In 2008, Acoy and Samantha Cofino opened a cute little spot on Shelburne's Harbor Road called the Open Arms Café. But in 2010, bad luck intervened. Samantha was diagnosed with breast cancer, forcing the couple to close their restaurant and focus on her treatment.
In the ensuing years, Acoy Cofino ran the seasonal café at Shelburne Orchards and focused on catering. All the while, he hoped to return to the Open Arms, he recalls. But not without a few changes.
On April 4, the couple quietly reopened in the same spot as the Open Arms Food & Juice Shop. The business now focuses more on takeout than on dining in, and the once-thriving breakfast crowd must wait for its 10 a.m. opening. But the cuisine is much the same. Flavors from Acoy Cofino's native Cuba appear in the form of black bean soup, a menu constant, and often show up in two more daily soup options ranging from chicken-noodle soup to other Caribbean specialties.
"Cubans eat black beans every day. There's always black beans and white rice," explains Cofino of his standard. "If a girl has a lot of boyfriends, we say, 'She's like white rice; she'll go with anything.'" Perhaps to avoid the comparisons, Open Arms serves brown rice instead.
Of course, that choice also reflects Acoy's focus on health. With two schools in close proximity to the restaurant, he says, it matters to him to serve local kids the same way he feeds his own. Diners can choose a bowl of fresh greens or a burrito filled with protein such as local pork prepared Cuban Christmas style, or Misty Knoll Farms chicken in the same intense jerk sauce used at Nectar's in Burlington. The vegan Buddha Bowl features sesame tofu with fresh veggies, brown rice, hummus and miso dressing.
For a healthy after-school snack, families can head over for one of the café's fresh juices or smoothies. The Summer Rose mixes strawberries, rosewater, dates, bananas and almond milk, while the simple Sweet Spring pairs orange juice and coconut milk with a single kale leaf.
Whatever customers order, Acoy prefers that they call ahead to help streamline ordering at his "little family business." They can then take their food to go — or camp out in the café and spin a few songs on the record player. Acoy, himself an occasional DJ, will even give them a free burrito if they complete an hour long set.