You can smell the linguica sausage grilling even before you turn off the Odlin Road in Bangor. You can hear samba and bossa nova music wafting through the air. And it’s hard to miss the bright green and yellow airstream trailer.
The cheerfully painted and newly opened Grillin’ Brazilian food truck has only been parked permanently in the Hollywood Cinemas parking lot for about a week. Already, though, the husband-and-wife team of Natalia and Brook Dyer have opened their doors to long lines of customers, eager to try their fresh, flavorful menu of homestyle Brazilian food, from grilled meats and street-style sandwiches to desserts.
“I really didn’t know what was going to happen. Were people going to like Brazilian food?” Natalia Dyer, 28, said. “But they do! They really do. … It’s the food I love. It’s the food I’m comfortable cooking.”
Natalia Dyer grew up in the teeming metropolis of Sao Paulo, Brazil, the largest city in the Western Hemisphere. Hailing from a large, extended family, Dyer grew up watching her grandmother, mother and longtime housekeeper cook classic Brazilian dishes like rice and beans, feijoada (a stew of beans and beef and/or pork) and an array of grilled meats.
“It’s really common in Brazil to have a housekeeper who is kind of your auntie, and I grew up always watching her in the kitchen,” she said. “I went to law school for, like, a few days because my dad was a lawyer, but I was like, ‘nope, I’m out.’ So I went to culinary school. I loved it.”
By the time she was 24, however, she was burned out on the low wages in the Sao Paulo restaurant scene. In 2013 she signed up to be an au pair in Boston for a year, wanting to learn English.
Once in Boston, one of the first things she did was join a gym, which is where she met Brooks Dyer, a Hermon native working as a personal trainer in Cambridge. Natalia didn’t speak much English at the time, and Brooks, already smitten by the lively young woman who’d signed up to work with him, began speaking Spanish to her.
“Of course, Brazilians speak Portuguese, so she was super impressed by that,” Brooks Dyer, 32, said. “But we hit it off. We clicked right away.”
Within a year, they were married. Natalia Dyer began working in restaurants in the Boston area, and Brooks Dyer was working long hours at the gym. When he got home at night, Natalia would have huge plates of rice and beans and grilled meats waiting for him.
“The food was just so good. There was nothing like it in Maine and, honestly, not many places in Boston that had it either,” Brooks Dyer said. “I kept telling her, ‘You really need to do something with this. People need to try this food.’”
Brooks Dyer kept threatening to buy a food truck for Natalia, but she didn’t believe he’d actually do it. The couple eventually moved back to the Bangor area in January of this year, where Natalia began working in downtown restaurants.
And then, one day, Brooks brought home an airstream trailer.
“He’s got lots of ideas, all the time, but I like to be stable. I kept telling him, ‘Yeah, sure, we’ll do that,’” Natalia Dyer said. “Then he brings home the trailer, and I’m like, ‘Well, OK. I guess this is happening.”
Brooks Dyer spent the rest of the winter and spring completely converting the trailer into a food truck, building every element of the interior, as well as a large charcoal grill set outside. Natalia Dyer began planning her menu. By June, they were ready to launch Grillin’ Brazilian.
Though many people likely first think of churrasco-style beef when they think of Brazilian food, the reality is that the country’s cuisine is as diverse as any other large country. Portuguese-style food mingles with Afro-Caribbean, German, Italian and Indigenous influences, resulting in many different regional styles.
“I think people really don’t realize how big of a country Brazil is and how much variety there is there,” Natalia said. “All the different regions have something different … so we try to do different things every week. We have a lot of specials. There’s a lot of variety.”
Though the menu changes day to day, there are two things diners can always expect: grilled meat and little brigadeiros, a Brazilian chocolate truffle, handmade by Natalia.
“In Brazil, grilling the meat is a very macho thing. That’s something the man does. But I say, ‘I’m gonna grill,’” Natalia said. “We both grill. We’re a team.”
A grilled linguica sausage sandwich is a regular offering, featuring the mild Brazilian sausage split in two and served with garlic aioli and chopped vegetables in a vinaigrette. There’s also shrimp, grilled and served on rice with bobo sauce (pureed yucca mixed with herbs, oils and tomato), grilled New York strip steak skewers with chimichurri sauce, and Brazilian chicken salad sandwiches (a chicken salad packed with much more than just chicken and mayo, including raisins, potato sticks and other vegetables).
The early customer favorite, however, has to be coxinha — a chicken croquette comprised of shredded chicken and cheese, wrapped in Maine potato and deep fried. For the first three days Grillin’ Brazilian was open, the Coxinha sold out in less than 20 minutes.
“I can’t make enough, I guess,” Natalia Dyer said.
The truck’s location on Odlin Road means it’s convenient to the many business parks and large offices located in the area, and their hundreds of workers looking for a little more variety in lunch offerings a little closer to work. It’s also close to the Maine Air National Guard’s 101st Air Refueling Wing at Bangor International Airport.
“The second day we were open we had 30 military men lined up to eat,” Natalia Dyer said. “But, you know, Brooks was convinced from day one that people were gonna love it right away. He’s always believed in me.”
Grillin’ Brazilian is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays, in the parking lot of Hollywood Cinemas on Odlin Road in Bangor. A sample menu can be found online at grillinbrazilian.com, though the Grillin’ Brazilian Facebook page is updated every day with the day’s specials.