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Has Mike's Pastry gone downhill?

Isolda Oct 5, 2010 11:00 AM

When I was in my 20s living in Boston, I used to go to Mike's Pasty frequently for cannolis and later for sfogliatelle, which were pretty tasty. Now that I'm two decades older and out in the burbs, I don't get to the North End that often, but each time I go, it seems that the quality from Mike's gets worse. This past summer, I had a sfogliatelle from there that had a very artificial cinnamon taste. Last night, my husband stopped by Mike's on the way back from the airport and bought macaroons (the almond kind, which were okay), a plain cream puff, which was filled with an artificially flavored custard, a wax-chocolate covered cream puff, filled with the same artificial custard, and nastiest of all, a rhum baba, which was clearly dyed a fake yellow and soaked in vile, bitter fake rum syrup. Moreover, every single pastry tasted as if it contained sodium benzoate, the vilest non-food substance ever added to food, but that's a topic for another day.

So were cannolis the only thing that was ever decent there or has something happened? I don't intend to get anything from Mike's ever again, but I do need a new North End pastry shop, so would appreciate your recommendations. (And yes, I know the cannolis at Modern are decent, or at least they were the last time I was there.)

Oh, and why do bakeries ever use artificial anything? If you're going to the trouble of baking, why not use actual food?

  1. nsenada Nov 30, 2010 09:28 AM

    The only things I ever get at Mike's that I can't get elsewhere are the cannoli that are made out of one of those florentine cookies (I think that's what it's called - the one that's basically like a skor bar in cookie form). They are totally over-the -top in terms of sweetness, and probably can't really be considered "cannoli," as such. Otherwise, I do like walking around with the boxes. Tends to ward off being asked where Paul Revere's favorite red sauce joint can be found, etc.

    3 Replies
    1. re: nsenada
      lipoff Nov 30, 2010 10:22 AM


      1. re: nsenada
        StriperGuy Nov 30, 2010 11:26 AM

        The pistachio cookies and the black and white cookies are the only things I like there. Otherwise Modern or Marias.

        Mike has never been any good. I lived in the NE from 88-96 and it mostly sucked then.

        1. re: StriperGuy
          9lives Dec 1, 2010 12:21 PM

          I don't know how youcan go downhill when you're at the bottom of a valley. I've lived in Boston for 30+ years and if there were a CH back then, Mike's would have been poorly rated and the posts would have read similar.

          That said, I do likr their pistachio macaroons/cookies...cookies

      2. r
        Ralphie_in_Boston Nov 30, 2010 06:40 AM

        As others have implied...downhill from what? Every time I get dragged there by friends and visitors, I regret it. Everything there is either too sweet, too stale, or too mushy.

        To the post that said the line 3-deep at Modern = 30 minute wait...TRUE THAT!!!! I've gotten to the point where I walk by Modern, notice the line, then head right to Maria's where there is usually no line....and GREAT stuff.

        1. lipoff Nov 29, 2010 10:38 PM

          I think it's hard to go downhill from the depths that they have been at for a long time. Maybe they were once good, before my time? Modern is much better in the North End. I have a soft-spot for Bova's "snowball" cookies.

          But for Italian pastries more generally, I really like Antoines Pastry Shop in Newton.

          134 Salem St, Boston, MA

          1. w
            Willy Wonka Nov 29, 2010 04:37 PM


            Some of the items in the case look good, but at the end of the day they strike me as Wal-Mart like.......homogenous, lack character, lack flavor.

            If given the option of Mike's vs. Costco, Costco's bakery is our choice.

            I do have to give Mike's credit for their marketing; their cardboard boxes seem to be in many tourist's hands.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Willy Wonka
              treb Nov 30, 2010 06:01 AM

              'their cardboard boxes seem to be in many tourist's hands' another tip off for avoiding Mike's, tourists! what do they know? Agree, I'd take Costco over Mike's any day.

            2. f
              FoodDabbler Nov 28, 2010 12:00 PM

              I'm late to this thread, but Mike's hasn't been uphill for a very long time.

              1. l
                lergnom Oct 5, 2010 07:31 PM

                Mike's makes a good ricotta pie but I've never been a big fan. I much prefer Maria's. I miss the old Modern, pre-Milano makeover.

                1. StriperGuy Oct 5, 2010 05:25 PM

                  As someone who lived in the NE for quite a while, Mike's has always been mostly mediocre.

                  Bova's is just bad.

                  Maria's and Modern are good.

