From Cocktails to Coffee: Local Bartender Plans East Boston Café

Will Isaza (Blossom Bar, Birds of Paradise) will open Café Gloria this summer, featuring coffee and Colombian rice bowls.

A man in a pink button down shirt and red knit cap makes coffee in a restaurant.

Will Isaza. / Photo by Ran Duan

If you’re a cocktail enthusiast in Greater Boston, chances are Will Isaza has served you a drink. Next, he wants to serve you espresso. Isaza plans to open Café Gloria, “a neighborhood coffee and espresso bar,” in East Boston around late summer 2023, and he has just launched a crowdfunding campaign via NuMarket to get the project to the finish line.

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Isaza—who was born and raised in East Boston and currently lives in the Jeffries Point section of town—has been involved in the Boston-area hospitality industry for over a decade, he tells Boston. He’s been behind the bar at Fairsted Kitchen in Brookline, Tapestry and Tiger Mama in Fenway, Pammy’s in Cambridge, and more, ultimately landing with celebrated local cocktail expert Ran Duan and his team. For nearly six years, Isaza has been working with Duan as director of bar operations for Blossom Bar, Ivory Pearl, and the newly opened Birds of Paradise.

Café Gloria will be Isaza’s first solo project, but he’ll have the full support of his family, he says, including his brother Moe Isaza, also a local cocktail veteran. The café is named for Isaza’s mother, Gloria, and her snack recipes “will be sprinkled into the food menu,” while his father will be assisting with the buildout.

So, how’d all of Isaza’s cocktail experience lead to this more caffeinated concept? From a cocktail competition, actually. In 2019, Isaza made it to the top 16 in the Bacardi Legacy Global Cocktail Competition, featuring his cocktail, Gloria. The drink—aged rum, passionfruit, cinnamon, mascarpone, and coffee—nods to the flavors of his childhood, growing up in a family with roots in Cali, Colombia. Now, he’s dialing in on the coffee part of the equation. “Café Gloria was born out of wanting to introduce my family and its food and beverage history to the community,” he says. And yes, a version of the Gloria cocktail will be on the menu, but in the nonalcoholic form of a latte “with all the same tropical flavors.”

When Café Gloria opens, it will likely operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with coffee and espresso as the main focal point, says Isaza. He is partnering with Cambridge’s Broadsheet Coffee Roasters on a co-branded roast, which will be served at the café and also available for purchase in whole bean form, and Colombian coffee beans will also be highlighted. Plus, there will be traditional coffee shop beverages and a canned cold brew.

To eat: Colombian rice bowls. “This was a quick snack my mom would make for me growing up,” says Isaza. “Think of arroz con pollo, egg and rice, and even rice and avocado.” Colombian rice bowls are similar in execution to an Asian-style rice bowl, he says, but seasoned differently.

Isaza isn’t ready to share the exact address yet but is thrilled to build something in his own neighborhood. “With the changes happening in East Boston and the influx of residents, I have always wanted to invest in the community that raised me and keep it true to what has always and will always be my home,” he says. “There is a big community of new buildings, condos, and overall Eastie growth that is searching for that perfect cup of coffee. Café Gloria will aim to be that place.”

East Boston,