Although it’s in the heart of downtown Noblesville, Bica Cafe has a European sensibility. The atmosphere inside is upscale yet casual, and filled with delicious aromas of both sweet and savory offerings. Its early-morning treats, small plates and lunch items come from authentic Portuguese and Italian recipes.
Owners Maria and Mark (last names withheld) are originally from the east coast, and have extensive experience in the restaurant industry. Opening a cafe that blends their Portuguese and Italian heritage fulfills a long-standing dream. Finding the right site took several months.
“We have six children and our youngest daughter is the last one still at home,” Maria says. “While she was at Kiln Creations, a pottery painting shop on the Noblesville Square, I waited for her at Noble Coffee & Tea Company. I wanted our cafe to be in an area like that, with a community feeling.”
In October of 2019, the owners noticed an empty space on Conner Street they thought might work for their business idea.
“Last June, after COVID hit, we drove past it and saw it was empty,” Maria says. “We signed the papers on July 1 and took three months to build it out. I must have looked at 2,000 blue paint swatches before I found the right shade of turquoise.”
Material such as butcher block, hardwood flooring and woodgrain shelving lend a rustic feel to the interior. Immediately upon entering the cafe, there is a seating area anchored by a large coffee table made from a glossy, varnished cross-section of a tree trunk. It is surrounded by a couch and comfortable chairs upholstered in black leather.
Throughout the expansive space, there are a variety of places to sit. The side opposite the ordering counter offers plenty of traditional restaurant seating, with electrical outlets accessible along the wall. In the middle is a large communal table, and there are a couple of raised seating areas with stools. Lucky patrons can grab a seat by the window and enjoy a view of the cafe’s patio, which is open in warm weather.
“It’s a place where people feel like they fit in, whether they are wearing shorts and sandals, or professional attire and are meeting for coffee or a business lunch,” Maria says. “The cafe has a slightly elevated atmosphere but it’s not stuffy. We have board games and people meet here for Bible studies and book clubs. We want it to be the place people need it to be.”
The name of the cafe is directly related to Maria’s Portuguese roots. Bica is an acronym for “Bebe isto com acúcar,” which translates in English to “Drink this with sugar.” The term “bica” has come to be known as a certain kind of espresso originating in Lisbon, Portugal. It has a longer pour than traditional espresso and is not as bitter, resulting in a smoother taste without as much bite.
Among its many hot and cold coffee and tea drink offerings, the cafe serves up a bica shot, and there are lots of pastries available to complement the beverages.
All pastries including the pastel de nata, an iconic Portuguese custard tart, are made in house. The kitchen staff uses unbleached, unbromated flour with no additives or extenders for baked goods, which include savory rosemary, ham and cheese scones, croissants, bolo levedo (Portuguese muffins), and papo secos (Portuguese buns).
Prices range from $1 cookie specials, $2.50 muffins, and $4.50 cake slices, to $8.75 for a gluten-free, dairy-free galette that serves six. Pastries for quick purchase are available in the deli case, along with other items such as the brick chicken salad, which has become one of the cafe’s most sought-after dishes.
For those desiring lunch fare, soups, salads, sandwiches and small plates can be ordered from the chalkboard menu hanging above the counter. The popular $12 steak sandwich features thinly sliced sirloin, hand cut in the kitchen and grilled. It’s served with roasted red peppers, Portuguese brown sauce and an egg on top. The cafe’s signature $3.50 soup is filled with beef, veggies and tangy chourico sausage.
“We sell out of our mussels in a tomato and onion sauce every day,” Maria says. “Another huge hit is our Portuguese fries. They are hand cut, smothered in a garlic beer wine sauce, and topped with an egg along with piri piri, a hot sauce made from bird’s eye chili.”
Maria adds that the Saturday and Sunday brunch menu is a twist on tradition, as the cafe substitutes Portuguese ingredients in some dishes. Bloody marys, mimosas, and Portuguese and Italian wines are also available.
“Our motto is to focus on the sweet side of things,” Maria says. “I love to feed people’s bellies because it feeds people’s souls. I get fulfillment, joy and happiness watching people smile as they experience our cafe.”
Bica Café is located at 933 Conner Street in Noblesville. Call 317-764-2555 for more info and to place carry-out orders and visit them on Facebook.