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Places You Can't Walk By Without Getting Something

Ah, Manhattan: such a mixed-blessing. A city of incomparable variety and gastronomic splendor, with ten thousand different ways to satiate one's cravings, and an equal number of ways to swiftly drain one's bank account.

But more than the many fine restaurants that require dress attire, friends, and reservations to enjoy, it's the small, quick places that do me in: the bakeries, ice cream shops, delis, specialty markets, produce stands, and occasional street vendor. There are certain places in the city I can't walk by without stopping in to enjoy a quick treat and/or bring something home for later. It's for this reason that I often avoid Bleecker Street entirely during financially lean times.

It may be laughable, but the one place I simply cannot pass without getting something is... not a "place" at all. It's an ice-cream truck. Like a fat, giddy schoolboy, my eyes light up whenever I spot one of the dozens of blue and white Mr. Softee trucks that roam the city streets, peddling an assortment of summery soft serve concoctions that are to me the equivalent of crack cocaine. And like a well-conditioned Pavlovian pooch, the salivary glands kick into overdrive whenever I hear that obnoxious Mister Softee jingle heading my way. Remember Eddie Murphy's comedic riff on "the ice cream man coming to town" -- where kids would stop whatever they were doing and "lose their $#@! mind?" That's me. "ICE CREEEEAMMM!!"

Of course, it's not only Mister Softee.

I find it difficult to pass H&H Bagels without popping in to bring home at least a few of their warm, chewey beauties (and one to enjoy on the spot). And Zabar's next door? I can't walk by without stopping in for a quarter-pound of their delectable smoked salmon. Similarly, passing the Doughnut Plant and Kossar's Bialys means I'm going to lose a few dollars (and gain a few pounds).

I can't seem to walk through Chinatown without stopping every few feet to take advantage of bargain buys on bunches of Chinese broccoli, baby bok choi, asparagus, and tomatoes (so much less than my local grocer!). There's also a little Chinese bakery -- the name of which escapes me at the moment -- from which I absolutely have to stop in and get a yummy char siu bao (bbq pork bun).

Chinatown also has The Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (for a scoop of Amond Cookie - my favorite) and The Egg Custard King (for, well, egg custard tarts, naturally) -- two places that are sure to get my business if I'm in the area.

I won't burden you, dear reader, with the full list of places I find it hard to pass -- I'd be writing for the next half hour. But I am interested in yours. I think this may be a good way to turn people on to small treasures around the city.

So... which places do you find it hard to pass without stopping to buy something? Gelato at Grom? Cupcakes at Buttercup Bake Shop? A slice of pizza at Joe's? A couple of franks at Papaya Dog? A dosa from the Dosa Man cart? Something as ordinary as a venti mocha frappuccino at Starbucks (like my sister)?

Hit reply and share your favorites.. I expect I'll add a few of them to my own mile-long list!

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  1. Economy Candy, because someone I know will love what I buy.

    Il Laboratorio del Gelato.

    10 Replies
      1. re: Captain

        Yes, I've heard good things about both places.

        Does Economy Candy make their own candy, or is it a candy shop of brand-name items? What do you tend to get?

        Favorite flavors at Il Laboratorio del Gelato?

        1. re: sanangel

          yes, il lab is wonderful--toasted almond, toasted sesame, cinnamon, thai chile chocolate are favorites, but there are loads of great options.

          grandaisy bakery (though i prefer sullivan st, i pass grandaisy more)

          ronnybrook farms. no passing up their creamy peach yogurt drinks, even when it means hauling them around for far too long.

          don't even get me started on arthur ave--even if i intend to pick up just one specific thing, i *always* end up with ricotta from calabria pork store, pizza dough from madonia, fresh mozz from casa della mozzarella, and large ricotta ravioli from borgatti's

          1. re: rose water

            What do you find is the difference between granddaisy and sullivan st?

            1. re: Produce Addict

              Personally, I find the difference negligible. The separation didn't happen that long ago -- perhaps they will drift apart over time. But right now they appear to be using the exact same recipes.

            2. re: sanangel

              Not sure if Economy Cnady makes any of it's own candy, but I doubt it does. What I tend to buy are brands of candy that I know are basically pure sugar, because that is what my wife loves. So, pixy sticks, fun dip, smarties, spree, etc., etc. are good choices.

              My favorite flavors at Il Lab, probbaly cinnamon and pistachio.

              1. re: sanangel

                Economy Candy is a shop of brand-name items but the selection is GIANT. I always walk out of there with something different.

                1. re: kathryn

                  they do sell hand-dipped chocolates by the pound in a case by the cashier, but i don't know where they are made.

                2. re: sanangel

                  Ecomony Candy is the place to get the stuff you loved as a kid. Commercially made, but also good for some of the hard to locate things like violette candy etc.

              2. Pork pies at Myer's of Keswick. It's sick. Even if I've eaten already, I've been known to get them as dessert. They are "pies," after all. If they were to close, it would be like "Trainspotting" in my apartment.

                1 Reply
                1. re: JungMann

                  =D good thing you have a nice, healthy, geographic separation...

                2. i can't resist new (to me) restaurants / carts at all. i'm a sucker for the new and mysterious.

                  in the realm of the known foods... it's, ah, er...

