The Rooftop of Café Brasil

Adé Salgado Surveys The New Millennium

Famed coffeeshop-turned-music-incubator Café Brasil was a fixture on the Frenchmen Street scene between its opening in 1985 and its closure in 2006, the year after Hurricane Katrina. Although the venue is no longer in operation, it continues to loom large in the public imagination, and there’s probably no single person who shows up more in Frenchmen lore than Café Brasil’s charismatic, enigmatic owner: Adé Salgado.

Café Brasil, as you might gather from its name, was a major hub for the Latin scene that once flourished on Frenchmen Street. But it was host to a whole smorgasbord of musical weeklies as well. 

“Monday night they had a jazz band; Tuesday night, Klezmer [the Klezmer All-Stars] played there—the Yiddish band,” bass player Wanda Joseph remembers. “I think Thursday was reggae, Ben Hunter—no, Ben Hunter must have been on Wednesday, because Thursday was a Brazilian band [Banda Logun] and all the Brazilians used to come out for that. Lord, those people could dance!” 

Café Brasil was the place where local staples like the Iguanas (Chicano rock/New Orleans R&B/Caribbean music) and Tribe Nunzio (rock/funk/worldbeat/post-punk) and a whole lot of others grew up and cut their teeth. It was a space where beautiful fusions were born and plenty of experiments flopped, but either way, people had the freedom to play around. Adé was his venue, the soul of the scene, in a way you don’t often see with venue owners anymore.

“Adé had this particular thing going with Café Brasil,” says musician Jonathan Freilich. “Everything was always some sort of multicultural affair. The reason the whole thing took off was the guy had an incredible sense of aesthetics, in both the people that he hired and how he ran the place. How he kept changing it up—in ways that would totally drive you crazy, honestly—but it was his own personal art project.” 

“Would totally drive you crazy” is not an uncommon description of Salgado. He was renowned for his chaotic band-booking style—which was exacerbated by the fact that he didn’t own a phone—and hairpin-trigger temper. But he was mostly known for his passion, generosity, and charm. In the words of some of Frenchmen’s denizens:

Adé was always out there hosing down the sidewalk and the plate glass, and he had this long dark curly hair, and he never wore a shirt and he was really tan and his–his jeans hung off his hips just so. And I just thought he was the most beautiful creature I’ve ever saw in my whole life.” 

–Nita Ketner (radio personality)

“Like when Coco lived above Café Brasil and his wife was burning candles and it burned her wedding dress down–there was a giant fire, and Adé’s on the roof, screaming with a hose, trying to put the fire out, and the firemen are like, “Come down!” And he’s cursing them, and cursing everybody, and putting out the fire…”

 –Tim Eskew (of Bicycle Michael’s)

“It was New Year’s Eve of 1999. Iris Mae Tango is downstairs [at the Dream Palace] sounding f***ing great. I just remember the countdown to midnight, and I walk out on the balcony—it was at the last five minutes of this century, of this millennium—and Adé was on the roof of Café Brasil, smoking a joint and surveying it all.”

 –Davis Rogan (musician, radio personality)

The landscape of Frenchmen has changed since Adé looked out over the new millennium. Jonathan Freilich locates one of the biggest differences in the fact that today’s bars are businesses first, as opposed to “people’s personal art projects.” He bemoans the dullness that takes over the scene when venues have that mentality: “Things used to happen in a much more interesting way when people were inventing stuff, trying things out, creating something.”

But although the creative incubator that was Café Brasil is no longer, Adé is still presiding over Frenchmen from afar. He still lives above the venue, and according to local sources (including Tim Eskew, of Bicycle Michael’s), he still did not have a phone as of 2019. If you want to find him, you just holler up there, and if he’s there, he comes down.”



525 Frenchmen Street