Brazilian Bowls opens with 'affordable organic' in Pacific Beach/San Diego

IN GOOD TASTE:

Once upon a time, there was a Brazilian couple who had their hearts set on opening an organic Brazilian restaurant somewhere in the United States. But they weren't sure where to go. So they hopped on a plane and traveled across the country for a year looking at prospects.

New York? Nah, too cold, too expensive.

Miami? Weather's OK, but not a big interest in healthy food.

San Diego? Bingo.

"We thought a lot about it," said co-owner Luis Yared. "We think Californians are more open to new things and to healthy food." Chiming-in co-owner Rafaela Goldman adds: "And we both care about the environment and feel that here, people care more about it than other places we went. Plus, people are really friendly here. We fell in love with San Diego."

And that's how Luis and Rafaela came to open Brazilian Bowls, the new casual eatery at 1560 Garnet Ave. Back in Brazil, Luis said he worked at his family restaurant and then in banking. Rafaela was an attorney. But their passion was waiting for them here.

"I wanted to open a restaurant," Luis said. "The foods that people eat in Brazil every day are bowls with options of meat and rice, and beans and salads. We wanted to eat this kind of food here at affordable prices. And Rafaela is a really good cook. She's the chef. She created all the recipes.

"All our ingredients are organic," Luis continued. "The meat is grass-fed, just like in Brazil. Here in the U.S., there's a lot of grain-fed meat and that's very bad for the environment and for the health of the people and the animals."

Rafaela adds: "It's really hard to find places that sell grass-fed meat and organic food at a price everyone can afford, and we think everyone should eat this kind of food." The chicken is hormone-free and antibiotic-free. The menu is dairy-free with vegan and gluten-free options.

So how do they keep their prices on organic foods low? Rafaela says it's "really difficult," and they must use a lot of different distributors and suppliers to keep the quality high. They travel around looking for the best organic produce they can find. "That means our margins are not so high," Luis explained. "We need to be very busy, but we think we can be busy and attract customers with our low prices."

The restaurant offers quick service at the counter, not table service. You can get a bowl or a wrap, your choice of protein (charcoal BBQ steak, slow-cooked beef, chicken breast BBQ, vegan stroganoff or tofu BBQ), then a base of rice, quinoa or veggies. You may choose five ingredients for your salad and have six different choices of dressing, plus free toppings of almonds, crispy garlic or potato sticks. You can add avocado, Brazilian Yuca flour, Brazilian salsa, mixed veggies, grilled bananas or vegan Parmesan for a dollar or less each. The bowl and wraps are $6.99 to $7.99.

The Acai Bowls are made with pure, imported acai from Brazil, and the smoothies are all-organic with mango, dates, strawberries, pineapples, bananas, spinach or chard mixed with almond or coconut milk, and topped with chia seeds. The acai bowls are $4.99 to $9.99; smoothies are $2.99 to $5.49.

Prices like that are hard to beat. Luis and Rafaela believe their food and efforts are worth it. "It's a dream that we had to do something good for the world, something good for people," Rafaela said with a smile.

So far, it's working. "Business has been good, and with the summer here, business is improving even more," Luis reports.

Brazilian Bowls is at 1560 Garnet Ave. next to Core Power Yoga, in Pacific Beach/San Diego. There is street parking only and limited seating. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday; and 11:30 a.m. to 4 pm. Friday. Closed Saturdays. brbowls.com

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