Tag Archives: East Village

What’s in a Cup?

No matter the country, climate, language or culture, every place I’ve visited harbors locals who love coffee. I’d even be bold enough to coin it the drink of the world. What fascinates me about coffee is that countries vary in how they create and take their coffee. This is probably obvious to most, but is a relatively new discovery for me. See, it took me years to get into the bean, and I only came to appreciate a cup when living in Barcelona.

The Spanish Cup

It was café con leche that changed me. Half milk, half espresso, half a packet of sugar and pure bliss. The Spanish keep their coffee simple, because when it’s as good as they have it, there’s no need for any Starbucks-esque remixes and adornments. I never had even a mediocre cup my four months in Spain, but I have to admit my favorite came in a slender plastic cup from the cafeteria of my university, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, for 1,50 Euros.

The New York Cup

I gave up on the hope of a daily cup of café con leceh and gulped down a cup a day of machine-produced hazelnut with skim milk and Splenda (more out of necessity than enjoyment), but that’s not the coffee I remember. About a month into the summer, my friend discovered a small East Village café called Abraço (“embrace” in Portuguese). When I learned they sold the Spanish mineral water Vichy Catalan, I knew I was in love. It’s a European-style coffee bar that also serves small plates and real-deal pastries (such as olive oil cake and my favorite, pain pardu, a thick, fluffy piece of French toast folded in half with ricotta cheese).

 

 

Lovely Abraço cappuccinos

Lovely Abraço cappuccinos

 

Abraço is standing room only inside, but the owners bring out a bench and table in good weather and it’s a no rush environment on one of my favorite blocks in the city (7th Street near First Ave.).  And they swirl hearts in the cappuccinos (see below), which would seem cheesy at most places but instead comes across as thoughtful. No Splenda available, but it’s the closest to my beloved Spanish cup I’ve found this side of the Atlantic.

The Puerto Rican Cup

I wasn’t expecting anything special when I flitted down for a week and a half at the end of August, but came to find their coffee is the beverage equivalent the Spanglish most residents speak. The coffee reminded me of Spain, but they definitely love their Splenda. My newly-acquired tastes fit right in.

Karina for TKGO

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Toying Around in the East Village

(No, not the adult-only kind, and no again, not the toddler-only kind.)

 

This wind-up tuna nigiri spins in circles before it jets off and spins again a foot away ($2.99; Toy Tokyo, in store only).

This wind-up tuna nigiri spins in circles before it jets off and spins again a foot away ($2.99; Toy Tokyo, in store only), by Tara for TKGO.

 

After Karina’s and my internships (and sublet) ended in mid-June, I found cheap accommodation in the East Village, on 9th Street near Avenue C. (On the corner is a great little Brazilian restaurant, Esperanto, with live music, outdoor seating, $6 caipirinhas and $10 weekend brunch. I sampled the brunch menu with a couple friends the Friday before I left the city, and the dinner menu is equally fantastic and economical. We loved the beef dishes; I ordered a killer beef stew, the special for the night.)

In my last few days in New York, I found myself wandering the streets of my ‘hood, a famously quirky area that houses a mix of artists, hipsters and Puerto Rican immigrants. And if there is a time to go into every curious-looking store you pass, it’s the last week of your six-month stint in the city. So when I passed a sign for “Toy Tokyo” pointing up the black rubber-covered stairs on Second Avenue near 7th Street, I climbed.

This is no Toys R Us. The two rooms at the top of the stairs can only be described as kitsch heaven. I am not a collector of action figures, nor do I worship anyone with a complete set of McDonald’s Smurf toys. But if you want to meet either of these types of people, or if you’d like to become one yourself, this place will quickly turn into a weekly pit stop on your way home from the office.

But just because I don’t recognize any of the alien-faced, army green-colored goons in the back room (reserved for the truly hardcore collectors) does not mean I had the willpower to leave empty-handed. I took home a wind-up piece of tuna nigiri ($2.99), a “surprise” box of mini plastic foods imported from Japan ($4.99, kind of like this one) and a Simpson’s keychain that reads “Where’s Maggie?” ($.99). And in honor of the store’s anniversary, the owner threw in a free “blind pack” with a skeleton warrior. Jackpot!

Find Toy Tokyo at 121 Second Ave 2F (near 7th Street), New York, NY 10003; 212-673-5450; toytokyo.com.

Tara for TKGO