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Mar 7, 2009 09:58 AM

What's wrong with City Bakery?

They pulled the salami and eggs from the breakfast menu.

Then they did away with the spare, but well edited periodical rack.

They stopped stocking the tiny but enveloping "Chocolate Room" with dark and unusual chocolate bars.

And now, I just heard, they've canceled the amazing melted chocolate cookie due to the high price of the good dark chocolate featured in said confection.

What's next, rationing of sesame seeds on the pretzel croissant? Everyone please go eat at City Bakery. If you don't, I fear it will be gone before we know it.

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  1. I've dropped into City Bakery a couple of times, once shortly after it opened and most recently a few months ago. I find it fits its home at the Mart on San Vicente and 26th quite well -- frou-frou, overpriced, precious, and catering to rich soccer moms driving Mercedes or big SUVs by themselves while the kids are in school. Some of City Bakery's products were indeed gorgeous, but the per-pound prices were offensive. Their business model emphasizes luxury over value -- if the market can no longer accommodate that I say good riddance.

    11 Replies
    1. re: nosh

      To be fair, Reddi Chick at the Country Mart can hardly be described with those same adjectives (rou-frou, overpriced, precious, and catering to rich soccer moms driving Mercedes or big SUVs by themselves while the kids are in school), nosh - no matter how one feels about CB.

      1. re: Servorg

        Reddi Chick is that rara avis : a non-stuck up place in Brentwood.

        What's wrong with City Bakery? It's too bloody expensive for the beautiful but mediocre-tasting wares they hawk, that's what's wrong.

        1. re: Das Ubergeek

          Barney's is not exactly a frou frou operation either and even the Italian place on the SW corner of San Vicente and 26th has never given me the feeling of Rodeo Drive. I have never had the feeling of the Country Mart being too-too precious. Hell, I ride my bicycle up there and I am wearing some of the grubbiest clothes I've got (which reach pretty damn far down the grubby meter) and feel completely at home at the Mart with no one giving me a second look or treating me like a pariah.

            1. re: Bob Brooks

              nor disagree less. I sense envy.

              It is one of the better surprises in LA. Yes City Bakery is flawed but
              the cookies and croissants are great.

              1. re: epop

                but that molten chocolate chip cookie was the only good thing on the whole menu though it did cost 3.50 for a fucking cookie if i am correct.

                1. re: epop

                  I've always liked CB, but I've frequented the one in NY more so that's my reference point. Pretzel croissants are great and the cookies are usually very good. I actually like the salad bar. As I recall, they priced it $4 more than NY when they first opened in Brentwood and NY was already pricey. And the one here never had the tarts when I went in. Kind of strange.

                  1. re: emily

                    Brentwood discontinued the daily made tarts about a year ago. They sold the 9" and the 4"....lemon and macadamia caramel. They no longer sell them and they don't make them special for an order. Several months ago I called the owner (never did talk to the owner) to let them know what was happening here in LA. I would have been a devoted follower of their tarts and quite a few people I know would have also. But I ended up talking to
                    someone else that called me back. The end was sort of 'oh well' on their part and they seemed to not care about whether I came or left.

                    1. re: latindancer

                      Customer service has never been City Bakery's strong suit. Try asking them to heat up their hot chocolate.

                      1. re: a_and_w


                        and what's with the odd odor?

              2. re: Das Ubergeek

                altthough reddi chick is not exactly cheap, a chicken plate with fries and soda is over 12 bucks, but a roast chicken plate at zankou with drink is 8 bucks.

          1. That's interesting.... I live outside of NYC and there is a City Bakery in Manhattan that I visit on a regular basis. I, too, have noticed the quality of their baked goods has slipped somewhat. I wonder if the one in LA is affiliated with the one in NYC.

            Like you have mentioned, there is also a chocolate room in the Manhattan store and we also have Pretzel Croissants (with sesame seeds) on the East Coast. If they are indeed affiliated, maybe the quality slip has to do with mass production.... and operating as a restaurant chain.... I should check out the one in LA when I visit next time just to confirm.

            16 Replies
            1. re: bearmi

              I believe they are related.

              And I have to disagree that Reddi Chick is not there catering to the SUV-Moms; they like to slum it is much as the next van-Mom, especially when they don't have to travel to do so. This is slumming-it to-go; delivered to their own home turf. It's the stuff of requisite "gritty" memories among Brentwood School alums.

              I like to walk through City Bakery just for the alienation-experience; voyeuristic baked goods. Sometimes they have samples out. I got an expensive brownie once that was in fairness absolutely fantasmagorical.

              1. re: aliris

                I'm not sure what you mean by catering to the "SUV-Moms" but my point is that Reddi Chick is not some fancy schmancy, frou frou, overly precious type of place that a hound from the hinterlands of LA would feel out of place buying chicken from. It's unpretentious as can be. Do they sell chicken to people who live in Brentwood? Of course. Why wouldn't they?

                1. re: Servorg

                  City Bakery is overpriced, understaffed, the quality of the food is terrible. The last time I walked through there, I took a look at the salad bar. There was nothing appealing. Every item looked tired. Moreover, the place was dead on a Saturday afternoon. There was a long line at Barney's and, of course, Reddi-Chick.
                  City Bakery is a terrible waste of space. Much too large, much too sterile. If they are really cutting back on those melted chocolate cookies, I predict that thy won't be around much longer.

                  1. re: maudies5

                    The only thing I get at CB are pretzel croissants, and not that frequently. But they are unique and delicious. I've never tried anything else from CB, not even the vaunted melted chocolate chip cookies.

                    1. re: Servorg

                      They are unlikely to make their budget by selling the pretzel croissants (which I agree are good). When I was at the Country Mart recently, I noticed that those folks eating salads were not eating the ones from C.B., they were eating the salads from Barneys (which are very good). I think that most of the traffic in C.B. is from those using it as a passageway from one patio to the other.

