I quit my job earlier this year to take some time of and travel. My first stop was New York, and my friends and I picked the coldest possible time to go. On the plus side, that meant we were all happy to go from cafe to restaurant to bar, because a walk in Central Park would have resulted in frostbite.
I’m sure I could live in New York for years and not try all the best desserts the city has to offer, but I had some very delicious things, so consider this a starting point for any food crawl you want to do.
1. Don Antonio (309 W. 50th Street)
This dessert was an accidental find. We were in Times Square and one of our group who makes frequent visits to the city recommended we go to Don Antonio, a pizza place a few blocks away. The pizza was good, but as we ate we watched as the table next to us got a plate full of these little fried dough bits covered in what looked like chocolate and turned out to be Nutella. This would have been the time to tell the waiter, “I’ll have what she’s having,” but I think we just pointed and grunted.
As you can see from the “after” picture, we made quick work of the whole thing.
2. Sugar & Plumm
I don’t know how this place wasn’t on my list before I got to New York. I found it because we were going to the Natural History Museum so I looked up “desserts” on the Yelp map to see if there was anything near by, and just as if it had sprung out of my imagination and into the real world, there was the chocolate haven of Sugar & Plumm.
I wish I’d had a whole week more in New York so that I could have gone back every day to try something different on the menu. They have cakes and ice creams, macarons, chocolates, pastries, plus real food. It seems mostly like a place where stay-at-home moms on the Upper West Side meet their friends and bring their daughters for brunch/lunch. And what a beautiful brunch/lunch it is!
Not many couples and very few men here, probably because the Willy Wonka/Disney princess decor doesn’t work for business meetings. But that just means more hot chocolate for you.
There’s also a store here so you can take lots of treats home for later.
3.Baked (Tribeca and Brooklyn)
When I first set out for New York I had one goal: to eat at Baked. I’m a big fan of their cookbooks and blog and was very excited to try a Brookster fresh from the oven. I made it to Baked’s new Tribeca location twice but would have happily gone every day if it had been closer to the part of town where we were staying. I’d also like to make the trek to Brooklyn to visit their first shop.
On my first trip I got a slice of the Candy Bar Tart and a hot chocolate, with a Brookster to go. It was all heaven.
The tart was sweet and a little salty with a thick crust and completely perfect caramel holding it all together. I ate it in very small bites so that it would last longer. When I got home I pulled out my Baked “Elements” book and made the tart myself, and then I ate it in very large bites, because no one was watching.
On my next visit my friend and I split a slice of passion fruit cake and it was… ok. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that having the cake near the door that kept letting in freezing wind somewhat compromised the freshness of the cake, making it a little dry and blah.
But we also split a cupcake and that was fantastic. On this visit I also saw Baked co-founder Renato Poliafito. I came very close to saying “hello” and asking for a photo with him but then I got too nervous, because he’s a baking superstar and I’m a big nerd.
4. Chelsea Market (75 Ninth Ave.)
Freezing weather makes Chelsea Market the perfect place to go on a hunt for nibbles. There are so many bakeries, chocolate shops and ice creameries in this place that you have to pace yourself. Also, take friends so that you can share what you buy and not fill up too quickly.
We were there around Oscar time so at Eleni’s bakery the cookies and cupcakes were all Hollywood themed, including a Benedict Cumbercookie. Well, that’s what I called it.
Fat Witch has all the rich, fudgey brownies you can handle. I picked out two to eat on the plane ride home and loved them so much I ordered their cookbook as soon as I got home. And I already have a few mind-blowing brownie recipes, so you know they must have impressed me.
Sarabeth’s bakery has a nice selection of cakes and sweets and they do a decent hot chocolate. And if it’s early in the day you can head to the Doughnuttery for fresh donut holes you can customize with the flavored sugar of your choice. If you want a little something to take on a walk around the High Line, stop at Liddabit Sweets for one of their homemade candy bars. I really like The S’more bar.
There are also a couple of really good kitchen stores in the market if you’re looking for just the right tart pan or a nifty gadget you don’t really need but know would look nice in a drawer at home.
5. Schmackary’s (362 W 45th St.)
This was another Yelp find when my friend and I wanted a snack after seeing a Broadway show. Schmackary’s offers something like 40 different flavors of cookie and I wanted to try them all. Unfortunately, we got there so late that some of the flavors were sold out, but on impulse, and because our brains had partially frozen on the way there, we got a box of 12 to take back to our hotel so that we could sample a bunch of flavors. We didn’t finish them because we did have some small amount of impulse control left, but we had bites of all of them and they were all really tasty, even for breakfast the next day.
6. Eataly (200 Fifth Ave.)
Eataly is more savory than sweet. It’s one large food hall with several Italian restaurants inside of it, but also shops of imported goods. You can get Italian cookies, pastries, and gelato here, if you have any room after dinner.
7. LA Burdick (5 East 20th Street)
LA Burdick in Boston is one of my favorite chocolate places in the world, so I was delighted to be able to try the one in New York. It’s just as good, the Madagascar hot chocolate is still one of my top 5 ever (a little citrus-y while still thick and rich), and it’s right near the Flatiron Building, so you can pop in for a drink after you snap a few photos.
8. Junior’s (West 45th St. between Broadway and 8th Ave.)
My friend who was visiting from the U.K. wanted to make sure she got some real New York cheesecake. Everything I read said that even though it’s popular with tourists, Junior’s is one of the best places to get it. It’s also located right next to Times Square, and since we went to Broadway shows on two nights, we found ourselves at Junior’s more than once. (It was so nice and warm inside!)
The menu is huge, the portions are enormous, and the cheesecake is as good as I’ve ever had.
9. Magnolia Bakery (1240 Avenue of the Americas at 49th Street)
Over and over again in articles about food in New York I read about the bread pudding at Magnolia Bakery. It sounded almost mythical. They have a few locations around New York, including one next to Radio City Music Hall. Since I was doing the behind the scenes tour there (which is very interesting) I stopped in and got a small banana pudding. It really was fantastic, but I wish I’d been hungry enough (or had someone else with me) to also try one of their pies or cakes. It all looked pretty good.
10. Serendipity 3 (225 E 60th St.)
Serendipity is one of the only places I went that I knew much about beforehand. It’s been in movies, it makes all the top ten lists for chocolate, and its frozen hot chocolate is legendary. And yet, I was not impressed. Much like the Sacher-Torte in Vienna, maybe my expectations were just too high, but I don’t really get why people love this place.
First, the frozen hot chocolate is just sort of chocolate slush. There’s not a lot of flavor, it’s not rich or creamy, it’s just wet and has a vague chocolate flavor. For the price I’d rather go back to Baked and get two Brooksters and a cookie. I’ll stick to my liquid hot chocolate from now on.
The food I had was good and the portions are large, but I wouldn’t say it’s worth the hour-long wait. Sugar & Plumm was far better and had no wait time. If you’re crunched for time in New York then I’d say this is the place you can skip altogether.
As you can see I consumed about 12,374 calories a day in New York and I still didn’t make it to Dominique Ansel for a cronut. I suppose there’s always next time.
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