New York City is where pastries become stars and, in the years after the Magnolia cupcake fetish, they’re coming faster: The Cronut of 2013 begat the Waffle Affogato (Waffogato), which begat the Nutellasagna. The birth of each made international news. If you are the type of person who wants to wait for 2 hours for a snack, welcome to New York! You are not alone.
But while those show ponies with their fancy portmanteau names are getting all the attention, the rest of us can have our fill of the scads of overlooked treats across the boroughs—below are five worth any subway ride. They’re cookies and donuts and cannolis just as deserving of our affection as a Cronut, lacking only in marketing power—which means you won’t have to get on line at 6 a.m. for them.
Who am I to tell you to go to Hoboken for a cannoli? I am an unapologetic pastry freak. I squirrel away extra turnovers and kouign amann in my purse so often that it’s become my personal brand. I encourage you to do the same—it’s an excellent way for anyone who loves food to experience a lot for not much money. If you order everything on the menu at a restaurant or bar, you will end up penniless and drunk; buy every pastry you see and usually you haven’t spent more than $20.
Last year, I became even more expert, cocooning myself in whatever New York coffee shops and bakeries and hotel lobbies would have me and my laptop, while I worked on the Genius Recipes cookbook. I wrote whole chapters fueled by little more than iced lattes and the contents of Bien Cuit‘s pastry case. I can’t recommend that lifestyle, but I can pass the spoils on to you.
Cheddar Chive Biscuit from Greene Grape Annex
The cheddar chive biscuit at Greene Grape Annex in Fort Greene is the best in New York—with a salty, resilient cheese crust and a springy middle—and is seemingly impervious to staling. You’ll be even happier if you double down with another quick bread or pastry from the counter. Also recommended: cream scones made with seasonal fruit like rhubarb or cranberries, hand pies, charmingly disheveled buttermilk biscuits.
Greene Grape Annex
767 Fulton St
Brooklyn, NY 11217
Loukomades from Cafe Boulis
In the back of Cafe Boulis, a small Greek deli and cafe in Astoria, there is a countertop frying station where these mini donuts are fried to order, then served with honey and cinnamon or whatever deviations you ask for. Perch at the counter or wherever you can and eat them on the spot. You can’t order fewer than 6, but that’s never going to be a problem.
31-15 31st Ave
Astoria, NY 11102
Cured Olive Cookies from Abraço
You will be amazed at what Liz Quijada and Jamie McCormick and their crew can do in a coffee shop as tiny as the East Village’s Abraço—and how many regulars are undeterred, taking their orders to stay. Such is the draw of strong espresso, a cream-injected frittata, and a well-chosen vinyl selection and pastry case. The constant (and a stand-out) are the cured olive cookies: not-very-sweet shortbread cut in rectangular wands, cragged with oil-cured black olives. Salty, sweet, and haunting.
86 E 7th St
New York, NY 10003
Cannolis from Giorgio’s Italian & French Pastry Shop
Giorgio’s takes their cannoli seriously: Rather than setting them out in pretty rows to lure customers like you’d see at street fairs and so-so bakeries, the cannoli shells are tucked away and only filled to order. The sfoglatelli—a crisp, frilled clamshell pastry stuffed with whipped cream—is a worthwhile complement.
Giorgio’s Italian & French Pastry Shop
1112 Washington St
Hoboken, NJ 07030
Banana Bread from Du Jour Bakery
The banana bread at Du Jour is made in heavy loaves that are dense, moist, and riddled with chocolate bits. One of the more spacious bakeries on the list, Du Jour also makes a very well-plotted brunch and the most scone-like (and, therefore, one of the best) cornbread muffins around.
Du Jour Bakery
365 5th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Kristen Miglore is the executive editor of Food52 and the author of Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change The Way You Cook (Ten Speed, 2015). She lives in Brooklyn.