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« Cakespy's Bite of the Big Apple: A Final Roundup of the Ultimate Cakewalk | Main | Batter Chatter: Interview with Kari Haskell of Retro Bakery, Las Vegas »

Cakewalk in Grand Central Station, NYC


Little Pie and Co.
We can't help but think of NYC's Grand Central Station as Penn Station's better-groomed cousin. Where Penn Station has Houlihan's, Grand Central has the Oyster Bar; where Penn Station leads to Long Island and New Jersey, Grand Central will take you to old-money spots like Greenwich, or old-school spots like New Haven. And while we will always bear a loyalty to Penn Station (after all, much of the Cakespy crew is either NJ-raised or based), we can't help but wonder how the other half lives, and more importantly, what kind of pastries they eat; it was in this spirit that we recently took a grand tour of the Grand Station. Here's what we saw (and ate):

Cakespy Note: Grand Central Station is located at 42nd Street at Park Avenue in Manhattan. In terms of eateries, you'll see that we designate each spot as being located in one of three spots: the Upper Level, Grand Central Market is a Farmer's Market-esque setup, located in a corridor leading to Lexington Avenue; second, the Lower Level, Dining Corridor; third, the few miscellaneous spots sprinkled throughout the terminal are designated as being located on the Upper Level, Outer Corridors

Central Market Grill: We have never tasted the sandwiches or savory fare at this deli. But then again, why should we, when we've found what need and crave, right by the register? Their crumb cake alone is worth a visit: big, buttery, brown-sugary crumbs the size of walnuts (how we like it!) and gorgeous, hefty cake to anchor it. We hear they do offer other things too though. Lower Level, Dining Corridor.

Ciao Bella: What is gelato, anyway? We used to believe the direct translation was "Italian ice cream that costs five dollars", but with some help from one of our favorite books, Everything you Pretend to Know About Food (and Are Afraid Someone Will Ask) by Nancy Rommelmann, we are informed that

while Italian ice cream uses the same basic ingredients as American, the final product is not churned and aerated to the extent that American ice cream is; nor is it stabilized with things like gelatin, which is added to slow the melting process. The result is a more velvety ice cream of incomparable richness.

And certainly Ciao Bella's rich, velvety version has rendered us believers in this Italian treat, more than willing to shell over our cash, clamoring for a fix. Lower Level, Dining Corridor; online at ciaobellagelato.com.


Corrado Bread and Pastry: Nestled right by the Lexington Avenue exit, this place is worth holding out for before emerging into the city: featuring gorgeous cakes (just look at the texture of that frosting!), crisp, crumbly cookies, and a dazzling array of breads (including the Pain D'Avignon featured in NY Magazine), it's a delight, and we've found service to be very friendly here. Upper Level, Grand Central Market.


Dishes: Decisions, decisions: with two locations, one on the upper level and one on the lower level, which to choose? Upstairs, deli-style puddings and platters of creamy tiramisu reign, available by the generous scoop. Downstairs, carbohydrates have a more prominent showing, with a tantalizing display of cookies and the object of our affections, the delectable doughnut muffin. We say go carby: the spoon-and-fork only desserts, delicious as they may be, are probably not the best choice for a commute. Locations both in the Upper Level Grand Central Market and the Lower Level Dining Corridor; online at dishestogo.com. 

Hot & Crusty: Our review for the Penn Station locations holds true here: to paraphrase, we've had touch-and-go experiences here, as some of the pastries tend to look better than they taste. Nonetheless, their crumb cakes and sprinkle-topped cookies are usually a good bet, and it is always warm and smells like sugary perfection when you walk in. Upper Level, Outer Corridors; online at hotandcrusty.com.

Junior's: They're the celebrated cheesecake from Brooklyn, with its trademark sponge cake layer. But really, is visiting the Grand Central location the best way to experience it? We say hold out for the flagship location on Flatbush and Dekalb in Brooklyn; while the cheesecake itself may not be life-changing, savoring it with an authentic egg cream while gazing at the photos on the wall is certainly a rich experience in itself. Various locations, Upper and Lower Levels; online at juniorscheesecake.com. 

Li-Lac: They're not Godiva, nor do they strive to be; and while this is noble, this is not the main reason we love Li-Lac. We love them for their creamy, melt-in-your-mouth non-pareils and their creamy truffles...but of course, also for their visually stunning cases full of chocolates and candies which recall small-town confection shops from a simpler era. Upper Level, Grand Central Market; online at li-lacchocolates.com.


Little Pie and Co.: While we could spend a good deal of time rhapsodizing about their flaky crust, their tantalizingly golden, buttery-brown-sugary topped apple pie, we cannot ignore their equally excellent cakes, which far exceeded our expectations of what a pie-branded business might offer: moist, not too-light cake, with creamy, dreamy frosting. Lower Level, Dining Concourse; online at littlepiecompany.com. 

Paninoteca: As wrap sandwiches wither as a sandwich trend of bygone years, the panini is on top of the world; and while sandwiches may come and go, cannoli is forever. And Paninoteca's, while not the best we've had, is highly decent for a treat that is not easy to find in Midtown: crisp shells encasing a truly decadent puff of sweet ricotta cream. Lower Level, Dining Concourse.

