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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: Das Ubergeek

            Could not agree more.

            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 story....it 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

                        funny.

                        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.

          2. 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

                            was it huckleberry cafe.?

                            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.
                              Thoughts?

                        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.

                                  3. I walk to the City Bakery every weekend and have been to Huckleberry and to Curious Palate and had the cookies...and the chocolate chip ones at City Bakery are BY FAR my favorites--worth every penny (and the high price keeps me from eating too many). They are on the dry side--very shortbread meets cookie. I would put Huckleberry in the #2 position and Curious Palate doesn't even rate (I found the food there very "meh"). That being said, if you like a gooey chewy cookie, you will not enjoy CB.
                                    As for their salad bar--too expensive and clearly is not a customer favorite because it always looks like it's been sitting out way too long and not as fresh and the term "salad bar" might imply.
                                    And yes, the employees are rather rude and young--and yes the decor is sterile...but those cookies!

                                    And they had/have scrambled egg whites with burrata and sun dried tomatoes that are divine too!

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: BunnieBear

                                      I'm just the opposite with the cookies....the chocolate are devine but the rest taste like they've dumped a little too much crisco or something in them. They're odd.

                                      1. re: BunnieBear

                                        Yes, best cookies in LA by far.

                                      2. Why one concept works so well in NY and not so well in LA isn't so much a mystery as a disappointment. It's not a secret that times are tough on food establishments these days, so do be sure to grab the hot chocolate, pretzel croissants, cookies and Maury Rubin's famous tarts before they're replaced by another snob fest in the Brentwood Mart.

                                        16 Replies
                                        1. re: tablefor1

                                          but city bakery is a snob fest, and i put up with it for one of the chose Melted Chocolate Chip Cookies and now that they do not offer it anymore, I most likely won't be visiting in the future.

                                          It's too bad. That was far and away the best dish on their entire menu.

                                          1. re: tablefor1

                                            I'd grab the famous Maury Rubin tarts if there were any to be grabbed.
                                            They've chosen not to make them like they used to.

                                            1. re: latindancer

                                              Alas, latindancer, you are correct. They can only be ordered by special order. Why Rubin has stopped the tart production, I know not. (how's THAT for sentence structure!) His Book of Tarts is out of print and though he keeps things seasonal and it's not always available even by special order, his lemon tart is absolutely the best I've ever had.

                                              kevin, I guess I don't consider City Bakery a snob fest because... among bakeries in NY, it's NOT a snob fest, but I guess its location in LA kind of lends that nose-in-the-air factor. Payard's in NY is a snob fest. Tea at the Four Seasons is a snob fest. City Bakery is kind of NY deli meets cafeteria meets rustic all-natural greenish bakery meets... BRENTWOOD.

                                              1. re: tablefor1

                                                Well that makes 2 of us then, tablefor1.
                                                The lemon tart is really quite something. ...definately the best. I've tried special ordering it to no avail. What a shame.
                                                The last time I inquired about a special order, which was several months ago with no success, I was told the baker didn't have the necessary ingredients and it was an executive decision to not make them anymore.

                                                1. re: tablefor1

                                                  IMO, City Bakery is also a snob fest in Soho, NYC.

                                                  1. re: a_and_w

                                                    City Bakery isn't in Soho. It is 18 blocks north of Houston in the Flatiron district.

                                                    1. re: epop

                                                      I'm sorry -- you are correct. Not sure what I was thinking of...but I definitely mean City Bakery. The place with seating upstairs.

                                                      PS: I got confused with Grandaisy, which is in Soho but isn't the least bit snooty.

                                                  2. re: tablefor1

                                                    you are correct on one count, i haven't been to the NYC locations so i can't comment on those.

                                                    but the brentwood location is sure as hell a snobfest. and i believe that's a fact rather than my humble opinion.

                                                    1. re: kevin

                                                      Unfortunately judging for snobbery is a personal thing so it is subjective. Not like 1 + 1 = 2. Even in Thackeray's book on snobs he admits this.

                                                      Some of their products are excellent, many aren't, but this is Brentwood and the place reflects the clientele.

                                                      My problem with the place is that it could be so much better but they seem resistant to change and love their own ways and tastes too much.

                                                      1. re: epop

                                                        So what bakery items/foods are excellent in your opinion?

                                                        1. re: kevin

                                                          the cookies and the pretzel/croissant. To each his own but I would eat many of these if my doctor didn't mind.

