I like the pastries the most — unusual, warm, often filled with meat. They are the perfect size to stash in your carry-on to take on a plane, and a welcome break from the usual ham and cheese croissants and egg sandwiches.
My personal favorite is the coxinha, which is drumstick shaped, filled with shredded chicken and hearts of palm, coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried. Eat it from its pointed end, so that the first bite is salty and crunchy, and the second is that of soft shredded chicken cooked in a sweet tomato, herb and onion sauce. It’s small enough to be quickly devoured — just when I’ve acclimated myself to its deliciousness, a dollop of melted cream cheese surprises me at the end.
The pao de queijo is also worth a try. A cheese bread in which the cheese has thoroughly become one with the gluten-free dough of yucca flour and eggs, it is uniformly gooey inside and tastes like mild fresh cheese throughout. Its outside has a crisp, almost crunchy exterior, which reminds me somewhat of cheese that’s melted straight onto the grill.
The empada is another winner, a small hand pie, with an almost crackly, egg-washed exterior. It’s filled with tomato and chicken and roughly chopped green olives for texture. It’s neat, small, non-greasy and full of flavor with a pleasant bite to the crust.
None of these are particularly heavy, but they’re substantial enough to keep you pleasantly filled and ready for the morning’s slings and arrows — especially with one of Café de Casa’s pour-over coffees to deliver its crisp, efficient jolt.
Lunchtime plates are eye-poppingly large, simply prepared and hearty, with beans, meat, rice, salad and a Brazilian side like stewed squash. But there’s always a touch of lightness — the beans are delicately spiced and, served in their rich broth, mix nicely with the rice.
The frango ao molho — a stewed chicken in a turmeric-based broth — dances brightly on the tongue. The grilled beef, served with sliced onions, is thin and grilled fast and french fries accompany. Those are surprisingly delicious as well, extra-crispy.
Painted in Brazilian-flag green and yellow, Café de Casa shines brightly on a street otherwise lined with office buildings. With only a counter bar serving a handful of people at a time, it bustles on weekends and at lunchtime. But with an appealing morning stillness, it’s the kind of place I might go to arm myself against a grueling day.
Café de Casa
Location: 1165 Airport Blvd., South S.F.
Contact: (650) 763-1025, www.cafedecasa.com
Hours: 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays
Price range: $2 to $14
Recommended Items: Pao de queijo ($2), coxinha ($3), frango ao molho ($14), risole with corn and cheese ($3)
Reservations: Not accepted
Credit cards: All major
Note: There is another location at 6005 Mission St., Daly City