                      1. re: Servorg

                        Agreed -- the pretzel croissants are really the only saving grace.

                2. re: bearmi

                  The Brentwood City Bakery is, indeed, affiliated with the Manhattan store.
                  There's been a problem for the last few months with the bakery producing some of the things people loved. I, for one, was in love with the lemon tart they made....there simply was/is no better. Unfortunately they neither make it any longer, on the daily basis they were doing before, but it's impossible to order it either.
                  I have always loved City Bakery. I think they came to Los Angeles with a very different clientele their used to in New York....Anglenos are very discerning and restaurants come and go here as quick as one can blink. From what a long gone manager at City Bakery told me several months ago....people were constantly complaining about their prices.
                  The pretzels are what I go for and some of the salads are fabulous.....the Israeli couscous being one. I'm sorry to hear about the chocolate cookies....they're divine.

                  1. re: latindancer

                    Thanks for confirming... How much are the pretzel croissants in LA? Are they about $3.50 or $4? I think that's how much they are in NY. Let's hope it's not more than that... In this economy, it will be a bad thing to price them any higher :(

                    1. re: latindancer

                      I wouldn't say New Yorkers are exactly easy to please, you know... but I will agree, you can't import New York prices to LA and expect to get away with it unless you TRULY have a stellar, A-1, no-competition product. Urasawa, for example (though that wasn't imported from New York), or Cut (ditto). Craft can get away with the prices because their food is excellent; not so City Bakery. There are too many better places with cheaper prices.

                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                        I believe there are restaurants in the Los Angeles area that will weather this downturn for many reasons and it's not solely because of the good food they're producing.
                        I also believe there are places that had better watch their inventory and the turnover of their product.
                        This weekend, and I'm going to not mention the name of this establishment (yet) because I'm a true, loyal follower, I ordered a few bakery items and came home and they were definately either day-old or longer. I ended up throwing one of the items out.
                        The freshness and taste and consistency was not what people are used to.
                        I'll try once more but if it happens again I'm seriously thinking they're cutting corners and I'm not going to play the game.

                        1. re: latindancer

                          If you have a possible downhill report, even on a place that you like, that's why we're all here. So let the truth fly and maybe other hounds can chime in with their take on the place as well.

                            1. re: Servorg

                              Okay as much as I hate doing this, as it is one of my favorite places in all of Los Angeles for cinnamon rolls and a few other items, I'm wondering if anyone else has experienced some little differences from what it was in the past. Maison du Pain. I've ordered cinnamon rolls and noticed their texture is a little different from what I'm used to....they're a little more doughy without the flaky crust that makes them stand out from all the others.
                              The other item I'm in love with is their fruit parfait. The last two times I've been in the fruit on top seems not as fresh.
                              I can't imagine them keeping things day old and selling them but I'm not sure.

                        2. re: latindancer

                          I don't think it's the clientele. Do a search on the Manhattan board and you will find many complaints about City Bakery.

                          1. re: latindancer

                            "Anglenos are very discerning and restaurants come and go here as quick as one can blink. "

                            i think we can say the same thing for NY as well. the food business in NY is super tough.

                            i haven't lived in NY for over a decade but i grew up there and know my NY well since i have family there and go back for visits. i think that the concept of something like city bakery originated in the west. so really it's like a west coast style eatery in NY imported back to the west . it just doesn't quite work very well. and when in NY people are used to paying premium prices for gourmet salad bars here we have salad up the yin yang so it's not offering anything very new.

                            1. re: latindancer

                              of course, people are complaining about their prices, even the rich people might feel like they are getting fleeced.

                          2. I've never been to City Bakery in Brentwood but have heard someone raving about their cookies. A few months ago when I was given a gift of their chocolate cookies and also their chocolate chip cookies I was eager to eat it. It was really hard and dry like crumbly bricks, not my idea of cookies worth raving about at all.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: chowchow12345678

                              If I want a decadent chocolate cookie, I buy a package of Corey's Cookies at the Brentwood Farmers Market or at Vicente Foods.

                            2. I had the salami and eggs just a couple of weeks ago. It was kind of great - I love that the salami slabs in the pizza-size omelet are as thick as Snickers bars. And the French toast, pretzel croissant, hot chocolate, tarts, etc. were all stellar. The salad bar kind of sucks in the NYC one too - with just a couple of exceptions, City is a baked-goods emporium, and deviations are generally punished.

                              1. Trader Joe's sells their chocolate cookie doughs. Same product, I heard, but without the "City Bakery" name on the box.

                                I saw salty pretzel croissant at the Bread Bar in Century City. Wonder if they are as good as City Bakery??

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: fdb

                                  The one from CB comes without any salt on the surface at all. Just a taste that is a deep buttery, rich, flaky goodness.

                                  1. re: Servorg

                                    Bread Bar carries a few items from Rockenwager, a policy I love. Maybe this is one those offerings?

                                  2. re: fdb

                                    I'm going to go to Trader Joe's today and buy what you're talking about....about one second will tell if there is a difference. They're the only cookie I like at City Bakery. I find the rest of the cookies a little heavy on whatever fat they're using....
                                    The Chocolate cookies, however, are rich and chewy and delectable.
                                    I love the criossants at Bread Bar, and everything else for that matter, but nothing comes close to City Bakery's pretzel croissant. They're in a league of their own.

                                    1. re: latindancer

                                      That's interesting. I'll have to try the TJ's cookie dough, too, since I really like the CB cookie.

                                      1. re: emily

                                        Try the chocolate chip cookie at The Curious Palate on Venice Blvd.
                                        They have lots of other good stuff too.