                  134 Salem St, Boston, MA

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: StriperGuy
                    pondrat Nov 29, 2010 05:49 PM

                    I'm a sfogliatelle snob and I must admit the one's at North End Treats in Natick (supplied by Bova's) have been very good...as are the lobster tails.

                    Much of this depends on exactly when you buy the pastry. The 7pm sfogliatelle is a totally different pastry than one bought before noon.

                    134 Salem St, Boston, MA

                    North End Treats
                    Natick, MA, Natick, MA

                  2. r
                    Rick Oct 5, 2010 01:58 PM

                    We recently tried Mike's and Modern's cannoli. Two of us preferred Mike's, two of us Modern, but all agreed both were very good. I got a sfogliatelle from Maria's and was thoroughly unimpressed. The lobster tail and torrone from Modern were incredible.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Rick
                      kimfair1 Oct 5, 2010 02:43 PM

                      Are you unimpressed with sfogliatelle in general or just Maria's. If so, where do you like the sfogliatelle (if Mike's, I ain't switching as I've had thiers and was unimpressed as well).

                      1. re: Rick
                        Isolda Oct 5, 2010 03:52 PM

                        Yes, where can you get good sfogliatelle in the North End? I sometimes find it at Whole Foods in Framingham, of all places, but it's decent, not great, and I'm pretty sure they buy it from somewhere else. I've made sfogliatelle (once) and it's just too hard to get right for that many places to make it.

                        1. re: Rick
                          viperlush Oct 5, 2010 04:52 PM

                          Have you tried the sfogliatelle at Modern?

                        2. g
                          Guinness02122 Oct 5, 2010 01:53 PM

                          They must have gone from bad to terrible. I don't remember Mike's ever being good. I went once 23 years ago and the cannoli I had tasted like a weatabix wafer stuffed with slightly sweetend vream cheese. Yeah, pretty nasty.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Guinness02122
                            Isolda Oct 5, 2010 03:50 PM

                            Yeah, a part of me wondered if my taste had improved over the years.

                            1. re: Isolda
                              Jenny Ondioline Oct 5, 2010 06:26 PM

                              It's entirely possible that Mike's is as mediocre to bad as it's always been (to be fair, the sesame cookies are pretty good), but your tastes have changed. That's as likely a scenario as anything.

                          2. viperlush Oct 5, 2010 11:59 AM

                            My monthly trip to the North End for pastry is the following:

                            Mike's for marzipan. My brother prefers the larger softer pieces. I did try one of their cannoli cupcakes last week and it was too bad. Way to much cannoli filling and not enough cake, but price wise it was good (I think $2.5). I plan to try a different flavor next time. But I tend to find Mike's too sweet and the servings too large. And I don't like having to wade through the tourists snapping pictures (both inside and outside of the restaurant).

                            If the line isn't too long Modern for cookies. Sometimes I'll pick up my cannoli.

                            Maria's for cannoli, black and whites, marzipan. I prefer the fill to order cannolis. I prefer the B&Ws at Marias (when they aren't stale) over the too sweet half moons @ Lyndells. My mother prefers the small and harder marzipan at Maria's. In the fridge @ Maria's they have single serve tiramisu. It makes a snack to eat while walking around (or while waiting for the T @ Haymarket).

                            My roommate swears by the cookies at Bova's, but I regularly doubt his food/restaurant preferences.

                            134 Salem St, Boston, MA

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: viperlush
                              robyn76 Oct 5, 2010 12:22 PM

                              Bova's is good in a pinch (and I love that they're open 24 hours), but Maria's pastries and cookies are better. I was never a big fan of Mike's.

                              134 Salem St, Boston, MA

                            2. k
                              kimfair1 Oct 5, 2010 11:27 AM

                              Also, honestly, I've never been a fan of Mike's cannoli either, mostly because they prefill them.

                              1. k
                                kimfair1 Oct 5, 2010 11:26 AM

                                Modern or Maria's. There's a cookie my wife likes at Mike's, but that's just about the only thing I'll get there. The sfogliatelle is especially good at Maria's, which is my preferred bakery, mainly because if you have more than 3 people in line in front of you at Modern, you might be there for 30+ minutes waiting..

                                1. t
                                  treb Oct 5, 2010 11:15 AM

                                  Mike's reminds me of the European resto on that used to be next door on Hanover St.
                                  un-remarkable, shoulda gone to Modern.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: treb
                                    Isolda Oct 5, 2010 03:54 PM

                                    Oh, this was worse than unremarkable. I will remember how bad these pastries were for a long time!

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