menu offers eight desserts, but I have only ever had two: The apple cake and the Mousse de Maracuja. The apple cake is a spice cake, served warm with a light whipped topping. It is unspeakably homey and delicious. This cake is part of what put Cafe do Brasil on my regular lunch dance card many years ago, thanks to its heroinlike power over my great friend and partner in culinary crime Jesse Olivarez. Trips to Cafe do Brasil were incomplete without at least one slice of apple cake. He often ordered a second for “after dinner,” which usually meant “for dinner” or “this afternoon at his desk — maybe in the car on the way back to work.” The cake is rich, heartfelt and impossibly tasty.
The Mousse de Maracuja was a real find. I only ordered it because they had run out of apple cake. This passion-fruit mousse turned out to be almost the equal of apple cake, but in a much lighter and refreshing way. Where the cake will be the last thing you remember before the food coma, the mousse is more likely to step aside as you venture to that late movie or hop from club-to-club.
None of this would've been possible had young Ana Paixao not immigrated to the United States three decades ago with no grasp of English and no more than a c-note in her purse to pursue a life not offered back home.
Ana grew up one of 12 children, and watched her mother run a virtual catering company just to keep her family fed.
“My father was a chicken farmer, so we had a house in town and a house on the farm. On Sundays, my mother would cook all food for the family. It took all day,” Ana said.
She said despite spending all of Sunday with her daughters to feed the family, her mother still spent each day at home preparing food for breakfast, a huge lunch and then a small dinner, as is the custom in Brazil.
“I love my parents and family; they're awesome. But I didn't want my traditional culture. I wanted to grow as a person, as a woman, and learn something different,” Davis said.
But Davis' dreams were her own. She said her father refused to help her financially.
“He didn't want me to leave, but I did at age 25.”
She came to Oklahoma following a younger brother who was here for college who returned to Brazil after graduation. But Davis stayed and went to school, first to learn English and then earn a business/hotel and restaurant management degree at Oklahoma City University and the University of Central Oklahoma.
“I started out busing tables at Johnnie's Charcoal Broiler because tables don't talk. Later, I worked as a manager at Cocina de Mino Mexican restaurant for Leticia Hernandez. From that little lady I learned everything, from cooking and food presentation to greeting customers at the door and making them feel special.”
Now Davis is flanked by an all-female management team and one of MidTown's most popular eateries.
Davis' apple cake might not be as American as Apple Pie, but her story is. Drop by Cafe do Brasil for a slice of both.
Cafe do Brasil also offers catering, including a private party room. The restaurant is open for lunch from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, with hours extended to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Brunch is served 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.