Not long ago, I heard about a group of artists who do the most wonderful thing to keep themselves inspired: they will navigate that city with a map of a different city. The idea, of course, being that sometimes, removing yourself from your natural element can help you see the world through new eyes. Well, to say I was enamored of this idea would be a bit of an understatement, and I have since tried to incorporate this idea into my pastry-eating and adventuring.
So when I was headed to NYC, to create an adventure to rival my pastry half-marathon, I knew I'd have to think of something good.
And then it came to me: a literal cakewalk. Here's the 411:
- How: I took a map of Manhattan, and on both the upper east and west sides, I wrote the word “Cake” and transcribed it into a walking route (can you see it on the map above?)
- Why this route: Well, because it was going to involve a lot of backtracking, I realized that choosing these neighborhoods, which bookend Central Park, would result in not only an interesting comparison, but would also ease up the physical amount of walking.
- But what if I missed a good bakery? Well, I made a few side trips, but the idea in general was to have a route that might take me by places I might not otherwise have heard about and to possibly make some new discoveries.
- Total Miles Walked: Many.
What did I find? So many sweet discoveries. Read on for the chronicle of the Upper East Side trek:
Bonus coverage: because I couldn't NOT, I did veer off of the grid slightly for a small side adventure before starting the east side cakewalk:
First, Breakfast at Tiffany's: I drew a little Audrey Hepburn-inspired croissant to kick off my journey.
And now, on to the Cakewalk. Here are highlights from the love letter I sweet-walked across the grid of the Upper East Side (click here for the West Side tour):
59th Street: Macaron Cafe. A cafe dedicated to la belle macaron—what could be sweeter?
60th Street and 3rd Avenue: slightly off of my C route, Dylan's Candy Bar was worth the block diversion, because, after all...
59th Street and 3rd Ave: Financier Patisserie. A cute-as-a-button bakery featuring all manner of Frenchie Sweets.
Sidebar: I headed over to one of the little parks that dot the side streets off of Sutton Place, where you can see the view of the Queensboro bridge made famous in Woody Allen's Manhattan. Sweetness!
63rd and York: Sweet serendipity! De La Vega is an NYC artist who is very prolific with sidewalk chalk—it was a delight to discover some of his work. I kept on finding it around the east side, which made me feel like I had a sidewalk chalk compatriot.
73rd and York: Sugar Loaf Cafe. Gawd, isn't that just the best name you've ever heard?
75th and York: The best of the Delavega art I came across, wherein “become your dream” was “become your ice cream”. I left a little response. xo.
78th and 1st Avenue: Bagel and Appetizing. I always love the crumb cake at places like this.
Between 79th and 80th Streets on 1st Avenue: Anneliese's Pastries. Featuring row after row of cupcakes, cookies, and a very surprising variety of roulades, this place gave the entire block a nice, buttery scent.
80th and 1st Avenue: Agata & Valentina. This gourmet grocery not only had great produce but a nice array of treats obtained from various local wholesale bakers.
81 st Street: Gracie Mews Diner. Sweet tip: on the Sunday I walked by, their brunch menu featured something so magical it almost brings a tear to my eye: Brownie Waffle Sundae. I did not try it, but it evoked such sweet fantasies that I couldn't not share.
80th Street and 2nd Avenue: H+H Bagels. Complete with a second entrance for tiny people! (Kidding—it is where the flour is pumped in, I believe).
82nd and 2nd Avenue: Sweet Temptations, Nut City: It was closed, but the sign did make me smile.
76th and 2nd Avenue: Caffe Noi. For when it's Gelato o'clock!
76th and 77th and 2nd Avenue: Pick a Bagel. Once again, the crumb cake!
75th and 3rd Avenue: Citarella. This gourmet grocer always has some nice sweets, generally from nicer local bakeries.
79th and 3rd Ave.: Crumbs Bake Shop. I've had hot and cold experiences at this cupcake chain, which has proliferated around NYC and now beyond. If I am going to tell you the complete truth, I have enjoyed their cookies more reliably than the cupcakes.
79th and 3rd Ave: Corrado Pastry. This bakery has a location in Grand Central Terminal too, and I was delighted to see a bigger cafe. Good cookies.
80th and 3rd Ave: Eli's. Now, this place is kind of like heaven for foodies. Let's pause to see just a few of the sweeties on offer (a mix of baked in-house and outsourced). The picture above really does not show how extensive their baked-good and sweet offerings truly are--candy, confections, cakes, pastries, pies, cookies...the works. It is like heaven.
Necessary side trip: Wm. Greenberg's, for some of the most celebrated black and white cookies.
83rd and 84th at York: Yorkville Creperie.
86th and 2nd Avenue: Dunkin' Donuts. If you believe it, this is the first one I ran across (unless I missed on along my route previously?)
Necessary side trip: Two Little Red Hens, where you can get your cupcake on, old school style. Just walk over to York Avenue.
86th and 3rd Avenue: This isn't necessarily sweet, but I totally saw Emeril filming at Gray's Papaya at this corner. Cool.
86th and Lexington: Tim Horton's. Just donut. Also, Shake Shack--anyplace that has a Custard Calendar is just fine with me.
93rd and 3rd: Corner Bakery. Featuring fauxtess cupcakes, cookies, and more, this spot was packed.
3rd Ave at 95th: Zesty's Pizza, one of my guilty pleasures, has delightfully greasy zeppole.
96th and Park: Gourmet Garage. Another good bet for baked goods wholesale from some of the city's nicer bakeries.
101st at Park: A sweet heart on the street.
102nd and Lexington: Delicious Bread House. Believe it or not, I used to live on this corner. But when I lived on this corner, this place wasn't there, just a friendly guy who would stand in front of this empty storefront and, I think, deal drugs. Maybe I wouldn't have moved away if this place had been there. The place is roughly the size of a postage stamp, and baking is not done on premises—instead, they receive their baked goods from a variety of wholesalers—but the two workers there during my visit, who were adorable, told me that their goal was to bring artisan bread and delicious pastries to Spanish Harlem. I told them I loved them. Everything was stupid-cheap: I picked up a three-pack of cakey Lemon drop Italian cookies for $1.50. More info here.
110th and 1st Ave: La Tropezienne. This was the jewel gilding the lily of the E on my final turn. Unmarked and unassuming from the outside, I probably wouldn't have looked twice but for the crowd and the singular, heady scent of butter and sugar that I know signifies “Bakery”.
Inside, I discovered a sweet spot indeed: cases and cases of delicate french pastries, cakes, tarts, and even cream puffs shaped like swans. More info here.