More than just fast food: the São Paulo lunch counter (a photo essay)

Through the lens of a new location (2 of 2)

Text by Todd Lester
Photographs by Pedro Marques

In Part I of this blog, I wrote about the making of the project in my new city in Brazil. In São Paulo, lunch counters, or lanchonetes, are as ubiquitous as bodegas in New York City and café-tabacs in Paris. These are utilitarian, convenient, open storefronts, usually with a few plastic tables and chairs spilling out on the sidewalk, where customers can sit at the counter for a quick and cheap hot meal, or buy their phone cards and lottery tickets. In dense areas of the city, there may be five lunch counters at one single intersection, with their sidewalk patrons often mixing indiscriminately. However, a person’s lanchonete of choice is determined by its location, speed of service, and perhaps the distinct flavor of its feijoada (a traditional Brazilian stew served on Wednesdays and Saturdays). It is in the lanchonete where a broad cross-section of Brazilian society literally rubs shoulders. This is especially true in the dense area of São Paulo’s Center.

At one point in the planning of, I found that I was having a hard time explaining to non-Brazilians the significance of the lanchonete. Therefore, I invited local photographer Pedro Marques to walk with me through the city and, together, capture the essence—and particularities—of the typical lanchonete … in all shapes in sizes. What follows are photos from that day.





















January 23, 2015
Todd Lester