The Best Little Coffee Shop in NYC

Jamie McCormick is not Brazilian, but he digs Brazilian music very much—so much so that he named his East Village cafe, Abraço, after a song by legendary Brazilian songwriter Gilberto Gil called “Aquele Abraço.” (Loosely translated, it means “that embrace.”)

One is likely to feel that warm and intimate hug at Abraço for many reasons. The first is that the place is tiny, really just a countertop with just enough real estate for the roasted bean aroma to occupy; patrons often stand shoulder-to-shoulder while waiting for that perfect cup of coffee. The second is the atmosphere. More often than not, it’s strictly vinyl versions of classic 70s Brazilian grooves and selected American funk and soul like Curtis Mayfield. The third is the notion of that perfect cup. McCormick earned his chops at the iconic Caffe Mediterraneum in the San Francisco Bay area and brought them to New York City in the fall of 2007 along with an old school hippie vibe and affability.

McCormick roasts his own beans, which he varies depending on what he’s into at the time (like coffee from Stumptown and Counter Culture), and each cup is brewed, dripped, stirred, poured and served to order. Only the simple stuff, though. No decaf or nonfat milk. One size fits all. Pure, amazing coffee and espresso. Straight up. The lattes are rich and flavorful and creamy but not at all heavy and go great with co-owner Elizabeth Quijada’s baked goodness, like the popular olive oil cake (no butter, my God) and frittatas and other homemade sweets.

Some say that when McCormick is not around—which seems to be more and more these days now that expansion may be on the horizon—the coffee is different. Although, quite frankly, he is one elusive dude, the baristas he’s employed know what they’re doing, so there really is no gamble. Abraço has figured it out. Build it small and of high quality, fill it with love and people will continue to come back even if it means spilling out to the sidewalk when the collective fever for the perfect cup is really high and kickin’.

alan semerdjian

Alan Semerdjian is a writer, musician, English teacher, and occasional visual artist. Besides LI Pulse, his work has appeared in Newsday, Adbusters, Chain, The Lyric Review and numerous other print and online publications, anthologies, and chapbooks. His first full-length book of poetry is In the Architecture of Bone (Genpop Books 2009). You can visit him digitally at alanarts.com and find out about his music at alansemerdjian.com.