By Fiona Hurrell, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Following the success of bar and restaurant Blue Agave in Ipanema, American owners Richard Nelson and Jason Galeria have opened a second location, bringing its unique brand of Mexican magic to the residents of Copacabana. Nelson and Galeria are keen to establish the new location as a neighborhood favorite, attracting expatriates, Cariocas and travelers passing through.
“We want to be the neighborhood bar. The place people go to unwind after a busy day,” explains Nelson, who had been working tirelessly to get the restaurant ready for its grand opening just three weeks ago.
Blue Agave has become a recognizable name in Ipanema and is particularly popular amongst the neighborhood’s expatriate residents. Following its growing success since it opened in 2009, the next step naturally seemed to be to expand the business.
Copacabana, perhaps the most well know beach area in Rio, was selected on account of the price and location. Nelson explains, “I’ve been really lucky to find a place that’s nice and affordable since Zona Sul [South Zone] is notorious for being expensive.”
The restaurant looks similar to its Ipanema equivalent, although larger and more modern in design. Yet both are fitted with matching antique red brick work, quirky tiled table tops and low back stools.
According to Galeria and Nelson, their clientele so far appears to be even more diverse then in Ipanema. Galeria points out, “We certainly seem to have more [Carioca] locals in this one.”
Nelson agrees, explaining: “The challenge has been to attract the Cariocas who very often frequent the same bar out of habit and usually stay loyal to that place.”
He goes on to add, “In Copacabana, half of our customers are foreigners and half are Cariocas, the crowd here will be different to Ipanema but I’m excited about that.”
Clayton Lovett, an American expat from Nebraska, is one customer who can’t keep away. He enthuses, “This is by far the best Mexican food in Brazil. I come here whenever I’m in the area.”
The cuisine is one of the reasons why Blue Agave has become a well known name in Rio since it first found the niche in the market. Despite its close proximity to Mexico there is a distinct lack of Mexican food in the city.
Nelson states, “I’ve always loved Mexican food and I’m used to having lots of it being as I’m from the States and I felt that there was just such a need for it here.”
Even so, there is more to a restaurant than simply food. Nelson credits the staff for the successful opening of the new Blue Agave, stating, “The people we have working for us make Blue Agave. They are one of the reasons we’re so successful.”
With the business expanding at a steady pace both partners are optimistic for the future, hoping to capitalize on two of the world’s largest sporting events scheduled to be hosted in Rio in the coming years.
Galeria points out, “[Blue Agave] naturally lends itself to the international scene,” and Nelson adds “We are definitely looking to expand coinciding with the World Cup and the Olympics when there will be a lot of foreigners in Rio. I’m very excited about the future.”
The new location is:
Rua Aires Saldanha 21C – Copacabana
Tel: (21) 3592-9271