why are there no bakeries on the Upper West Side?
- Daniel Sonenberg Aug 10, 1999 10:45 AM
Apart from Columbus Bakery on 83rd/Columbus, and t
the Hungarian Pastry Shop on 110th/Amsterdam,
there is next to nothing by way of bakeries on
the Upper West Side. I know it's common knowledge
that food in general sucks on the UWS, but I would
think a well placed bakery in the nineties or low hundreds
would thrive. Even a bad one, for God's sake.
For a while there was a generic, neither-here-nor-there
Hot & Crusty look alike around 102nd and Broadway,
but even that vanished in the night. This morning
I detoured to City Bakery in desperation (I live on
103rd and work on 34th, so that is a detour) and
had an excellent almost no fat cinnamon raisin
scone AND a great blueberry muffin (like almost all
blueberry muffins, there were not enough blueberries,
but the taste and consistency of the muffin were
perfect. What I was really craving was one of their
delicious pretzel croissants, but alas, there were
none to be had.)
Gourmet Garage and Fairway are not bakeries in my book. Yes, Fairway does stock a lot of good bread, and some of their other goodies are scrumptious as well (bagels uptown rock!) but walking into these stores is not at all the experience of walking into a bakery. I'm talking small, non-chain, everything-baked-on-the-premises bakeries, where you can walk and get
your daily baguette and...ok, I know it's not Paris but...
Besides all that, I would love to go to Fairway for
daily baked goods if it weren't thirty blocks North or South
from me. Gourmet Garage is close, but basically I think
Gourmet Garage sucks. Their breads are all overpriced
(Barzini's at 91st has cheaper and better bread) and
any time they have something I really dig they discontinue
it (so far: their bakery pretzels and their delicious
low-fat corn/berry muffins.) I could go on for hours
about my negative feelings for GG. They seem not to
have any idea what their identity is--are they a gourmet
store? (no--too many items aren't available in high-quality
versions (e.g. anchovies)) are they a supermarket (no--selection
is far too sporadic) are they a budget store (hell no!
despite occasional deals on stuff their prices lean toward
the criminal. I always have the sense in Gourmet Garage,
at least the one up on 96th, that this is a store
that was assembled without much thought or care, and
plunked down in a neighborhood that is desperate for
good markets/bakeries/food shops to make some quick
green. We were all so excited when they announced
they were moving in, and they've offered nought but
Phew. That said, I'm in that clip joint just about every day
because this place is a chowhound Sahara.
re: Daniel Sonenberg
Dan, well, there used to be more bakeries on the upper
west side - Louis Lichtman on 86th, cakemasters, and
another small chain whose name I forget, etc. There
was such a bakery on B'way around 100th at least till
the early 80s. But these died out when the older,
mittel-european population that primarily supported
them moved out - the new population were gym rats, not
bakery shoppers. Most good bakeries are found in the
midst of an ethnic community which supports them,
views bread as a daily staple item (which must be
reasonably priced, so commercial rents must be low)
and keeps them honest. None of these conditions apply
to today's upper west side.
On the other hand, a lot of french type bread from
local bakeries round the city is not so wonderful -
and other outlets, including gourmet garage, zabars
etc. increasingly have good, fresh bread trucked in
daily. When I lived up by Columbia, I used to pick up
Joe Speikerman's Swiss Peasant Bread and some pate at
Samad Deli on my way home from work - the bread was
fresh each day and wonderful-what a treat. Picking up
bread became part of our routine when visiting other
neighborhoods - we'd go to Chinatown for dim sum, then
walk up to the Italian Food Center for the wonderful
big loaves they sell and to Alleva Dairy for
mozzarella and parmesan; the Village required a stop
at Zitos; wherever we went, we were on the lookout.
re: jen kalb
I'm surprised that no one has mentioned Levain, which
is a first-rate (if not small) bakery on 74th street
off Amsterdam avenue. They bake their breads, cookies
and pastries daily, and everything is really good.
They make monster-sized cookies that are out of this
world - I'm partial to the chocolate chocolate chip,
but many people prefer the chocolate chip with nuts.
Give them a try!
re: Daniel Sonenberg
Fairway (uptown) bagels rock???? Say it isn't so. To
me they have a texture resembling stale cupcakes. I
would only serve them to out-of-town guests who don't
know any better.
The only acceptable bagels in the neighborhood are
Absolut, 107th and Broadway, but be sure to ask for
them well done.
re: Alan Divack
To be honest, the only Fairway Uptown bagel I've had was a
Cinnamon raisin, hot out of the oven. It was among
the best I've had in the city, and I was going in
skeptical. That said, I love Absolute Bagels, and
they are my bagel of choice in this neighborhood...
far better than Lenny's or Columbia Hot.
Royale Bake Shop on 72 between Bway and WEA. Old-
fashioned, traditional and wonderful.
Ruggelah, babka, coffee cakes, great normal-sized corn
and bran muffins, excellent rye and corn-rye bread.
Also, not a bakery of course, but Zabar's has many
good baked goods.
Columbus Bakery (alrrady mentioned by others) has, I
think, a wonderful selection and top quality. More
"contemporary" style, or sophisticated baked goods
than Royale, e.g., croissants, rosemary rolls, etc.