It's true: a few weeks ago when I was in NYC, I performed an incredible feat of cakespying: I walked the entire Manhattan length of Broadway (about 13 miles, in case you were wondering), and visited every single bakery.
Why Broadway? Well, first of all, it's a street that everyone recognizes. Whether it evokes visions of the great white way, a corridor to Wall Street, or dreams of Zabar's, it will ring a bell with everyone. Also, it's a very long road--it runs the entire length of Manhattan (and beyond that, nearly to Canada!) and I knew that I was guaranteed to hit a variety of different neighborhoods and therefore styles of baked goods. It had been an idea I'd been kicking around since discussing it with Leslie (author of Let Me Eat Cake ) a while ago, and it seemed like the right time.
What about all the other great bakeries just off Broadway? For the purposes of this trip, I did not foray much off of Broadway. Not because I was disinterested in the fantastic bakeries off of Broadway, but in fact because there are just so many great ones in NYC! To make it a project I could complete in one day, I stuck to Broadway. Well, OK, with one or two stops to the side.
Why do this? Not just to burn off the calories from the massive amounts of sugar and butter consumed (although that aspect certainly didn't hurt)--as something of a pastry flâneur, I really wanted to take a bakery tour around the world, and this seemed like such an interesting way to do it in one day.
Did you eat something from every bakery? No, I did not. I did however go to every bakery, and I bought things from many of them--some I ate, some I shared. But in all cases, I made notes about items that seemed unique or interesting to chronicle my journey.
Did you really visit every single bakery? It's possible that I missed a bakery or seven; one thing about Broadway that I hadn't actively considered is that for a large chunk of it there is a partition down the middle, and sight lines were blocked sometimes. However, I did visit every bakery or seller of baked goods that I saw.
When possible I made a note of what side of the street the establishment was on. Also, you'd be surprised at how many "dead zones" there are, bakery-wise, on Broadway. For instance, from the bottom of the Upper West side through Times Square, there really aren't many bakeries aside from chains; Broadway is a high-rent street though, so this is not to say that there weren't many bakeries along side streets where I traveled.
OK, with that business out of the way...are you ready to take a very sweet journey with me? Here's a roundup of how the day went down.
4:15 a.m. Wake-up time. The day starts in Belmar, NJ, where I'd spent a few days with my family. I put on my walking shoes, and my mom gave me a ride to the train station (dear sweet mom drove slightly out of her way to the 24 hour Dunkin' Donuts so I could get a coffee).
5:06 a.m. The train departs for Penn Station. Probably carb-o-loading before a day of pastry is not such an awesome idea, but I was hungry, so I ate half a slice of colossal crumb cake which I had picked up the day before. Fact: colossal crumb cake makes you feel unstoppable. By the time I reached Penn Station, I was ready to walk a half marathon and a half.
7:30 a.m. Arrival at Penn Station, and a transfer to the A train, where I ride it uptown to the last stop in Manhattan, 215th Street. I walk up to the uppermost tip of Broadway, right before the bridge over to the Bronx.
And on 220th Street, Tour de Pastry Begins. Here are my notes from the journey, heading south:
218th Street, left side: First bakery sighting: Twin Donut Plus. I didn't stop here because I have tried their donuts in the past; they're pretty good, if not world-changing.
214th Street: Carrot Top Pastries! This full-service bakery was catering to the breakfast crowd when I came in. It felt kind of like a hidden uptown treasure, with a case full of carbohydratey treats at very affordable prices. Interesting: the staff appeared to be mostly hispanic, but the baked goods were incredibly varied, with Italian and Jewish specialties along with American favorites--one of the things I love about New York. I asked the employee what she liked best, and she suggested the chocolate rugelach. Sold!
207th Street: First Dunkin' Donuts sighting! (I was wondering when I'd have it)
206th Street: Sad sight: a Halloween candy massacre.
204th Street: Not sweet, but of interest: if you walk by, you'll be treated to a view of the Dyckman House, built in 1784 and now a museum--a sort of monument to early Manhattan. Very cool!
