After more than a decade of romantic longing for the comforting street foods of his homeland, Andre Lee couldn’t wait any longer. Fourteen years of waiting and deliberation all pointed to one thing – he’d have to open a restaurant himself in order to get his fill of authentic Brazilian street food. And thus, out of these gripping epicurean yearnings, Lee opened Squarefritz.
Andre Lee immigrated to the US with his family in 2003, and like many Brazilian families of Korean descent who came to the US, Lee’s family was deeply-rooted in the fashion industry. With his parents having been in fashion for over 30 years, it wasn’t long before Lee himself was following in stride, taking up the family business. That is, until 2016, when he couldn’t hold out any longer and his wife set everything in motion by finding a location.
Having spent the entirety of the last decade in fashion, Lee knew the road that lay ahead was not going to be an easy one. In fact, Squarefritz not only represented Lee’s first business, but his first culinary endeavor of any kind. All that being said, for a first-time restaurant founder, Lee’s done tremendously well. And Squarefritz is quickly becoming a local favorite. Commenting on this, Lee added, “opening a business from scratch has been a huge challenge, it’s been pretty intense, but the outcome was better than I thought.”
The most popular items from their menu are the Brazilian pasteles — rectangular fried pies filled with meat, veggies, cheese and a wide array of other fresh ingredients. You could think of them as very large, deep fried ravioli pieces, about the size of your hand. Their signature pastel is the pastel especial de feira, which is filled with ground beef, onions, tomato, mozzarella cheese, ham, and hard-boiled egg. And if you want to try “Brazilian street food by way of Seoul,” as LA Times’ writer Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee, put it, go for the bulgogi fritz, a pastel stuffed with Korean-style marinated beef, bell peppers and onions.
In addition to pasteles, Lee has brought on a whole line-up of Sao Paulo-style street hot dogs, featuring toppings you’ve probably never tried before on any sort of hot dog – shoestring potatoes, corn, and mashed potatoes, to name a few.
So if you’re ever in the Pico-Union neighborhood, make sure to drop by Squarefritz (or get it delivered!) to see for yourself what it is that pulled at Lee’s heart for so many years – so much so that he found no other resort than to just open a restaurant himself.