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Now Open: Rio's Brazilian Cafe

Addie Boyles

408 N. Pleasant Valley Road. 828-6617, www.howdoyourio.com. Hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays-Fridays. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays. Closed Sundays.

For Elias Martins and Ben Googins, Rio's Brazilian started in 2006 as a side project after the couple moved to Austin from Rio de Janeiro, where they met.

Martins continued to work in local restaurant kitchens, while Googins chipped away at building up the company, which sold malagueta sauces, pastries and cheese breads at area farmers' markets. Eventually, the sauces — sold in original, mango and pineapple-coconut flavors — took on a life of their own and ended up on the shelves of local Whole Foods and Spec's, as well as in smaller stores like Whip-In and Royal Blue and the online food retailer Foodzie.com.

But it wasn't until last year that they were able to start the wheels on their newest expansion: Rio's Brazilian Cafe, a small but bright and energy-filled restaurant in East Austin that opened this month. (The patio in the front of the building easily doubles the restaurant's seating capacity.)

The cafe sells Rio's signature savory pastries (or salgadinhos), including risolis, empad?os, pasteles and breakfast pockets made with egg and cheese, as well as sandwiches, salads, soups (caldo verde and sweet potato bisque) and, of course, their gluten-free cheese breads. Yuca root is a key ingredient in the cheese breads, and Martins and Googins also fry the root to create something similar to a french fry.

To lure morning commuters, they are selling breakfast and coffee through a drive-through on the side of the building. (The coffee is from Casa Brasil, a local company that works directly with coffee growers in Brazil and even offers after-school programs and scholarships to kids in need in Brazil.) If you're not in the mood for the savory breakfast taco-like pockets, try the banana pastel, a banana and cinnamon-stuffed pastry.