I have driven by Sunstream Coffee on Geary near Masonic in SF dozens (maybe hundreds) of times. I think I even knew they had some sort of interesting nibbles but it’s not the kind of place that, at least from the outside, really screams at you to come on in. Inside it’s tiny, just a few high stools, a small counter, Brazilian flags draped from the ceiling, a few regulars chatting in Portuguese. The main attraction for us towards the back of the cafe were 2 jam-packed glass cases filled with sweet and savory Brazilian salgados/pastries — golden rectangles of flaky pastry, small bun shaped items, shredded coconut, sticky glazes. We didn’t notice it at the time (kicking ourselves now!), but they also offer fresh squeezed cremes/smoothies and sucos/juices ranging from the familiar (pineapple, strawberry, papaya) to the more exotic (umbu, graviola, cupuacu, acerola and caju/cashew). I happen to know a few young smoothie fanatics, so we will definitely have to come back to give them a try.
To this point my knowledge of Brazilian food has been limited to a few trips to eat Brazilian BBQ at churrascaria places, so this little cafe pit stop opened my eyes to another side of Brazilian food and especially the interesting mix of Latin, European, and African flavors. I adore walking into a restaurant, cafe or market and finding myself surrounded foods that I’ve never seen before and it’s especially fun with the kids because it gives us a chance to discover something new together.
The guy behind the counter walked us through all the pastries in the case and the bambino seemed most excited by the mane pelado, a yucca-based pastry with sweet shredded coconut, coconut milk and a mozzerella-like filling, so that’s what we went with. Rich and decadent, and a bit surprising because of the cheesy-sweet combination, it was a tasty bite to go along with a cup of coffee and a cool glass of milk while we caught some news (in Portuguese) on a small TV mounted up high in one corner.
Of all the possible food adventures out there, places like this are probably my favorite. Hole in the wall spots where you can just pop-in for an easy bite or two of something interesting…. places that are just doing their thing and not being too fancy about it. Viva o Snackbar!