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Jan 28, 2005 12:14 AM

San Jose Little Portugal – Mayolo’s Market, Café Docanto, Popular Bakery

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There actually IS a Little Portugal in San Jose. It even has banners saying “Little Portugal”. On Alum Rock it covers two blocks from 33rd to 101.

Food related businesses include:

Sousa’s Portuguese Restaurant (covered in a separate post)
Café Docanto where you can sip Portuguese espresso or port
Popular Bakery which is a mainland Portuguese bakery and not Azorean
Mayolo’s Trade Rite Market which sells Portuguese and Brazilian Groceries, wines and liquors.

Popular Bakery had 5 types of those little tarts or queijadas, orange, coconut, almond, bean, and Marie Amelie, named for the last Queen of Portugal. I am embarrassed. I was raving about Hiser and these are 10 times better. I even LOVED the bean. They are moist with intense flavor.

Their “pastéis de nata", lemon flavored custard tart, were not overly sweet and had all the characteristics of a good Chinese egg tart. I would serve these at a dinner party. They ar so cute. Maybe my Chowhound picnic contribution if we have one?

This is the place to learn about Portuguese baked goods. When I pointed to the tarts, the guy at the counter said “let me give you the tour”, and discussed each little tart, what it contained and why it was named the way it was name.

Great Portuguese rolls which are not bagged. Two kinds, a long one and a round one. Sousa’s serves these.

I found out about those small brown and white rings (witches) with the spice I couldn’t identify. They contain allspice, pepper, cinnamon and something else I forgot. The lady at the counter said they were supposed to keep you guessing.

On 2/7 and 2/8 they will have BOTH malassadas and Filhos (Portuguese sugar donuts served for the Mardi Gras). Lots of other hard cookies and breads. No cheese or other stuff because of the market down the street.

On the corner of 33rd and Alum Rock, there is a Portugese coffee shop, Café Docanto, that sells Portugese coffee, port, Popular Bakeries cookies. You can watch Portuguese tv while you sip your tiny cup of slightly bitter with a spicy finish Portugese espresso. There are Portugese sodas as well. There are some sandwiches. But I don’t know if they are Portuguese. I had a little white cookie with my espresso. It had a white sugar coating like a Jordan almond. Very good.

Mayolo’s Trade Rite Market IS the best Portuguese / Brazilian market with a fresh meat counter, hot deli meats, a whole wall of Portuguese and Brazilian wines and liquors. There was this pretty pink apple liquor that I will have to look closer at. They have over a dozen types of Vinho Verde. Here is a link to the General Board where I started a discussion on Vinho Verde or Portuguese green wine.

They had an excellent selection of breads and cookies from all three Portuguese bakeries, Hiser, the Portuguese Bakery, and Popular. They even had bagged queijadas from Popular bakery.

Wonderful selection of sausages and three big wheels of that Portuguese cheese that Hiser sells. Next to the meat counter, there were two large pans with some sort of chuncks of roasted meats, the Deli, so to speak. Too many condiments, hot sauces, etc. etc. to mention. Market is about the size of Bi-Rite.

Mayolo’s Trade Rite Market
1555 Alum Rock Avenue
San Jose, Ca 95116
(408) 259-6101

Here’s a link to Hiser Bakery which explains in more detail some of the Portuguese Bakery terms mentioned in this post.


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  1. I sipped the tiny cup of carioca while munching on a hot fritter rolled in the most pleasant lemon sugar. Carnival was being broadcast from Portugal and the Portuguese men who filled the café would interrupt their animated conversation to cheer whenever a pretty girl in carnival lack of attire appeared on the screen.

    It was all in a good humored way and I found myself lingering, ordering a bica and garoto just to sit a little longer in the café enjoying the ambiance and relaxing.

    I brought a bag of special Portuguese donuts from Popular Bakery across the street. They are only made on the day of carnival. Called Filhos (sometimes malassadas) these hot/lemony/light fritters were the best Portuguese sugar donut I’ve tried to date in the Bay Area.

    I also ate a Bismarck, a fat round donut filled with custard. Another pre-Lenten, once-a-year special, this was a heavier donut and almost like fried Portuguese sweet bread.

    Portuguese coffee is similar to other European coffee except the carioca which is like espresso and only fifty cents for the little cup.

    The coffee list on the wall of Café Docanto has the English and Portuguese names

    Bica – espresso $1.25
    Garoto – cappuccino $1.50
    Salao – latte $1.75

    To learn more about Portuguese coffee drinks see the link at the bottom.

    The café does its own spin on the garoto. It is more like a con panna than cappuccino. Served in a tall glass mug, filled half with a latte like coffee, half with steamed milk, topped with whipped cream and dusted with cinnamon. I have had the garoto at Sousa’s and it was more like a traditional wet cappuccino.

    It seemed to be a coffee break for the Portuguese men. It was all so European. The sidewalk tables were filled so they could smoke cigarettes with their espresso. I was the only English speaking person and woman (except for a curly-haired little girl with her dad). I felt comfortable and part of the scene.

    The menu listed wine for $1. If you wanted to go upscale, the Martini Rossi rojo was $2. A glass of port could be bought for $2. The men seemed to be going back to work, so only coffee was being ordered.

    In the link below, it mentions that the Portuguese debate whether the bica should have sugar or not. With this group, it didn’t seem debatable. I think these guys were asking to leave room for the sugar when they ordered. I have never seen people put so much sugar in coffee. I would guess the mix was 50/50. I thought the coffee was good on its own, but it seems many Portuguese like things very sweet.

    I have only had one better café experience in my life and that was in Brindisi, Italy while waiting for the ferry to Greece. The town shuts down for the afternoon and the men gather at the café, drinking coffee. This was so similar, that when I left the café, I was surprised to see myself on Alum Rock Avenue in San Jose.

    Hot Filho, fifty cents; Bismarck, sixty cents; carioca, fifty cents; bica, $1.25; Garota $1.50; Portuguese Carnival broadcast, free.

    Total bill for a very enjoyable couple of hours - $4.35 ... as the commercial says …. experience … priceless.


    1. I just went to Sousa's, Trade Rite Market, Cafe Docanto, and Popular Bakery. These experiences, separately and combined, were magnificent. I have never heard so much Iberian Portuguese spoken. Amazing! I thoroughly recommend the Donas Amelias queijadas at Popular. Also, if you are lucky, the kind woman in Popular will walk you through their delicacies.

      San Jose continues to be a marvel.

      1. Glad you enjoyed it. What did you have at Sousa's?

        Don't forget Ash Wednesday is coming up and the day before there will be malasadas at the bakeries.

        If you drive over the bridge on the other side of 101 there is L & F fish which is a nice Portugese fish store. It is across the street from the Portuguese church which has a big festa about 40 days after Easter.

        1. Well that figures - Ash Wednesday is 2/21/07 (according to a site on Google) and we'll be traveling until 2/25 so no malasadas for me this year... I'll have to make a note about those bakeries doing them on the day before for next year!

          1. here is a recap with easy links for this historic neighborhood/area

            Popular Bakery
            1636 Alum Rock Ave, San Jose, CA 95116

            Cafe Docanto
            7 N 33rd St, San Jose, CA 95116

            Sousa's Restaurant
            1614 Alum Rock Ave, San Jose, CA 95116

            Y Market
            233 S White Rd, A San Jose, CA

            L & F Fish Market
            3 Lewis Ctr, Newark, CA 94560

            St Clare's Church
            941 Lexington St, Santa Clara, CA

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