Abraço Espresso – 7th St. just West of First Ave. – May 14

All of the write-ups said that this place was crowded, but stepping in through the door is unlike reading the words on the page. There’s room for a few people to stand at a bar along the window looking out onto 7th St., and beyond that, room for perhaps 8 people to stand motionless. At 11:00 on a Friday, there were 7 people; all moving around and jostling one another as they moved along the order, wait, consume continuum. It was easy for another customer to jump ahead in line, given that there was no real ‘line’, but instead a jumble of humanity stuffed into the small space. That everyone seemed to be genuinely enjoying both the offerings and the companionship of their fellow patrons made it all quite bearable, though.

And Abraço is not treating customers any worse than the employees. The 3 staff behind the counter had only slightly more room to move than the patrons. Counter space is entirely given over to the operation. What few sweets and pastries were available had to be presented in an efficient, vertical display. Paper cups stacked high in the middle of the counter let all see that Leslie Buck’s Greek themed blue and white cups were available or take away orders. In total, the layout was all well justified and did not cross the border from efficient and into cluttered. But I could not quite figure out where the food being cooked on the grill in back was going to be laid out once it was ready.

The proprietor, taking orders from behind the counter, is a gregarious, joyous guy, chatting loudly with everyone – many of whom seem to know him. He happily played along with a customer to guess whether it was Horace Silver or early Herbie Hancock on the stereo (at just the right volume for my tastes). When I placed my order for an espresso, he regarded me briefly with something between respect and suspicion, reinforcing my feeling that this is the best order on which to base an evaluation of the coffee anywhere. The cup arrived quickly and efficiently, but then the lack of space indoors presented a new sort of problem, and I excused myself to the bench out front in order to be able to move my arms sufficiently to drink it down.

I could have chosen a cup of drip coffee had I ben so inclined. Abraço has an interesting setup with a rack supporting several single-serving cones over cups to handle individually prepared drip coffees. But once outside and able to dig in, the espresso did not disappoint. Nice, creamy texture, with a dark crema floating on top. Strong and bold flavor with notes of citrus in the finish. An outstanding expresso – absolutely top marks.

Maybe the best way to sum this place up is to say that it has the most densely packed tip jar I’ve come across yet in a cafe, and the shop itself is no less dense with customers. Having tasted the offering, it’s easy to understand why.

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One Response to Abraço Espresso – 7th St. just West of First Ave. – May 14

  1. Pingback: Missing the Point | Espresso Excursions

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