Mulata opens at Oak Park and Lake

Long-awaited Brazilian restaurant opens in Hemingway District

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

It's been over a year in the making, but a highly anticipated new Brazilian restaurant Mulata has opened its doors at the high-traffic corner of Oak Park Avenue and Lake Street.

Owner Christiane Pereira was all smiles last week as customers, new and old, lined up to order from the corner store's espresso and coffee menu, Brazilian sandwiches and empanadas.

The restaurateur is the former owner of Taste of Brasil, 906 S. Oak Park Ave., which closed in August of 2017 because the landlord declined to renew the lease.

Pereira said Taste of Brazil fans already are stopping in to check out her new eatery. She said the Turkey Meltdown sandwich — Chihuahua cheese, smoked turkey, bacon, avocado and chimichurri — is a big hit already, along with the eggplant and portabella sandwich known as the Mulata Bella and the Carne Louca sandwich, which includes mozzarella, braised beef, carmelized onions and bell peppers.

"The empanadas are a hit; I can't make enough of them," she added, noting that they are making as much of the food from scratch as possible. "We are taking the time to bring the best quality," she said.

Making menu items from scratch isn't the only thing that took Pereira time — building out the store, much of the work also done from scratch, took longer than expected. In May of 2018, Pereira said she hoped to open Mulata in about a month.

"We hired a plumber and a carpenter and that's it," she said. "We were the people putting things on the wall, making the counter, making the table legs from scratch," she said.

When Taste of Brasil closed, she sold off all of the equipment and cooking supplies.

"Everything here is new and fits the concept," she said.

The new space at 136 N. Oak Park Ave., which most recently was occupied by the yogurt and smoothie restaurant Fresko, has a smaller kitchen, which precluded having a gas stove or fryer. "We had to buy an expensive oven with its own filtration system," she said.

Pereira already is thinking of expanding the menu to include some of the traditional Brazilian dishes once available at Taste of Brasil, such as the popular chicken croquettes, known as coxinhas, and a Brazilian black-bean stew called feijoada.

Former customers are already asking for them, she said. "They're really sad that we don't have [feijoada] right now."

As far as the restaurant's name goes, Pereira acknowledged that some people are offended by Mulata, which is the Spanish word for mulatto, which, in the United States, has a derogatory history, referring to a mixed-race person.

"In the Latin world, 'mulata' can be viewed in a very different light," she said, adding that she does not intend to make a political statement with the name.

"I'm not here to say your truth is not valid," she added. "If somebody wants to get into the conversation, I'm just going to give them an empanada."

tim@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

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Jason Cohen  

Posted: August 21st, 2019 10:24 AM

I don't understand why you would even want to court controversy with the name of your restaurant. It's tough enough to be successful and that corner has had a ton of turnover so why risk alienating anyone with a name that's controversial?

Nick Polido  

Posted: August 21st, 2019 9:27 AM

Maybe the usual woke crowd who post in comments have moved beyond on stupid....

Summer Zandrew from River Forest   

Posted: August 20th, 2019 5:46 PM

I'm astonished there are only 8 comments here. The community groups on Facebook are filled with hundreds and hundreds of comments and heated debates as the word "Mulata" is sparking intense outcry from many people in the village. I can't speak for anyone else but it seems worthy to mention that many are horrified and deeply pained that oak park would allow this word to be emblazoned on such a prominent corner. I don't have a personal relationship with the word but Wikipedia and the dictionary say it's a derogatory offensive term - so I'm pretty confused why the owner's claim that "it's not" is enough to override the dictionary or Wikipedia???

Megan Carchedi from Minneapolis  

Posted: August 11th, 2019 5:04 PM

I grew up in Oak Park and am visiting. Sorry. No way I would go to this place. I'm glad they have good food but, as a biracial person, I find it a very offensive name and the fact that the owner says she'd just hand me an empanada if I said anything? So, basically she doesn't care how people feel because it's all about the food? No thanks. I'm not spending my money this or any other establishment named after a derogatory term for a group of people. I'm not a Red Skins fan either. There are so many different names she could have chosen.

Rose Guccione  

Posted: June 3rd, 2019 1:25 PM

Parabéns Christiane Pereira! I was hoping you'd reopen. I've missed the coffee, brigadeiros and beijinhos after a great meal. I'm glad you're back!

Jim Frenkel  

Posted: May 31st, 2019 12:05 PM

@Dwyer, while I LOVE me some feijoada, my wife would likely agree with your statement, particularly if she's stuck with me on the car ride home.

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: May 30th, 2019 6:51 PM

Personally, I find "feijoada" offensive. But that's just me.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: May 30th, 2019 5:32 PM

Mr Leeds, It would only be considered derogatory if a white male owned the business. Since it's a woman of color, not so much. In Oak Park we have different rules based on your ethnicity and gender. I am glad though the owner decided to name it what SHE wanted to name it. Personally, as a latina woman I don't find it offensive.

Dan Haley from Wednesday Journal Wednesday Journal Employee

Posted: May 30th, 2019 4:08 PM

Had an empanada at lunch. Might have another one tomorrow. Really good.

David Hammond  

Posted: May 30th, 2019 3:50 PM

Pereira addresses that issue near the end of this piece. Have an empanada.

Tom Leeds  

Posted: May 30th, 2019 11:33 AM

Isn't this considered a derogatory term now?

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