                                                          1. re: kevin

                                                            The French toast is a breed unto itself.

                                                        2. re: kevin

                                                          It's freaking Brentwood! That sense of entitlement is almost an ethnic thing there, and the behavior is appropriate in that context. You are sitting down as a guest in a cafe designed to please a very specific group of people, and you can deal with it or not, just as you can choose to deal with, say, the noodle czar at Dai Ho.

                                                          1. re: condiment

                                                            I agree. Plus I have problems when I'm treated rudely but I've never experienced anything of the sort there.

                                                            1. re: epop

                                                              Appears that City Bakery's last day in Brentwood is Saturday. Link to LA Times :
                                                              http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/daily...

                                                              1. re: maudies5

                                                                Don't let the Santa Anas hit you on the way out...

                                                  3. City Bakery is rumored to be closing it's doors tomorrow (Sat Apr 10th). So sad as it was a great space. I will miss their exquisite pretzel croissants. Very sad day in foodland.....

                                                    7 Replies
                                                    1. re: smitten

                                                      I don't see the closing of City Bakery as a "very sad day in foodland."
                                                      I am hoping that that space goes back to its original roots. Imagine: That huge space once contained a good deli (R.I.P. Marjans)., a butcher and a bakery. Along the way, we also so the comings and goings of a produce mkt and small grocery store. Don't know that a little grocery store could survive, but a really good Deli in Brentwood would be a welcome addition.. I won't miss City Bakery. Brentwood Country Mart was a poor venue for their concept.

                                                      1. re: maudies5

                                                        I don't think there was any problem with the concept or the quality or the location. The problem was they were not responsive to what the community wanted and were unwilling/unable to make changes.

                                                        I really wanted to like the place, but the menu just didn't have much on it I wanted to eat. The cookies and pastries were really good, I got some Praeger Port wine vinegar there. But there was too much wasted space, If they had expanded the menu.. eliminated the salad bar and made some of that stuff to order. Then moved all of the pastries to the center Island. They would have had more business IMHO.

                                                        There was really bad flow to the layout. It frustrated both people trying to get food and people getting pastries.

                                                        1. re: AAQjr

                                                          "There was really bad flow to the layout. It frustrated both people trying to get food and people getting pastries."

                                                          AAQjr, great points in general and the flow issue especially - that's why I only had enough patience to get their cookies - which were quite good - but not enough to make me return for more frustration - never mind the snoot factor. I think if businesses in general tap into the psyche of the typical Angeleno (I guess like me), ease of use/flow is an important factor to build into a place. This especially applies to a place like City. Places of this nature are in essence a luxury of sorts - a visitor is looking for moments of happiness and pleasure. Thus, if an Angeleno is given respite - no matter how brief - from the the myriad complex issues plaguing our natural inclination to "follow the path of least resistance," s/he will return time and again.

                                                      2. re: smitten

                                                        I find it hard to be too sad - CB never really did it for me. I liked their cookies, but everything else I had there had more potential than delivery. And I agree that the sapce was not well-utilized - it always felt cold and disorganized. But I do hope something great goes in in its place!

                                                        1. re: smitten

                                                          According to the LAT, some of the items will be sold at Breadbar
                                                          "Rubin says he also has partnered to sell some of his products wholesale via Breadbar, such as his cookies, muffins and pretzel croissants." So, don't give up hope on getting the pretzel croissants.

                                                          1. re: maudies5

                                                            It makes sense they'd partner....especially since City Bakery sold Breadbar's bread.

                                                            1. re: latindancer

                                                              So this confirms that the pretzel croissants that I've seen at Breadbar in Century City are indeed from City Bakery.

                                                        2. So did they close, or was this a "pay attention to me" publicity stunt?

                                                          5 Replies
                                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                            I just called and asked if it were true that they are closing. "Today is our last day."

                                                            1. re: maudies5

                                                              Well that just sucks.

                                                              1. re: latindancer

                                                                I will really miss their french toast.

                                                                1. re: joshekg

                                                                  I will too. It's the sad realization I have knowing I won't see or taste the pretzel croissants again.
                                                                  Darn.

                                                                  1. re: latindancer

                                                                    They did say someplace in the story I saw in the LA Times (IIRC) that they would be looking to relocate to the WeHo area (one possibility) so don't give up your hopes quite yet.