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Thursday
Feb072008

Cakewalk in Penn Station, NYC

 

Au Bon Pain, Penn Station

New York City's Pennsylvania Station is lovingly referred to as "the home of the dashing commuter", and anyone who's had the pleasure of visiting during rush hour will know this to be a very apt description. It's certainly not for the feint of heart--slow down here and you're likely to get knocked over by suit-and-sneaker clad commuters barreling on by to the 5:23 to Ronkonkoma. Luckily, we know exactly what will give you the strength to deal with the jostling crowds--sweet, sugary pastries. While you won't find Payard here, there are a lot of ways to obtain a good old-fashioned (and at moments, a little bit trashy) sugar jolt at Penn Station; here are our favorite ways to do so:

Cakespy Note: Pennsylvania Station (and thus, all of the below purveyors of sweets listed below) is located on 34th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues in Manhattan; there are two main levels, the "Upper" level housing New Jersey Transit, and the Lower Level housing the Long Island Railroad. Locations are noted in the below Cakewalk as being on the Upper or Lower level.
Au Bon Pain: Yes, they are a chain, with locations around the country, but we have never been disappointed by their crunchy shortbread cookies or crumb cake, which has just the right degree of buttery saltiness to satisfy the palate. Just don't look at the nutrition information which they insist on posting visibly in the cafe--you don't need to do that to yourself. Just enjoy your sweets. On our most recent visit, the Creme de Fleur pastries (title photo) were divine. Lower level, LIRR; online at aubonpain.com.

Auntie Anne's Pretzels: There's a sign by this little pretzel kiosk that says "Snack like you mean it" and this isn't hard when you have cinnamon-sugar dusted pretzels or pretzel bites to keep you company on your long (or short, we're not particular) train ride. Also, we can't help but feel a nostalgia when we go here--it reminds us of being sixteen and getting pretzels and lemonade at the mall in New Jersey. Upper Level, NJ Transit; online at auntieannes.com.

Don Pepi Deli: Although we think their pizza across the hall is better than their deli sandwiches, they do have yogurt muffins and cookies that will make your commute a whole lot happier at this location. What we like about the yogurt muffins is that they seem to maintain a nice moisture and freshness, while not being as heavy as some of their counterparts; the cookies are of that big, crunchy deli variety that never fail to bring us a smile. Upper Level, NJ Transit.

Dunkin' Donuts: Clearly the commuters need caffeine to keep on dashing, and Dunkin Donuts is available for that need--there are several locations and kiosks throughout Penn Station on both levels. As we've mentioned before, they don't have the best quality donuts we've ever tasted...but there's just something so perfect about them anyway. Various locations on both the Upper and Lower Levels; online at dunkindonuts.com.


EuroPan Cafe: We'd never tried this spot before, but found their sweets to be a pleasant surprise, with a nice array of carbohydrate-laden treats. Most of the pastries are from various wholesalers, but they do have our favorite type of deli crumb cake, and a nice array of cookies, cakes, cupcakes and several more Frenchie-type pastries. Lower Level, LIRR.

 

Hot & Crusty: It always smells and looks good in here, but if we are to be completely honest, we've found that a lot of their pastries look better than they taste--the Black and White cookies in particular. However, they do have a very decent crumb cake, and other cookies (sprinkle-topped and M&M varieties) are quite good. Lower Level, LIRR; online at hotandcrusty.com.

Krispy Kreme: In all honesty we'd choose Dunkin' Donuts every time over Krispy Kreme, but we're taking this one for the team because we know there are Krispy Kreme die-hards out there (although if you're one of them, can you please explain what the attraction is?). We will admit that the holiday special donuts they bring out (Heart-shaped Valentine's Day donuts were on display when we went) are awfully cute. Upper Level, NJ Transit; online at krispykreme.com.

