Abraço has the dubious honor of being the first cafe I tried in New York, as I happened to be staying across the road. (Incidentally it’s also the place where I saw Lucy Liu who was busy filming The Smurfs on that street.) At the time I remember thinking that the coffee was a little too strong and a little too acidic, but we were off to a good start. It took me a few days of coffee exploration to fully appreciate the rarity of a place like Abraço.
Apparently named for the Gilberto Gil song Aquele Abraço (“That Hug“), this hole-in-the-wall espresso bar has turned a quiet East Village street into a bit of a neighborhood hub. The tiny cafe has standing room for about four people inside, where the (often hipster) customers order and collect their coffees before heading out to loiter and sip on the pavement.
The beans are Counter Culture, pressed into a triple ristretto for each coffee except for filter which is drip-brewed by the cup. Again, I find this unnecessarily strong resulting in an overly acidic taste, but I do recognize the skill and consistency with which the coffee is made. The baristas’ credentials are definitely in order: one did a stint at Blue Bottle in San Fran and the other worked at Ninth St Espresso. They produce solid, decent coffees at reasonable prices — espressos cost $2 and milk coffees $3 (full cream only, no skim milk for some reason). I usually order the cortado, an in-betweener that is longer than a macchiato but shorter than a cappuccino.
The place manages to be vibey and fun with only a few square feet to work with, plus co-owner/barista Jamie McCormick is a bit of a character. Not surprisingly there’s a loyal following and often a line stretching out of the shopfront and onto the street. Abraço proves that you don’t need wifi, a full menu, or even seats to run a cafe — good coffee sells itself. The city could use a few more of these little espresso outlets, especially in Midtown where the pinstripe platoon would surely appreciate a pit stop on the way to the office.
- Coffee: 8/10
- Service: 3/5
- Ambiance: 4/5
- Total: 15/20
86 East 7th Street (between 1st and 2nd Ave)