With a wide selection of Portuguese and Brazilian foods and wines, the Bacalhau Grill Restaurant & Market in San Jose is a home away from home for immigrants from two continents bound by a common language.
“When the restaurant started 40 years ago, it was Portuguese to the core,” Joel Netto, assistant manager, told San José Spotlight. “After about 15 years, they brought in Brazilian partners who, of course, brought in Brazilian food and products, too.”
The business at 1555 Alum Rock Ave. in San Jose is split almost literally down the middle: part restaurant, part grocery store. The entrance opens into the dining room and front counter, where chafing dishes display a half-dozen Portuguese entrees.
Netto, a 21-year-old Brazilian immigrant, recommends the Feijoada, a combination of rice, beans, beef and “every kind of pork there is,” including bacon and sausage. Server Maria Costa, 17, is quick to recommend the Stroganoff Frango, a Brazilian take on chicken stroganoff, or the Alcatra, slow-cooked cubes of pot roast that are falling-apart tender.
The biggest hit with customers is the Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá, a casserole made with fish, potatoes, eggs, olives and onion. Bacalhau— a heavily salted codfish—not only inspired the name of the restaurant but is also prominently featured, serving as the base for a half-dozen dishes and salads on the menu.
Bacalhau is also the choice of customer Helia Castro, who hails from Brazil. But her passion is one of the desserts, a parfait called the “Prestigio.”
“It is the best,” she told San José Spotlight. “Coconut cream and chocolate cake, so moist and delicious. But I love everything they make here—it is all part of my culture.”
While the restaurant food is exceptional, the market itself is a jewel box of delights for gourmets. The shelves are filled with imported food from Brazil and Portugal, from beans and other staples to canned and bottled juices, fruits and vegetables to chocolates and cookies. The shop also stocks an extensive selection of wines, beers, liquors and, of course, port.
“People who know nothing else about Portuguese foods might start by trying the wines,” Netto said. “They are all premium products. We have everything from our oldest port, the 1967 Colheita, to Super Bock, which is one of the most famous beers in Portugal.”
The shop’s meat counter, which sells salted cod cut to various sizes or available as full—and huge—boneless fillets, also stocks sausages made by local Portuguese businesses.
“We have linguiça da Terceira and linguiça do Pico,” Netto said, “and we get smoked linguica from Goulart’s in San Jose. We also have morcilla, but we might not be able to get it much longer because the maker is cutting back due to the economy.”
As with many businesses, Bacalhau Grill has not snapped back to pre-pandemic numbers, though it did manage to stay open as much as it could for customers, who tend to be older residents.
“For around seven months, we could not open the restaurant for dining,” Netto said. “We were still able to sell to our customers, but it was something that hit us very hard.”
Netto said during the pandemic, many older regulars left the area and Bacalhau Grill survived the pandemic with the help of government loans and takeout orders, along with food and grocery deliveries as far away as San Francisco. The business currently uses Grubhub, Uber Eats and DoorDash to service local customers.
“For the Brazilian and Portuguese communities here,” Netto said, “we want them to know we are working as hard as possible to reach them to provide them with the best experience we can. We want them to feel as if they are in their own country—we want this to be a special place for them, and for us as well.”
Contact Robert Eliason at [email protected]
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Bacalhau Grill Restaurant & Market: A blend of Portuguese and Brazilian flavors
Location: 1555 Alum Rock Ave. in San Jose
Phone: (408) 259-6101
Friday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Saturday-Thursday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
What puts them on the map: Bacalhau (salted cod), sausage, imported food, wine and liquors