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Birthing a Restaurant Scene in a Dunks and Bud Lite Town - Boston Globe

At the outset of his hospitality career, Nelson Fernandes would get up each morning, walk across the street to the commuter rail station, and hop on the 7:20 a.m. train from Brockton to Boston. Arriving at work by 8 a.m., he’d spend the day in the kitchens of some of the city’s poshest hotels. But after commuting back to Brockton, there was nowhere for him to grab a great meal downtown.

This article was written by the Boston Globe in October 2020.

“When I got home there was nothing for me to do," he said. “I would just eat dinner at my parents' house.”

Eventually, Fernandes and his father, Justino “JJ” Fernandes, a Cape Verdean immigrant who worked his way from dishwasher to executive chef at the Park Plaza Hotel, decided to bring their experience home. In 2013, they opened JJ's Caffe, a breakfast joint in North Brockton that Yelp ranks as one of the top 100 places to eat in the United States. On Mother’s Day, customers queue up to three hours for a table.

But getting to the point where they could start serving brioche french toast and farmer’s market omelettes was a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario, Fernandes said.

It’s a challenge many Brockton restaurateurs say they’re still trying to overcome.

“Something like that didn’t really exist in Brockton,” he said. “It was more of a diner-style city for the most part.” Too often, the city’s food entrepreneurs feared that if a local concept didn’t already exist, it couldn’t possibly succeed, he said.

When Sandra Martin opened Elvera's Cafe on Main Street six years ago, she had customers looking at her sideways for serving homemade bagels and nitro cold brew coffee.

“Around here people literally run on Dunkin’,” she said. “I have people asking me for combos and home fries. They’re not used to an upscale coffee shop or making their own coffee.”


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