I love a time limit. I’ve had multiple recent conversations about how all restaurants should embrace the 90-minute dining caps already familiar to fans of bottomless brunch. Anything worth doing can be done in 90 minutes. Seriously, if you can’t make a deal, fall in love or learn to play the ukulele in 90 minutes, it isn’t going to happen.
Anyway, should you wish to learn the table time limit at La Cabra, a new café in the East Village by way of Denmark, simply ask if they share the Wi-Fi password. The answer is no and, just so you know, there is a 45-minute maximum for tables.
La Cabra isn’t inevitably crowded, which is nice. But it might be a little confusing the first time you visit. There are a few tables in its sidewalk enclosure, where people are chatting and looking at laptops, as is the café way. Inside, the counter is shaped like an upside-down L. The space is softly bright with a few more tables to accommodate about 10, understated decor and barely audible ambient music so low you should probably refrain from gossiping.
If there’s a line to your left, don’t get in it. Those people are waiting for coffee. The register’s to your right and a row of windows behind it provide a peek to the on-site bakery (led by Jared Sexton of local favorite Bien Cuit and internationally famous Dominique Ansel Bakery) where they make lovely rye tarts, gleaming croissants and danish crowned with white chocolate and nutmeg.
The neat rows of treats in La Cabra’s glass case include a few savory options like a serviceable ham-and-cheese croissant ($6). The croissant is flaky and buttery but the cheese is scant and it only has a smack of ham. It’s also a little clammy at room temperature, but the toasted sesame seeds sprinkled across its top give it an aromatic, nutty flavor that invites more bites in spite of its shortcomings.
La Cabra’s sweet treats are more successful. The apple tart ($7) fills a shell with caramelized apples and tops one side with jammy caramel and the other with a whipped ganache that brilliantly slakes the whole thing’s sweetness. It's a celebration of autumn that stirs excitement for whatever the café might have on deck for future seasons.
Big-in-Sweden cardamom buns ($5) are one of La Cabra’s most popular items, sometimes selling out by the end of the day. The bun’s structure, a stripe here and a loop there, is familiar to fans of the genre, and it has a pleasant pop of that familiar fragrance. Its surface is a little tacky as expected and its interior is a little denser than some and it's an all-around enjoyable addition to the category in NYC.
La Cabra got its start as a coffee company and it runs a robust subscription service all over the globe. Its expert, studied bean sourcing, handling and preparation is a point of pride and attracts accolades. This location has a few hand brews (made-to-order pour over) for $6 to $13 a cup.
I’ve been covering above-market-priced coffee for a number of years and yes, there is a noticeable difference between an average two-buck cup and the $13 hand-brewed (made to order pour over) product of a dry process Panamanian bean. And even La Cabra's $3.50 batch brew, which is what you’ll get if you order ‘a coffee’ (this option’s origin was recently El Salvador) is abundantly better than most, smooth and absent the burnt flavor synonymous with big coffee that has replaced bits about airplane food in mainstream comedy. It needs no accoutrement.
I didn’t exactly lose track of time at La Cabra the other day; I was keenly aware of the ticking clock after I’d accidentally flagged myself as a possible laptop threat. Right around the 45-minute mark I was offered some water. It’s a nice place to visit, but it was time to go. Plus it wouldn’t be my first beverage of the day and I wouldn’t dare ask about the bathroom.
The Vibe: Calm and so quiet that you really should not gossip here.
The Food: Terrific pastries like a fragrant cardamom bun and dynamic apple tart that look beautiful and travel well.
The Drinks: Excellent coffee that ranges from $13 special occasion cups to terrific $3.50 batch brews.
Time Out Tip: No Wi-Fi.
La Cabra is located at 152 2nd Avenue and is open Tuesday-Friday from 8am-6pm and Saturday-Sunday from 8am-6pm.