East Village Neighborhood Coffee Shop Abraço Grows Up, but Just Enough

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For a little over nine years, Abraço has been serving espressos, olive oil cake and jazz to their family—extended chosen family to be exact. But that has been the appeal of this hole-in-the-wall coffee shop that has taken the entire neighborhood in with great love, and with lines around the block most days. The only time there isn’t a rabble outside is on Mondays, when they’re shut.

This week Abraço moved across the street from the original location and can now have the crowds come inside. “Location was part good luck and part gut feeling. Abraço (embrace) was named after a Brazilian pop song by Gilberto Gil, a legendary singer and songwriter,” shares Liz Quijada, part-owner and mama of the joint. “It also was very fitting given the size of our original location.”

“Abraço is unique because it is a part of us and our family. I think that’s the vibe part of things that people feel,” says Quijada. “We live on the block and spend a lot of time there. And so there is a community that has come out of Abraço—not by design, but organically—of neighbors and strangers meeting up.” Whether it was the friendly attitude of Liz (with kids in tow) or Jamie McCormick (the other owner and smiley daddy of the establishment) or simply the lack of space, it meant that nobody brought a laptop and everyone interacted and talked about everything under the sun. Some mornings it will be about the urgency of the current political situation, other mornings it’s about hunting down someone who didn’t pick up after their dog. All in between bites of olive cookies or unbelievable cakes that Liz just won’t let you have the recipes for.

One of the big changes at Abraço is that they now will have a proper food offering, with sit-down tables to enjoy exactly that. “Food is ever evolving for me. I am inspired by the seasons and by color and texture. Flavor is visual for me, so I tend to bake and cook in those terms. I also think of texture as a flavor,” says Quijada. “I have a belief that there is a terroir aspect to produce, as there is with wine grapes.” And soon, starting late October early November, they will offer a nighttime menu which will revolve around Spanish, Greek and North African inspired small plates, and there will of course be wine on tap, and cocktails, too. “Our food menu will bring back a lunchtime prix-fixe that includes three daily changing seasonal plates,” Quijada adds.

“We are so happy to have moved into a space more suited to what we do and want to do. Lucky for us it is also across the street,” says Quijada. “As we got busier we narrowed down both our coffee and food menu because of size. Now we are gearing up to slowly add on what we once had to take away,” she smiles. For McCormick it’s really all about just spreading love. “I have been working in coffee since 1986. Ain’t nothing gonna faze me man,” he says.

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