Le Bon Cafe: Mostly average sweets of the caliber that you'd get at a typical NYC deli--rich and satisfying, but not necessarily subtle or unique. Nonetheless, they fulfill that need that you sometimes have for something sweet and familiar. However, they do get bonus points for having a novelty we have not seen before: Black and White Rice Krispie Treats--a very nice variation on two classics! Lower Level, LIRR.


Sedutto Cafe: Sedutto is a good spot to pick up some Jersey-shore style soft-serve before your commute. What we love best here though is the cones, which are chocolate-dipped and coated with various types of sprinkles and nuts, which add a nice texture to the cone, and lend a certain "happy" factor to the overall experience. Various locations on both Upper and Lower Levels; online at seduttosicecream.com.

 

 

Zaro's Bread Basket: Zaro's Bread Basket may have a monopoly over the train station business (they have multiple locations in both Penn and Grand Central Stations) but all things considered, they do a pretty good job: solid black and white cookies, cakes, and unique cone shaped cupcakes have kept us going through many a ride down to the Jersey Shore on the train. We don't love their "regular" cupcakes as much as their cakes, but of course we welcome you to choose your own adventure. They're our top pick in terms of good-looking bakery cases, with colorful and ogle-worthy displays. Various locations on both Upper and Lower Levels; online at zaro.com. 
Penn Station Signage Penn Station Departures
Have we missed your favorite commuter sweet spot? Let us know!

 

Reader Comments (32)

OMG I'm so so excited for you to play fashion forward! Email me at designformankind@gmail.com for your assignment... ;)

We always stop at Zaro's before heading home :)
That first photo is great!

February 7 | Unregistered CommenterMaryann

Oh! all the New York memories come flashing back from your posts. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

February 7 | Unregistered CommenterMango Power Girl

OMG this is one hell of a sumptuous cakewalk!! you just cited all my fave specially Dunkin donuts!! Do you know that it doesnt exist in France not even in Paris..i remember i had a craving one time i begged my hubby to drive me to Barcelona to enjoy them LOL!! lovely photos too they made me droooooooooooooooooooooool :-)

February 8 | Unregistered CommenterDhanggit

After 8 years in the US and back In home ground -- India, i really miss au bon pain and kripy creme. The cake walk Brings back fond memories. Thanks for sharing

February 8 | Unregistered CommenterArchana

So, Sedutto's is actually from Staten Island, where both of my parents immigrated too, and where I was born (moved away as a baby). My parents grew up in the 50s and 60s and loving talk about Sedutto's. The factory used to be on Staten Island. It's closed now and moved to NJ, I think. My family is all disgusted and says that nothing is the same as it "used to be". Ah, times...they are a'changin'.

February 8 | Unregistered CommenterGeggie

It must be wonderful to live near these gorgeous cake shops, thanks for sharing!

February 8 | Unregistered Commenternicisme

You nailed Hot and Crusty. The displays always look great, but leave me a little disappointed when actually enjoying my snack on the train back home. I fear that with the Little Pie Company, Grand Central has the better baked goods offerings!

So many delicious looking shops. My boyfriend doesn't like doughnuts either way, and even though Dunkin Doughnuts is closer, I would prefer Krispy Kreme any day of the week. While DD is more of a cake-like texture, KK is light and fluffy and that fattening glaze is to die for. :)

February 8 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

I am, in fact, one of those dashing commuters! This is a terrific guide to the sweets of Penn Station, and a good reason not to scurry through like I normally do! I'm printing it out, and tucking it in my bag.

February 8 | Unregistered CommenterT.W. Barritt

DD over KK all the way! Krispy's way too sweet and hides crappy dough behind lots of goppy stuff.

And I always have the "chain" reservation about Au Bon Pain, but they're orange scones are out of control, albeit sort of disgustingly fake orange colored.

February 8 | Unregistered Commenterblognut

I'm so jealous!!! I lived there for 5 years in my 20's & I was too obsessed with my weight to appreciate all there was out there being offered. (Ironic, now!) I'm lov'n your post on NYC. Thank you, sweets!

