Anyone driving through the center of Oakland Park has likely driven past 3299 North Dixie Highway without giving the business there a second look. They don’t have an exclusive address or a single Michelin star. But according to Yelp’s new list of “Top 100 Places to Eat in 2020,” Bulegreen Café Yard is the number 7 restaurant in the whole country.
The annual list highlights delicious dining destinations from across the nation based on reviews from Yelp users, according to both ratings and the number of reviews over the past year. The list is then curated with community managers around the country to finalize the rankings, according to Yelp.
Owners Carlos De Castro and Vagner De Carli opened the restaurant in December 2018 to celebrate their Brazilian culture in an intimate setting. The couple, who are married, met each other in Brazil and learned early on their shared a love of cooking.
De Castro works full-time as a flight attendant with American Airlines, but previously managed a café in Miami and would often cook with his mother while growing up. De Carli worked as a chef for years before the pair opened Bulegreen.
The name Bulegreen comes from the traditional way Brazilians brew their coffee. Bule is the name of the pot that is used to brew coffee tableside. The coffee grounds are ground fresh moment before being brought to the table, and hot water is poured over them. The “bules” at Bulegreen are green in color and the restaurant’s focus is to be as eco-friendly as possible.
“Our idea was to be different. Our timing is different. Everything is made fresh to order. When people come here, they don’t feel like they are in Oakland Park,” Vagner said.
The Café may sit on busy Dixie Highway, but De Castro and De Carli have created an intimate garden setting that seemingly transports their patrons to an English garden in the countryside.
“The idea was to make it a cozy place with a homey feel. We fell in love with this place the moment we saw it. Carlos was coming home from work one day and saw it,” De Carli said.
Everything here is fresh. Everything here was made by us, even down to the tables.
De Carlos was traveling when De Carli received an email saying the restaurant was on Yelp’s list. “Tuesday’s are our day off. Carlos was off flying, and I was home doing stuff around the house when I got an email saying we were in the seventh position,” De Carli said. “I thought it was a prank. Not because I doubted our potential, but we had only been open for a year. Then I went to check it out myself.”
Eventually a letter was sent to the restaurant and they will receive a plaque they plan to hang on the wall. “I saw people were talking about it. It’s just unbelievable. Other places have been around for decades. It’s a return for us,” De Carli said “Our wish was to do our best. People are embracing what we’re doing.”
De Castro said he was floored when he spoke to his husband and heard the news. “Everything you see here we did ourselves. Everything was our own creation. It was amazing and it acknowledged that our hard work paid off. People are recognizing us,” De Castro said. “Every day we receive comments from people, and we want to constantly improve.”
De Carli said for them, their restaurant is as much about the customer service they give to their patrons as the food. “Here we want to give people an experience. It’s not just about the food. Anybody with you will have the same experience,” he said. “I don’t see people on their phones. They’re enjoying the moment. On weekends, it’s very hard to get in. It’s unbelievable how many people we serve here. We’ve grown in such a way that people will wait two hours for a table on the weekends.”
The couple also tries to be as eco-friendly as possible. They use paper straws and only buy things from places that are sustainable and support the environment. All their ingredients are also bought fresh, De Carli said. “We’re such a small space but we’re doing our part. We’re not a place for people in a rush,” De Carli said, “We also don’t have a stove in our kitchen. Nothing is fried here. It’s not am American kitchen. Our way to do food is different.”
Bulegreen is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday 8:30am to 4:00pm. They are open Sunday 9am to 3pm and are closed on Tuesday.
Katina Caraganis is a Massachusetts native and has called South Florida home since 2015. She graduated college with a degree in communication studies and has received numerous writing awards during her tenure in journalism. When she’s not working for an online pet supply retailer, she spends her time training for a half-marathon in March and studying to become a certified nutrition coach.