                  ... those silly, overpriced masarepas from street fairs. i know i can make better at home, but the smell of grilled sweet corn masa and toasted cheese gets me every time.

                  1. Pastry shops. I can't stand to pass a pastry shop without getting something.

                    Blackhound, Financier, Payard, Andre's Cafe, it doesn't matter. If I pass it, I'm getting one.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: planojim

                      156 e 45
                      japanese rice balls..incredible..unique

                    2. Abraco - small espresso shop by my apartment. They have the best cured olive oil cookies (they're shortbread-like and salty). The ricotta filled pain perdu, olive oil loaf cake, and donuts are also hard to resist.

                      And if I see the Wafels and Dinges truck...look out!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: kathryn

                        I cannot pass up an olive oil cookie from Abraco either. So good!! I always seem to stop and get a mini brownie from Tisserie in Union Square and a mini napoleon from Rocco's whenever I'm nearby.

                        I wish Doughnut Plant made mni stuff cause I always get a Tres Leches when I'm in the area :(

                      2. Anything from a real restaurant that is being sold at a street fair. Medicore indian restaurant with super-sweet chicken tikka masala? Put it in a steam table at a street fair and I can't walk by.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: prdct

                          I share this exact same weakness.

                        2. Economy Candy... redux.

                          Love that Schluckenberg marzipan. Definitely not spelling it correctly though.

                          1. Just had this experience - a piece of pizza bianca still warm from the oven at Grandaisy Bakery. I've tried to resist but to no avail. Simple, salty, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside - it's as close to being in Rome as you can get without hopping a plane.

                            1. 9th street cheese shop for cheese . Murrays for cheese straws and cheese. Whole foods for cheese. Di Palo's for cheese. Saxelby's for cheese. If I lived closer to Fairway, that would be on my list too but I live downtown so anywhere walking distance. I love love love cheese.

                              1. Olives, epically the lemon stuffed ones from Pickles, Olives Etc on 1st. Ave or when they have a booth at local street fairs. The peeled mangoes on a stick by Union Square, and this is the really bad one.... Tasti D Lite. I know it's awful but I can't help but love it. I think they put drugs in it or something. I live right by Cones, Grom, Arte de Gelato, Yogurtland, Yolato, and PinkBerry but always go for Tasti. Sometimes there is no accounting for taste.

                                1. I can't resist buying cheap produce in Chinatown. And any time I have a work assignment that takes me to a neighborhood with ethnic food shops I end up buying stuff. Like dried chiles at Mexican grocery stores in East Harlem.

                                  1. Not someplace I walk by on a normal basis, but Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. Anytime I am in Brooklyn Heights or the immediate area, I have to stop at Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. Combination of chocolate and coffee is cream is amazing. I enjoy it on a water taxi ride back to Manhattan on a nice day.

                                    Also, this is new, but Artichoke Pizza if the line is manageable. It is so hard to find a good slice joint, and when it's just a slice, you can't walk by without grabbing one. In fear of weight gain, I try to steer clear of walking down that block. :)

                                    1. A month or so ago, my answer would have been simple and immediate: the coconut bun at the now closed Mei Lei Wah Coffee Shop. Cup of their coffee to go with that. Part of that is that it was so bloody cheap. Another standby is a hot, fresh bialy from Kossar's.

                                      1. I try to avoid the block on 23rd between 6th and 7th so I am not tempted to go to Madeleine and get one of their macarons. They're so delicious but boy are they expensive. And their ability to expand my waistline is impressive.

                                        1. - Bouchon Bakery for the macarons and/or nutter butter.
                                          - Damascus Bakery on Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn for a spinach pie.
                                          - The Vosges chocolate basket at the check-out lane at the Time Warner Center Whole Foods for the Macha flavor.

                                          1. I have an impossible time resiting apple-cider donuts at the Union Square Farmer's market. Something about them reminds me of being a kid.

                                            1. Il Laboratorio del Gelato is my latest obsession. But I never just happen to be in the neighborhood, I go quite a ways out of my way to get it. I love their strawberry gelato (and I'm not generally a strawberry ice cream gal), followed closely by mission fig, then dark chocolate. Tangerine and lychee sorbet are wonderful too- really concentrated, bright flavor.

                                              Guss' Pickles is right down the block, I take a quart home twice a month or so.

                                              Tonnie's Minis has the best red velvet cupcakes, and Jacques Torres has my favorite chocolate chip cookie.

                                              Your post reminds me, I really need to try the Dosa Man!

                                              1. Pommes Frites for me. Particuarly if I've had one or two drinks, which is normally the case when I'm in that area. I love the parmesan peppercorn sauce... or just the straight up cheddar sauce. mmm.

                                                1. Here are some:

                                                  Il Laboratorio de Gelato
                                                  Petrossian's Cafe
                                                  Dessert Truck
                                                  Sugar Sweet Sunshine
                                                  Jacques Torres Chocolate
                                                  The ubiquitous New York street fairs
                                                  Little Pie Co.
                                                  Tisserie (the goods are appealingly presented though the food is good, not great)
                                                  Sullivan St. Bakery