190th Street, Left side: La Dona Carmen Bakery Cafe. Most people were bustling in for a cafe con leche, but I scored a butter cookie for like, 60 cents. Le yum!
186th Street: Another Dunkin' Donuts sighting--this time, connected to a gas station. Don't worry, I marked DD sightings for a while, but stopped at a certain point south when it lost its novelty.
179th Street, right side: Another Twin Donut Plus sighting. Interesting history from their site:
Twin Donut is a coffee and donut retailer that was founded in Boston, Massachusetts by George Psathas in 1959. Twin Donut has been licensing franchises as of 1960 and has locations all over the Tri-State area. Our founder, George Psathas, was employed by Dunkin’ Donuts of Quinzy, Massachusetts from 1951-1958. During that time, he rose from Store Manager to Division Supervisor. From 1960-1963, he was Division Supervisor for the Mr. Donut company. He then left Mr. Donut to develop Twin Donut, Inc.
168th Street: First Starbucks sighting. Pretty impressive that there are over 50 blocks of Broadway devoid of a Starbucks in Manhattan!
Observation: Around here I notice Cohen's Gentle Dental. I may need you later, Cohen.
167th Street: I spy a fellow carrying a Carrot Top Pastries bag! I give him a knowing nod, because clearly he must be doing a pastry half-marathon too. We are sympatico! He doesn't give me much of a reaction.
164th Street: another Carrot Top Pastries location. OK, so they have another location, which probably explains why I saw someone carrying a bag a few blocks away, and also why he ignored my knowing nod. Feel sheepish for approximately five seconds, but then walk into the bakery. This one is larger, and seems to have a larger cupcake presence.
Also: in case you can't read the note under "Bakery", it says: "All customers illegally parked - Please give us your order, we will bring it to your car. Traffic officers will give you a TICKET! Thank you". Now that's service!
161st Street: Estrella's Bakery Corp. This bakery has sweet and savory, and what really caught my eye were the Dominican-meets-Italian offerings in the cake case, which included fruit tarts, tiramisu, and pineapple cake co-existing in a sort of pastry melting pot of deliciousness.
160th Street: Another Dunkin' Donuts between 160th and 161st Streets. Oh, I may not have mentioned it earlier, but this is on their menu now:
158th Street: A pretty building caught my eye down the street at 611 West 158th Street. Learn more about it here.
153rd Street: Sweet Hereafter...the Trinity Church Cemetery. No, it's not a bakery, but I had to share how interesting I thought it was that they referred to themselves as "an active cemetery".
148th Street: Another Dunkin' Donuts.
146th Street: I see a young girl pushing a stroller who appears to have forgotten to wear a skirt on top of her tights. If for a single moment you think that maybe this was a sexy look, I assure you, it was not.
144th Street, left side: Compres Bakery Corp. This tiny bakery specialized in what looked to me to be Dominican baked goods--I picked up a macaroon-type sweet, which I believe they called a "coquito". The counter lady didn't speak much english, and I don't speak too much Spanish, but we connected over pastry--she pointed at it and said "yummy". Total cross-culture pastry moment! As for the cake: I think it had a pineapple glaze on top, but it could have been another type of fruit.
140th Street: Tanteo Dulce. How darling was this place? It was teeny-tiny, but full of a well-curated selection of baked goods, including cheesecakes, bread pudding with cream sauce, mini palmiers, and more. Because I must have been on a coconut kick, I picked up a couple of coconut macaroons. Theirs were nice and toasty, just how I like them.
136th Street: Panaderia Las Americas. What struck me here was the great selection of guava cakes--I picked one up. The cake was very light, but the frosting very creamy.
123rd Street, right side: Chokolat Patisserie. Located close to the point at which the subway emerges from underground, this is an unexpected but welcome spot for a bakery. Chocolat is very small but has a great variety of baked goods, including cheesecakes, gluten-free macaroons, and cakes--and at very low prices. I picked up a few of their Red Velvet cupcakes ($1.35 each!), one of which I shared later on with the Serious Eats crew. They served their cupcakes chilled, which is actually a bonus for me, but I know is not always preferred.
