Words & Deeds

New local ‘superfood’ cafe opens, and chef serves it ‘how the Brazilians serve it’

How to pronounce ‘Açai’

Sophia Cummings, owner of Rio Acai Bowls in Fresno, California, explains how to say "acai."
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Sophia Cummings, owner of Rio Acai Bowls in Fresno, California, explains how to say "acai."

When restaurateurs Adriano and Wendy de Souza moved to Nampa last summer, they sensed a culinary void in the Boise region: authentic acai bowls.

Sure, there were options featuring the Brazilian berry, often touted as an antioxidant-rich “superfood.” But Adriano, a chef born and raised in Brazil, also noticed extraneous sweetening ingredients.

“They just don’t sell it how he knows it,” Wendy says. “He wanted to serve it how the Brazilians serve it.”

The result: Tijelas Acai Cafe.

Along with co-owners Patrick and Sarah McGaffin, they opened the 38-seat restaurant April 1 in Nampa at 1331 12th Avenue Road, Suite 103. Previously, the de Souzas owned and operated The Grille from Ipanema, a Brazilian steakhouse they closed after nine years in Coeur d’Alene.

With a menu of bowls, paninis, salads, smoothies and cold-pressed juices, Tijelas Acai Cafe was an opportunity for Adriano to do something new but familiar to him as a chef, says Wendy, who manages the restaurant.

“It’s all his own original recipes,” she says. “Down to the acai vinaigrette dressing and the acai spread. We’re trying to bring an authentic taste of the acai berry.

“It’s definitely a health bar, basically. We don’t have any added sugars. Everything’s fresh and fresh-pressed — juices, natural smoothies.”

Monster bowl Crop 2.JPG
Monster Bowl ($12, large only) Tijelas Acai Cafe

Bowls range from $4 to $12, depending on size. The Monster Bowl ($12) is a beast of a feast. With an acai and pitaya (dragon fruit) base, it includes granola, strawberry and other berries, banana, peanut butter, chia seeds, hemp hearts, goji berries and agave.

Got a dessert urge? Satisfy it with a traditional Brazilian acai sorbet ($3.25), made with condensed milk and dark chocolate.

Carnivores have an option: The Tijelas Panini ($6.75), white or wheat bread loaded with turkey or ham, Swiss cheese, tomato, spinach and avocado, and topped with Italian vinaigrette and house-made acai spread.

Or customers can ask for vegan meat instead. The cafe is filled with gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan-friendly and non-GMO options.

“We do heavy substitutions,” de Souza says. “We can pretty much cater to anyone who has an allergy.

“We had one gal come in yesterday that has a banana allergy, a nut allergy and a gluten allergy, and we were able to make a whole new bowl. We just make a fresh base on the spot, because we add bananas to our base. We have gluten-free granola that we put in there. And we have substitutions for the nuts. We have plenty of seeds.”

During the first few weeks of business, patrons have come from all walks of life, she adds.

“We’re hitting all ages. Older couples come in, and they love it because it’s lighter food — it’s not heavy food like a burger and fries or steak and potatoes. Then you have the health world: We’re definitely starting to get athletes because it’s super healthy and you get the calories you need.

“It’s kid-friendly because it’s super-tasty. It’s great for someone who wants something on the go but real healthy. So it targets everyone.”

Tijelas Acai Cafe is fast-casual. Orders normally take anywhere from 5 to 8 minutes. “You’re not going to get your meal within 2 minutes, because it’s all fresh,” de Souza explains.

Hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, and closed Sunday.

The de Souzas are enjoying their Canyon County culinary adventure, Wendy says, even if it’s a different world serving acai bowls instead of all-you-can eat Brazilian meats.

“We miss doing it, but we don’t necessarily miss managing a crew off 55-plus employees,” she admits with a chuckle. “We did it for almost a decade, and we were ready to get out of there. But we are looking into maybe opening another one. We’ll see how the future goes.”

Online: tijelas.com, facebook.com/tijelasacaicafe.

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Michael Deeds is an entertainment reporter and opinion columnist at the Idaho Statesman. Since starting at the Statesman as a news intern in 1991, he has been a sportswriter and features/entertainment editor. Deeds also has freelanced for The Washington Post, Relix, Country Weekly, Velo News, Beer Advocate and more.