Zaro's Bread Basket: If a tree falls in the woods, does another Zaro's Bread Basket open? It sure seems that way based on how many of them there are between Grand Central and Penn Station. But this is a chain whose proliferation is just fine with us: their cakes are tasty, their displays are gorgeous, and they tailor to their surroundings: we love the "Grand Central" cupcakes (left). Upper Level, Grand Central Market; online at zaro.com.

Did we miss your favorite Metro -North hotspot? Let us know!


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Reader Comments (41)

I remember Grand Central Station when it was a somewhat less seedy version of Penn Station -- no market, no chi-chi shops, and when the Oyster Bar opened it was a very big deal. A year ago we took a walking tour of Grand Central, and it was a revelation to this native New Yorker -- so much to learn about the wonderful building and its environs. The market is a bonus!

since I'll be in NYC soon, I need to jot down that place for sure!

oh and p.s. the new NYC-themed designs in your Etsy shop are TO-DIE-FOR adorable!

February 15 | Unregistered CommenterVeggieGirl

What a nice display of goodies.

February 15 | Unregistered CommenterBea

whee I have to go to NYC this summer. I HAVE TO. I have friends there, the kick-ass museums, and now all these sweet shops. I can't procrastinate any longer.

February 15 | Unregistered CommenterGTangerine

everything looks so good!! but that cheesecake is like a skyscraper....yummm

I love this blog...
and your art is amazing...

February 15 | Unregistered CommenterDiana Evans

Darnit!!! My office was across the street from Grand Central for 3 years .... this brings back memories. Thank you, hun!

February 15 | Unregistered Commenterfamiliabencomo

As if I didn't already miss NYC enough....what a tantalizing blog....makes me sorry that for all those years I whizzed through Penn Station and rarely stopped to eat :(

February 15 | Unregistered CommenterNANCY LEFKO

love your illustration, cakespy. and that cherry strudel pie thing looks divine. and the gelato...i could live on gelato alone. what a fabulous idea...a (cake)walking tour of NYC.

Oh my, I returned from NYC just last December and now because of your photos and description of all the places I've been to, my tummy and I are screaming to return! I LOVE NYC and the food there. I especially love Cold Stone ice cream. :P

February 15 | Unregistered Commentercuriousfoodie

Great NYC post! The drawing you did on the bottom of post is adorable. Love it!

February 16 | Unregistered CommenterGigi

I am a frosting junkie. Forget the cake, give me a nice hard white frosting....god, I am drooolllliiinnng.

February 16 | Unregistered CommenterMaria

omg im drooling!

February 16 | Unregistered CommenterConnie

Yay! Cakespy is in the Big Apple!
I love the 'I LOVE NY' illustration by the way!
I know the smell in Hot & Crusty...is addictive!
Nice tour of NY sweet spots. :-)

February 16 | Unregistered CommenterZen Chef

Ok, the flourless chocolate cake recipe is up.

February 17 | Unregistered CommenterGeggie

Geggie: Can't wait to hear how it went!

Vegan Noodle: Oh yes! It's just like looking at a rainbow of possibilities, just looking at their case!

Stephanie: oooh, I have to check your site to see what sweet stuff you did for Heart Day!

EB: Thanks!! I was happy with how they came out. They capture a lot of what NY is to me personally :-)

Chou: I am hearing the "the more you know.." music playing in my head! We are happy to inform.

Sarah: Please do! Maybe you and I need to have a Seattle Cakewalk now that we're home...

Kevin: Oh, it was all so good!

Bethany: Thanks! We didn't get to go to your favorite, Scoops, though! :-(

Mango Power girl: I used to live there too and it makes me miss it whenever I go back!! Yes, some of the NY designs are available on t-shirts at my cafe press store, http://www.cafepress.com/cakespy !

Janice: You may be right, maybe this is a way of figuring out that manual...sweetly!? Thanks!!

Eat Me, Delicious: Oh yes, you do!!

Blognut: Oh, let us know what you think of it!!

Lydia: Yes, isn't it an absolute inspiration!? Having been a Penn Station girl growing up I never went to GC station til my college years, it was like an eye-opening new world!

Veggiegirl: Yes, and check out the more recent post too for some Vegan leads!! And thank you for the comments on the art, it means a lot to me :-) (warm fuzzies)

Bea: You said it! Thanks!

Gtangerine: YEA! Get over there!! Why wait til the summer?

Diana: Thank you--it is like an architectural work, huh? We think so too! And, likewise, we adore your art! That latest Einstein...you rule.

Amy: Next time you visit... ;-)

Nancy: Oh, how unfortunate! But when you visit next...make up for lost time!

Octavine: Yes, it was a lot of fun! It tends to make traveling a lot sweeter to do it this way ;-)

Curious Foodie: Bet you're ready to go back after reading this and having been there recently! Where else did you like going?

Gigi, Glad you liked it--and the art! Validation is the best, it makes me feel so good! :-)

Maria: We know what you mean. We just went to a place in Portland, OR that sells "Frosting shooters" what a great idea, huh?

Connie: Us, too!

Zen Chef: Aww, thank you! Glad you like the illustration, bet you'll like our following post even more!!

Geggie: Yay, I am finished responding to people's awesome comments so here I go to see it!

February 17 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

I absolutely enjoyed fried chicken at The Pink Teacup. They have pretty good bread pudding and Jello. I ate so much but thank God I also walked so much in NYC.

You know, everytime I hear a siren sound in Singapore, I miss NYC. :( I'm super NYC-sick. BOO.

February 18 | Unregistered Commentercuriousfoodie
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