By Tricia Kennedy
Nestled inside a butter yellow house on the outskirts of Shelburne Village is the newly re-established Open Arms Food and Juice Shop. Family-owned and operated by husband and wife team Acoy and Sam Cofino, Open Arms re-opened in April after the family closed shop in 2010 to cope with medical issues. While Sam handles the aesthetics, marketing, and behind-the-scene work, Acoy is in charge of everything culinary. Open Arms is a family affair, and employs Acoy’s cousin, Gene, and the owners’ daughters Sofia and Luna.
Acoy’s dishes are steeped in Cuban flair, which he credits to the influence of his mother, godmother, and grandmother’s home cooking. He notes that growing up in Miami, his family “never ate out” and when he left Florida to study at NYU, he recreated the dishes he grew up with. Much like the eclectic feel of Open Arms, his food presents a fusion of the mix of people he has met, including his wife, Sam, and the localvore culture in Vermont.
Breakfast and lunch diners can choose from a variety of dishes served in either a flour tortilla or a bowl of crispy greens. Returning patrons recommend the vegetarian Buddha Bowl: sesame tofu, greens, fresh veggies, fluffy brown rice, hummus, and mouth-watering miso dressing. Derelicts can go against the grain and pick the Angry Buddhist, exchanging the tofu for a choice of protein, including Misty Knoll jerked chicken and local Cuban-style pulled pork. Daughter Luna strongly prefers Uncle Marni’s Curry, a zesty dish teaming with curried chick peas, potatoes, red pepper, cilantro, onions, tomatoes and rice.
In addition to the burritos and bowls, Open Arms serves a hearty Cuban black bean soup and rotates other daily soup specials, including carrot ginger and West African peanut. Acoy uses local, organic ingredients whenever possible and has several options for vegetarian and gluten-free meals.
The afterschool crowd is drawn to a multitude of smoothie and juice choices, which rely on fresh fruit and incorporate ingredients such as kale, orange water, and cardamon. Daughter Sofia’s favorite drink is the Summer Rose smoothie which combines strawberries, rose water, bananas, dates, and almond milk. In need of some extra energy? Check out the caffeinated line-up, which includes Cuban café con leche, a light and sweet drink that can be paired with one of the daily baked specials. Acoy specializes in raw, gluten-free goodies.
Acoy is looking to build a stronger business with call-ahead orders. Although takeout is available, the Cofinos strongly encourage their customers to “eat good food, know your famers, and spread more love” in their sun-filled café. If adults wish to linger after eating, kids are welcome to play in the wooden kitchen space or on the outdoor swing. Be sure to check out the alfresco seating options.
The return of Open Arms has devoted regulars ecstatic to enjoy their favorite dishes again. Shelburne resident Joey Adams says he is “excited to have a high quality option of whole foods” close to where he works and is hopeful that Open Arms finds a “successful and longstanding spot in the Shelburne foodscape.”
Open Arms is located at 52 Harbor Road in Shelburne. The cafe is open Monday-Saturday, 10am-4pm. Wheelchair accessible. Check out the menu at www.openarmsvt.com and specials on their Facebook page. Call 985-4224 to place an order.