120th Street: Happy dance! 100 block mark!
118th Street: Spotted--a cakesplosion! Oh noes!
114th Street: Mondel Chocolates. Alas, they were set to open at 11 and it was well before, so I skipped this spot.
113th Street, right side: Nussbaum & Wu. A deli with a tricked-out bakery case, this place is popular with Columbia students, but truth be told I've always just found it to be good-not-great.
112th Street, left side: Just a shout-out to Tom's Diner, which you may recognize as the diner facade from Seinfeld and from the Suzanne Vega song.
Foray off Broadway to 111th Street and Amsterdam: OK, I made a brief foray off of Broadway because I simply had to visit the Hungarian Pastry Shop. I used to live right down the street, and it's always like taking a walk down memory lane. Plus, how many bakeries offer you a view of a huge gothic cathedral?
111th Street, right side: Samad Deli. This isn't a bakery, but they do carry a wholesale brand of crumb cake that I like. So there you go.
107th street, left side: Absolute Bagels. Once again, not a bakery, but some of this spy's favorite bagels in the city. And I'm not alone in my good taste: they have a review from Ed Levine on the wall too.
105th Street, left side: Silver Moon Bakery. This place is magical, offering breads, pastries, and chocolates. Cake Gumshoe Katie and I have shared many a swoon in regard to this place. Sadly, the jerk in front of me in line picked up the last Pan de muerto (not shaped like Frida Kahlo), so I drowned my sorrows in one of their delicate--but decadent--chocolate truffle petits fours. It helped. Note: it was here that I had my first macaron (parisian-style) of the journey.
104th Street, left side: First Hot & Crusty sighting. This is a local chain that has pretty good baked goods (if not great)--but one thing to note about them is that they are often open very late, and this is a very good quality in a bakery, in my opinion.
101st Street: Dunkin' Donuts! I feel like I might have missed logging a few.
97th Street: Another Dunkin' Donuts! Hello again.
93rd Street: EuroPan. Another kind of deli-bakery chain (you'll see them in the train stations, etc) that you'll see around town.
92nd Street, left side: Rita's Water Ice! I always get excited about seeing this chain because it used to be much smaller, with only a few locations (happily, some were by the shore in NJ where I grew up). It tastes like the boardwalk to me.
91st Street: Le Pain Quotidien. This international chain may have a lot of locations, but I always find their quality to be very good, and each location seems to have its own character. Favorite baked good: these doughnut things filled with cream.
89th Street, left side: Dunkin' Donuts. Hello, friend. Again.
89th Street, right side: The Gary Null health food store. I stop in to see if they have cookies. They do. This makes me happy. Oh, and I have to tell you, I once ran into Alec Baldwin here. For realz!
88th Street, right side: Hot & Crusty.
87th Street, right side: Godiva Chocolates. I will say, I love their hot chocolate.
80th Street, right side: Zabar's. Like, OMG. I could spend all day at Zabar's for a variety of different reasons, but the first thing that I always go for is the all-butter crumb cake with big, fat brown sugar crumbs.
78th Street, right side: EuroPan, again.
76th Street, right side: Beard Papa, where you can get cream puffs filled to order. They have locations elsewhere now too. Also, observation at their neighbor, Lush: the display is pastry-themed. Yea!
75th Street, right side: Citarella. This fancy grocery store mainly has baked goods from other bakeries, but they have a well-chosen case of goodies, including rugelach, rainbow cookies, marble cake, and more.
74th Street, right side: Fairway. If, at some point in my life, I were ever posed the question "what grocery store would you like to live in?" this would certainly be the one. It's stacked high with everything, and they have a bakery case full of goodies. Some of the items definitely look better than they taste, but the one thing that I consistently love is the lightly sweet and incredibly carbohydratey Sweet Potato Biscuits. Related: here's a recipe for Sweet Potato Biscuits.
