Win Son Bakery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

I went to Win Son, a Taiwanese American restaurant in East Williamsburg, many, many years ago, and what I remember is that I don’t remember much about it. I’m sure things were reasonably good, but nothing stood out in a way that made me want to travel back for more. Win Son Bakery, the restaurant’s all-day cafe, on the other hand, grabbed me by the balls instantly. I fell in love with everything that was on my plate. I stuffed myself silly with an egg sandwich, two donuts and a rice roll, all in one sitting. It was incredibly indulgent, but I couldn’t help myself, because the flavors were terrific.

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La Cabra in East Village

La Cabra is a Denmark-based coffee shop that recently opened a NYC outpost in the East Village. It has all the credentials of a proper coffee shop – a commitment to sourcing the best beans, refining its roasting technique to maximize the beans, being mindful of the seasonality of the beans, etc. But what really brings me back repeatedly to La Cabra are the baked goods. I always look inside the display case, intending on buying just one pastry to bring back home, but then I end up buying two or three. The pastries are that good. There is a very minimalist Nordic aspect to them. They’re not cute sweet buns with smiley faces or beautiful cakes with meticulously pipetted icing. They’re straightforward in their visual presentation but there are subtle layers to the flavors and textures that make them very memorable. La Cabra is a coffeeshop first and foremost, but in my opinion, it is one of the best bakeries in New York City.

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Maman Tribeca Brunch

Maman in Soho is an Instagrammer’s dream, which is why it’s packed with stylish, pretty little things with nice manicures and handbags drinking lattes and quiches off of exquisite china. Charming French cafes with croissants and avocado toasts is a pretty winning formula, and not surprisingly, the Maman team has opened a second location in Tribeca, knowing that they will appeal to those fancy yoga moms and their well-heeled kids.

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maman’s lovely rustic french table settings

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the bar doing brisk business

If Maman Soho is where all the young people are, Maman Tribeca is where the young people with families graduate onto. You’ll see former bros sporting baby bjorns with their well coiffed wives by their side. It’s much roomier, which makes it better for pushing through multiple strollers and seating actual large groups of families. They are so accommodating to babies, in fact, that should your stroller not fit through their entrance, they have a side elevator that can. Families need more food and service, and so the Tribeca branch builds upon the light menu and counter service of the Soho location with a proper full-service, fully staffed restaurant.

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pastry basket for two (more like one)

No meal at Maman is complete without its famous chocolate chip cookie, and an order of the pastry basket assures you of one. The fact that there is only one piece is a bit of a disappointment, as the word “basket” suggests a bounty of treats, but there’s only one cookie, one financier and one croissant. They were all very good, but more would have been better.

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squash spaghetti a la carbonara

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papa poule’s chicken caesar salad

They don’t skimp on the entrees, thankfully. The squash spaghetti “a la carbonara” lived up to its promise as being hearty and filling. Don’t be fooled by the healthy headlines of gluten free and squash on the menu, at the end of the day, pasta swirling in melted cheese and runny yolk is rich and tastes glorious. The papa poule’s chicken caesar also came armed with some meat and some heft. The generous slices of chicken and avocado ensured that you wouldn’t go hungry, and its tangy, yellow take on the traditional caesar dressing was much more interesting than the typical white variety. Like a good mother, Maman is keeping her children, and her grandchildren, very well fed.

Maman Tribeca
211 W. Broadway (between Franklin and White St)
New York, NY 10013
(646) 882-8682

Arcade Bakery, a Hidden Gem in an Office Lobby

Office lobbies suck. You’re usually there because you’re waiting to check in for something unpleasant like a dental appointment or a job interview or an eyelash procedure. But the office lobby of 220 Church St will renew your faith in office lobbies. That’s because you will be greeted by the wonderful smells of butter and pastries wafting through from the ovens of Arcade Bakery, as opposed to a bored security guard asking for some form of identification.

arcade bakery - sign

Arcade Bakery is run by Roger Gural, who used to be head baker at Bouchon Bakery and French Laundry. But you wouldn’t know about any of that pedigree, as the bakery seems perfectly fine with keeping a low-profile. Unless you really follow the food blogs or live nearby, you probably haven’t heard of it. The hours of operation are extremely limited, open only during the work week from 8-4 pm, so clearly Arcade Bakery isn’t interested in taking advantage of capturing a broader weekend audience and is intent on flying under-the-radar for now.

arcade bakery - croissant

This essentially means that I can never make it out to Arcade Bakery unless I get called for jury duty again, which is a bit frustrating, because the pastries here are absurdly good. I almost wish I were back at Citi just so I could buy the almond croissant everyday, which completely blew my mind. I’ve never had anything so buttery and flaky and crispy in my life. I’m not sure what the secret is, maybe it’s that they use a lot of butter, or the best butter there is, but it’s like King Midas gave this pastry the golden touch and every other croissant simply feels gold plated.

arcade bakery - babka

The chocolate walnut babka was also excellent, although I still think the one at Breads Bakery is my favorite. The one at Arcade Bakery felt more airy and brioche-like, whereas the one at Breads felt more like a dense pastry, and I probably like my babka all concentrated with chocolate in every layer. There were so many things behind the counter that looked amazing, but it just wasn’t possible to consume them all on one visit. And given the bakery’s hours and the out-of-the-way locale, I probably can’t return any time soon. Good for the waistline, bad for gabbing and gobbling!

Arcade Bakery
220 Church St (between Worth and Thomas St)
New York, NY 10013
(212) 227-7895

Gluten-Free Goodies at Jennifer’s Way Bakery

jennifer's way bakery storefrontI have to admit, I get a bit skeptical when it comes to vegan, gluten-free bakeries. How can you re-create the magic of a chocolate chip cookie by skipping dairy and butter altogether? Aren’t those the essential ingredients that make a cookie delicious? But I was pleasantly surprised by Jennifer’s Way Bakery, a new bakery in the East Village run by actress and celiac crusader Jennifer Esposito. The very charming and girlish storefront housed a small counter of attractively displayed cookies, muffins, cupcakes and artisan breads. The bakery’s products are all gluten free, dairy free, soy free, peanut free, refined sugar free, organic and mostly vegan. There are so many restrictions you might think that taste would get lost in the mix, but the baked goods, especially the vegan chocolate chip cookies!, are just as delicious as their regular gluten- and dairy-based counterparts. Read More