February 8 | Unregistered Commenterfamiliabencomo

Up until the 10 years I spent in the south, I would have said Dunkin Donuts over Krispy Kreme. This statement no longer holds true with me. There is nothing, I mean nothing better than a glazed doughnut, hot off the line from Krispy Kreme. It has to be hot.You have to go into an actual Krispy Kreme to have this supreme doughnut. The rest of the doughnuts KK sells are equal to the Dunkin Donut line. But the hot glazed doughnut from KK is the one doughnut to rule them all.

(If you have only had KK is gas stations, then you don't understand the real deal.)

February 8 | Unregistered Commenterslush

Well you certainly can't be faint of heart when trying to feint the onslaught of cranky commuters! :-)

Loving your NYC reviews so far... and loved, loved, loved getting to walk around the 'burg with you!

February 8 | Unregistered CommenterAnn

It's true - Dunkin' Donuts aren't the best. But I still HAVE to have one, with a cup of Dunkin' Donuts hazelnut coffee, every single time I visit New York.

February 8 | Unregistered CommenterMallow

Design: Awesome, what a fun project!

Maryann: Thanks! They were yummy too. :-)

Mango Power: No problem, thanks! I live in Seattle too!

Dhanggit: They have DD in Barcelona??? No way, I have to go!

Archana: Happy to give some good food memories!

Geggie: Yes, I think Sedutto merged with a bigger company and moved. So strange because even though companies change and "aren't the same" there's something comforting still in some ways. Strange phenomenon...

Nicisme: It's like being in a sugar shock here!

Curly: Ohhhh don't even get me started on Little Pie and Co.; I LOVE THEM! I was so bummed that they closed their 9th ave / 14th st. location. Check back next week for the companion piece, CAKEWALK IN GRAND CENTRAL!

Emily: Nice sell on the fattening glaze...you may win us over yet!

TW: What a compliment! Thank you! Hopefully it keeps the commute sweet!

Blognut: I know the scones you mean! Just close your eyes and they're delicious, but I am pretty sure that color doesn't occur in nature.

Familia: Bummer, you missed out!!! Luckily you can still visit!

Slush: You too have made a great pitch on the Krispy Kreme--maybe we just haven't had the "right" ones yet!

Ann: Thanks! And it was so rad going to the 'Burg with you. BTW that brownie...to die for.

Mallow: Isn't it funny how that works? Perhaps it is their comforting pink and orange sign, but there's just something about DD.

February 8 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

I love Penn Station :o). The workers at their Auntie Annies very kindly made me a cinnamon sugar pretzel last year without butter :o)

What a great introduction to eating and commuting. I hope I get to move to NYC someday. :) Although I'll always be a Chicago girl.

February 8 | Unregistered Commenterchou

Just this past Monday I picked up 2 muffins from Zaro's to take on the train with me for hubby and I ....one cranberry, one blueberry. Very large and delicious, not greasy or too sweet, just the way I love them! And the woman bagging them up was a delight!

February 8 | Unregistered Commenterteaorwine

I always stop at Zaro's before hopping on the train! I love their Black & White's. They have pretty good Blondies also; nice size. Yum!!

February 8 | Unregistered CommenterThe Cupcakery

hey! thanks for coming by :)
it's always such a pleasant surprise when people visit!

im loving your illustrations.. it's actually kind of like how i draw my goodies too. hehe, but yours is much much cuter.

Get thee a hot glazed KK! Look for the red neon sign on the window that says HOT NOW. Or maybe it's NOW HOT. Either way, you get the idea.

February 9 | Unregistered CommenterSurcie

It's the top photo that does it for me!

February 9 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret

Hello Cakespy
I happened tp land up on your site and have been ogling at the wonderful stuff you have posted here..
Had a great time..
Do stop by my site whenever you can

February 9 | Unregistered CommenterSugarcraft India

All of those pictures are making me drool! So delicious!

You've been tagged :-)
http://mrsrodeba.blogspot.com/2008/02/meme.html

February 10 | Unregistered CommenterRobin
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