Bakeries are international beauties. No matter which country, state, or city you visit, good bakeries always elicit a sense of comfort and undeniable pleasure. Rows of freshly baked bread lining the window, shelves of colorful cookies scrumptious enough to tempt the Gingerbread Witch, cakes lovely enough to melt any heart, and happy smiles all around are what you'll find. So today, without further ado, we are going to do the nigh impossible and name the top 9 bakeries in New York City. Bon appetit!
Levain Bakery - With two locations in New York and one in the Hamptons, Levain is both classic and favorited by anyone who visits. Everything within their shop is baked fresh every day with natural ingredients and a whole lot of love. Founded in 1994, Levain Bakery has gained a reputation for their delicious bread recipe and their famous six ounce chocolate chip walnut cookie. Other delicious baked goods include their fabulous baguettes, country boule loaves, chocolate rolls and ciabatta as well as their rustic fruit tarts, oatmeal raisin cookies, and anything slathered in chocolate. Yum!
Baked - Famous for their brownies which were applauded by Oprah among thousands of valued customers, Baked really shines when it comes to sweets rather than savory breads. If you're in the mood for sweets, make sure at least someone in your group gets something from their signature Brownies, Bars, and Brooksters menu featuring mouthwatering treats as "deep dark brownie base tarts filled with chocolate chunk cookie batter," salted caramel (TWIX) bars, chocolate bourbon pecan bars atop a shortbread crust, or the rich, dark, and gooey brownies with additional flavors of your choosing.
Almondine Bakery - This Brooklyn favorite is classically French with traditional quiche, baguette and French breads, and of course, pastries. With service and atmosphere as wonderful as the food they bake, Almondine has risen through the ranks with a pristine reputation. Their menus are split into "classic" and "fancy" patisserie with added menus for breads and viennoiserie, or French style sweet breads like croissants and financiers. It will be obvious to you, upon entering the shop, that what they do best is pastry. With that in mind, you might want to try out the eclairs, fraisiers, or sacher tortes to start with second helpings of perhaps an almond croissant or a few Madeleines.
Amy's Bread - A quaint, homey storefront and a warm, lively interior make this New York classic just that, classic. With four storefronts and two bakery stations at the Public Library and the Public Library for the Performing Arts, New York is sincerely covered in Amy's Bread. As the name would suggest, Amy's Bread does bread beautifully but they are also marvelous cake bakers. I wish I could show you every picture on their website for their beautifully, marvelously, spectacularly baked breads but for now you just have to imagine (and perhaps research on your own). The cupcakes are lovely creations with light and fluffy cakes, decorated tops and silky smooth frosting while their "big beautiful cookies" menu features treats like "kitchen sink," ginger snaps, peanut butter cookies, and classic black and whites among others. Just stop by and try a handful...or two dozen...or the whole lot.
Sullivan Street Bakery - Breads, breads, breads: Sullivan Street Bakery's mantra. Seriously though, this bakery knows how to do bread and chef Jim Lahey, who was a sculptor before he learned the art of breadmaking in Italy, was made famous for his no-knead technique which caught the eye of the world's breadmaking industry. Sourdough, rustic loaves, house specialty rustic country bread, pugliese, pane di comune, and filone loaves line the windows, fill baskets, are piled high and wrapped neatly for delighted customers daily. Come by if only to smell the mouthwatering scents of freshly baked bread and leave with an armload of loaves.
Patisserie Tomoko - Unique and different from the others on this list, Patisserie Tomoko gains its inspiration not from Italy or France but from Japan. This Japanese style bakery blends European and Asian influenced pastries into a genuinely delightful new creation. In the center of the shop you'll find a semi-circular bar behind which chef Tomoko Kato prepares her newest inventions such as macarons, green tea Mochi, Asian flavor inspired cookies, Yuzu mousse cake, and pastries. Also unique is the shop's tasting menu. Order the prix fixe dessert course and find yourself gobbling down two or three courses of specially made desserts of the chef's choosing.
Maison Kayser - I know that I wrote about Maison Kayser in a previous blog on the best bakeries in the U.S. (see here!) but this bread-tastic bakery is just too good to pass up. Founded by chef Eris Kayser after a successful boulangerie in Paris, this NYC landmark (there are actually eight NYC locations) uses traditional Parisian baking philosophies and practices, making it one of the places to get your bread fix. Savory or sweet (their baguette is reportedly heaven), Maison Kayser's breads are delectable, delicious, and always fresh. You'll not be disappointed, promise.
Francois Payard Bakery - A third generation French pastry chef, Francois Payard focuses on rustic and traditional bakes. Named "Best Pastry Chef of the Year" by Bon Apetit magazine and a winner of numerous other awards, Payard certainly knows what he is doing. You'll find a menu for everything from brunch to bistro to dessert and even one specifically for the summer months with items like peach matcha (green tea mousse with peach gelee over vanilla bean pound cake), tarte caramel, macarons (of course), blood orange eclairs and tiramisu among others. If you want a taste of France, Francois Payard Bakery is the place to be - unless you want to hop on a plane.
F. Monteleone Bakery and Cafe - In 2007, two legendary Italian bakeries combined with amazing force, combining their talents and reputations with traditional Italian pastries and with bread. Featuring old-school, retro New York Italianate styles and equally retro tastes, F. Monteleone has certainly made a comeback with the new partnership. Biscotti, cannoli (absolutely marvelous, you have to try), and homemade gelato screams for your attention from spotlighted cases with the artisan breads lined against the walls. If you enjoy Italian baked goods, and you'd be crazy not to, then you'll certainly enjoy F. Monteleone.