Observation: you'd be a fool if you didn't stop and admire the Ansonia for just a moment. Not only the setting for Single White Female as well as a building with an interesting history, it also kind of resembles a big ol' wedding cake.
72nd Street: Just off Broadway, you'll find Grandaisy Bakery, where they make lovely sandwich cookies (and lovely everything, if you ask me).
Brief foray off Broadway: I was intrigued by the prospect of Royale Pastry, which apparently served as the inspiration for the Babka episode of Seinfeld. I found the address online, but what did I see when I got to 237 West 72nd Street? Worse than simply a closed bakery, I found this:
70th Street, left side: A gelato place. Confession: I don't get that excited about gelato. There, I said it.
63rd Street, left side: Breadsoul Cafe. I have always loved this place.
61st Street, right side: Melissa's Deli: it's a deli, but they have the kind of crumb cake I like. Observation: when I go to a deli in NYC, I think that I classify them in two ways: the kinds that have the type of crumb cake I like (made by some wholesaler, available in three flavors: plain, rasberry, and chocolate, and comes in plastic wrap), and the kinds that just have the pre-packaged, Drake's type.
59th Street (Columbus Circle): A veritable sweets-fest at the Time Warner center, which boasts an epic Whole Foods (always a good spot, in my opinion, for decent baked-on-site goods). I love Whole Foods when I visit a city where I don't have much time, because often they have a variety of baked goods from several good local bakeries, so I can scope them all out at once.
Of course, if you're at THIS Whole Foods, my best advice is to get out and get up the escalator, because upstairs you'll find Bouchon Bakery, home of the homemade Ho-Ho, the TKO, and so many other decadent treats.
57th Street: PAX Wholesome Foods. A lunch spot, but they have these reese's bar cookies that you'll find at various delis around the city that I have a soft spot for. Who IS that wholesaler?
55th Street: Cognac. This restaurant has a small adjoining bakery, and it is here I picked up the mini Tropezienne, a cream-filled cake. After one bite I decided it was too good not to share, so I picked up a second which I later gifted to my buddy of Blondie & Brownie fame.
52nd Street: Another deli with the kind of crumb cake I like. Hooray!
48th Street: We're hitting Times Square, where around here you see the M+M store on your left, the Hershey Store on your right. Look at the signs and power through, because there will be more baked goods soon.
44th Street: A moment of confusion. Around this part of Times Square several streets cross each other, and I'm not sure if I am still technically on Broadway at the moment, but I do see a Carvel ice cream that has cannolis in the window. Yes!
42nd Street: Gaze to the left and look at 4 Times Square for a moment. Did you know that I have a deep wish for my artwork to appear in The New Yorker one day?
38th Street: Back on Broadway for sure. Harrie Cafe and Bakery (really a deli) on the right, and they have the type of crumb cake I like.
37th Street: Crumbs. I stop at this one and pick up a Grasshopper cupcake. Later, when I go to the Serious Eats offices, Ed Levine makes no secret of his distaste for Crumbs. My thoughts? They're not my favorite cupcakes in the city, but they're not the worst, either. Oddly, Mr. Spy and I really enjoyed a cupcake from their Los Angeles location, and I felt that it tasted better than the ones I had tasted in NYC.
Other interesting observation at Crumbs: they had black and white cookies in TWO styles: with fondant icing, and with a buttercream frosting. I found this fascinating, because although I believe that the fondant style is more traditional, I've always preferred the taste of the lesser-found buttercream-frosted ones.
My friend James got to eat aforementioned cupcake, and he was very pleased.
Brief Foray off Broadway: At this point, I walk over to the Serious Eats offices near FIT, where I always love to visit the staff and tell Ed Levine that he's basically my hero.
Several awesome things happened at Serious Eats, including: a cranberry sauce taste-test, I got total validation on my morning eating habits, and I got to share some of my booty from the long walk so far with the totally sweet crew there. Serious Eats, you always leave me inspired!
25th Street, right side: Hill Country Fried Chicken. You heard me. A Fried chicken place. But I didn't even notice that right away: looking in the window, the first thing I saw was PIE. They had it in a variety of flavors, even offering Pie Shakes (!), which you know I love.
