Monday, October 29, 2012

FREVO - Home of São Paulo's Best Beirute

Named after the frenetic dance whose rhythms drive the Carnavals of Recife and Olinda in Brazil's northeastern state of Pernambuco, Frevo restaurant has been a luncheonette institution in São Paulo since it first opened its doors in 1956. Frevo, situated on the city's toniest shopping street, Oscar Freire, has been the restaurant of choice for hungry shoppers for years, and has spawned branches throughout  the city.

Frevo's decor is something to behold. Call it retro-diner mixed with elements of 1950's Brazilian design, all preserved marvelously. There is the obligatory counter, of course, with stools upholstered in red naugahyde. The same material covers the dining chairs in the restaurant's table-service area. On the white walls float wire-and-wood scupltures of frevo dancers, some lifting high the small umbrella that frevo dancers use to balance, just like tightrope walkers. It's worth a visit to Frevo just to see the interior design.

However, the crowds that fill the restaurant daily don't return time after time to admire the decor. They are back because of the food. No restaurant can flourish for 55 years on design alone - only good food merits that kind of success.

The menu at Frevo features pizzas, sandwiches and burgers, plus sundaes, pies and other diner standards. The most popular of Frevo's sandwiches is their take on a beirute, a Syrio-Lebanese pita-bread sandwich that has become a Brazilian favorite. (Click here to read more about the history of the beirute). The restaurant's beirute is so well-loved that it was named São Paulo's best in this years Best of São Paulo competition. The prizes in this competition are awarded based on public votes, not on the votes of food professionals or journalists, as are some other gastronomic competitions.

At Frevo, they serve a classic beirute, without pretention and with no 21st-century additions. It's simply roast beef, melted cheese, sliced tomato and a dusting of oregano, all served in a toasted pita. There are two sizes - the large (enough for two normal eaters) which sells for R$22 (about USD $11) and the small (individual) which goes for R$12.30 ($6.15).

If someday you happen to be shopping in Oscar Freire street's designer stores - Calvin Klein, Cartier, etc. - and suddenly feel a pang of hunger, stop off at Frevo for a beirute and a look at the decor. You'll be glad that you did.

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