Tue-Sat, 8am-4pm; Sun, 9am-4pm; Mon, closed
6 at Astor Pl.
To call the minuscule East Village storefront a coffee bar is both an overstatement and an understatement. It’s smaller than a Starbucks bathroom. There’s nary a table or chair, never mind Wi-Fi. With two slender ledges and mere inches to maneuver, Abraço is a coffee bar in the strictest sense. But it’s also much, much more. Factor in relatively ambitious food, some congenial barista banter, and a design so bright and sunny it could cure seasonal affective disorder, and you’ve got an instant neighborhood institution.
Places like Abraço (“embrace” in Portuguese) don’t just pop up out of nowhere. This one traces its lineage back to San Francisco, where partner Jamie McCormick gained a following pulling shots at Blue Bottle Coffee Co., a micro-roaster known for brewing each cup of drip coffee to order. It’s this Bay Area pedigree, this ingredient-fetishizing DNA, that sets Abraço apart, and not just in terms of the rich, nuanced drinks that issue from McCormick’s La Marzocco espresso machine. You can go to Abraço just for a bite (and maybe a Sanbittèr, the bracing Italian soda that McCormick serves, suavely, with a glass of ice and an orange twist). Chef Mario Hernandez’s grilled cheese is a toothsome melt of Fontina and roasted poblanos, grilled to a golden crisp and sided with a vibrant avocado salsa. His frittatas are moist and custardy, almost quichelike, and his poached eggs come with buttery fried bread strewn with slivered garlic and chiles. There’s usually a seasonal soup (celery root and butternut squash, recently) and salads like carrot-tarragon or a julienned radicchio di Treviso topped with chopped egg. Hernandez shops daily and writes the menu according to the availability of purple potatoes for his fried-to-order chips, or leeks and beets for his antipasto plate.
Baker Elizabeth Quijada’s pastries are equally seasonal and artfully inventive, a coffee-bar anomaly in these days of outsourced Balthazar scones and Blue Sky muffins. Roasted pears are stuffed into tarts, and quince cooked into taffylike candy. There are persimmon tortas, superb ricotta fritters, and shortbread scented demurely with lavender or studded, daringly, with briny cured olives.Recommended Dishes
Frittata or grilled-cheese sandwich, olive-oil cake, coffee or espresso.