I chose the "Cowboy Pie" (pictured at top of post), which was kind of like a magic cookie bar in pie form (not all that different from this pie I made for Serious Eats). It was absolutely brilliant. This place, just opened in September, is a treasure for pie-lovers, and I was delighted to see it receive accolades in the New York Times!
24th Street: You're close enough to Shake Shack to call it Broadway--good.
20th Street: Lucky find, the Van Leeuwen truck was parked here today!
Union Square: The Greenmarket, where you'll always find a great variety of sweet treats.
13th Street: Max Brenner. A mecca for chocolate lovers, this place is a full experience, if you're into chocolate being delivered via syringe, and chocolate sandwiches, and stuff.
8th Street: There's this deli that has a lot of the same barcookies that PAX has right here. They're open late.
Great Jones Street: Au Bon Pain. I love this place. I know that they're a chain, but I like their crumb cake and cookies a lot.
Funny aside: Around Houston Street, a mother and her daughter ask me where the Hollister store is. Now, you may not know how I dress, but I wouldn't classify it as tres fashionable, so I have no idea where this store is. "Do you know the cross street?" I ask. "It's on Broadway", they respond. "Well," I say, "Broadway is a very long street." Trust me.
Prince Street: Dean & Deluca. Once again, a mix of on-site items and a great selection from local bakeries like Doughnut Plant and Sage American Bakery. You'll generally pay a little more here, but hey, SoHo is a high-rent neighborhood.
Observation: SoHo seems to be a bit of a stopping point for bakeries on broadway--it seems like from this point on, it's mainly lunch places or delis that happen to have baked goods (which makes sense, because this area is mainly home to offices, with residences off on side streets which would also be home to the bakeries).
Grand Street, left side: L'ecole, the restaurant of the French Culinary Institute. I didn't go in, but with a dessert menu boasting things such as "Calvados Baba with Chestnut Ice Cream", "Pumpkin Souffle with Eggnog Sauce", and "Pear Tarte Tatin with Chartreuse Ice Cream", it's worth a mention.
Worth Street (just off): Farinella, which has a handful of sweets but is primarily a pizza place.
Cortland Street: Pret a Manger, that charming chain from Europe. Observed at this location: A guy eating a hunk of carrot cake in the style that one would eat an apple, out of his hand. I silently applaud you, guy eating carrot cake like an apple.
At this point, it's about 6:00 p.m., and offices are closing and commuters are on the street. Sadly, the final stretch of Broadway is underwhelming when it comes to bakery offerings (a Starbucks here, a deli there), but quite overwhelming when it comes to lovely architecture.
And then, all of a sudden, there it is: 1 Broadway.
By the time I reach Bowling Green, the sun is setting and the park is clearing out as commuters get on the ferry and park-dwellers are beginning to leave for warmer places.
Overall observations? By the end of this journey, I was tired. Like, really tired. But I was also kind of feeling no pain, such was the surge of accomplishment I felt at the end of the journey. Sitting for a moment at Bowling Green on a bench by the southernmost tip of Manhattan, I observed the Statue of Liberty and reflected on it as a symbol for the United States as one of hope, freedom, and the ability for all sorts of cultures to be -- and to bake -- whatever they want to be. I felt like during the course of the day, not only had I experienced some wonderful pastries, architecture, and people watching--but almost as if I'd had a mini world tour.
So, ultimately after my 13+ mile pastry half marathon, I felt something even better than runner's high: a supreme, and complete, sugar high. So much, in fact, that I somehow managed to stay up all night with James watching horror movies (Zombies of Mass Destruction and Gay Bed and Breakfast of Terror, in case you were wondering) instead of doing the smart thing and sleeping, a lot, before my 5 a.m. flight back to Seattle.
Of course, my feet kind of hurt the next day.
Note: for more pictures, I will be making an album on my Flickr page, check back in a few days! If I missed your favorite Broadway bakery, send me a line or leave a comment!