In 2022, Eater is highlighting some of Atlanta’s oldest restaurants and food institutions through a series of photo essays, profiles, and personal stories. The restaurants featured are a mix of longtime familiar favorites and less well-known venerable establishments serving a wide variety of cuisines and communities in Atlanta and the surrounding metro area. These restaurants serve as the foundation of the Atlanta dining scene, and continue to stand the test of time here.
Veer off of I-75 just outside the perimeter and onto Delk Road and you’ll stumble upon a Brazilian bakery, steakhouse, or grocery store within a matter of minutes. This area of Marietta has become an enclave of Brazilian businesses and restaurants over the last 20 years. Cafe and market Minas Emporium and Grill is one of many Brazilian businesses to lay down roots in this part of eastern Cobb County. And for owner Rosana Lima, Minas continues to play a key role in the lives of her customers and metro Atlanta’s Brazilian community well into its second decade.
Tucked away in a Delk Road shopping center right off of exit 261, Minas’ shelves are stocked with Brazilian pantry staples and snacks, like Guaraná soda and spreadable requeijão cheese. The cafe has long offered a traditional Brazilian buffet, too, as well as churrasco cut to order and fried-to-order street foods, including pastéis stuffed with ground meats or cheese and the tear-drop croquettes called coxinhas.
Lima and her family left São Paulo, Brazil, in 1997 when her husband’s job with Coca-Cola brought them all to Atlanta. She worked for Dish Network at the time, installing satellites that were beginning to transmit Brazilian television channels.
Through her job, Lima met other Brazilians now living in metro Atlanta. With her husband often traveling to Brazil for work, people started asking Lima to have him purchase CDs, coffee, and chocolates from back home. Soon, Lima says, people began requesting Brazilian dishes, leading her to open a cafe in 1999.
Called Casa Brazil, the inaugural Minas Emporium and Grill was initially located on Roswell Road in Sandy Springs, next door to a DMV where Brazilian immigrants would go to get their driver’s licenses. Lima’s husband eventually retired from Coca-Cola to help support the growing business. They started eyeing a second location to open in Marietta.
In 2009, Lima purchased the current Delk Road restaurant from its original owner, retaining the name Minas there and rebranding Casa Brazil to Minas in Sandy Spring. Lima ended up selling the Sandy Springs location three years ago to focus on the thriving business in Marietta.
Through its two locations and various iterations over the last 23 years, Minas has always been a gathering spot for Atlanta’s Brazilian community. Although, that relationship broadened to an American audience when it served as a supplier to steakhouse chain Fogo de Chão before there were many distributors or markets offering Brazilian ingredients in Atlanta.
“A lot of people came to the U.S. to work, and they were alone,” Lima says. “They didn’t have their place to speak the language, to feel comfortable. Since the beginning, that was the idea: to become like a landmark, or a place where people think, ‘Oh, let’s go to Minas. They have it over there.’”
Like many decades-old restaurants, Minas has endured its fair share of challenges, from the Great Recession of 2008 to increased competition from other Brazilian spots now open around town. But one of the most significant shifts in business, Limas says, came after 9/11 when Georgia amended the law to exclude undocumented immigrants from being eligible for a driver’s license. Not only did this law decrease the number of people frequenting Lima’s Sandy Springs cafe next to the DMV, it had a profound impact on the Brazilian population of Atlanta. Some people returned to Brazil, she recalls, while others moved away to states with less restrictive laws.
Today, Minas faces yet another unforeseen challenge. This time a global pandemic and all of the uncertainties it brings to the restaurant industry. But one side of the business became its biggest safety net, helping buoy Minas through the early months of the health crisis when other restaurants temporarily closed or were forced to pivot to takeout.
“One of our advantages over other businesses is that we have, in the same location, the restaurant and the market,” she says. “The restaurant suffered [during the pandemic], but the market was able to be sustained, and we keep the business growing. Instead of losing customers, we grew because we were able to stay open during those times.”
She’s also watching a recent development boom and influx of new businesses opening around Delk Road and the restaurant. Lima says she’s not concerned about future competition. In fact, if big chains and other established Atlanta restaurant names move into the area, Lima believes the contrast in food offered at these places will further highlight the unique Brazilian dishes and foods served at Mina’s.
“You can’t compare apples and bananas — they’re different,” says Lima, who has considered selling the business. “I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs in my life. Minas was always there for me to go, wake up in another day, and go and work.”
At 63, Lima isn’t quite ready to let go of Minas and plans to continue growing the business with her husband to improve it. She’s most proud that the restaurant and market allowed her to provide a good education for her children and to support and invest in the Brazilian community in Atlanta. Mina’s affords Lima opportunities to assist families who lost loved ones or suffered financial crisis and to provide Brazilian transplants here a place to don golden jerseys to cheer during big sporting events like the Olympics and the World Cup.
“Every time that Brazil is being celebrated,” she says, “those are the times that bring me good memories.”
2555 Delk Road, Marietta; minas-grill.com. Open daily. Buffet available. Churrasco meats available.
Disclaimer: Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here. It is highly advised people wear masks indoors or when in crowded situations, regardless of vaccination status, to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.