Try a Torrija at Hogar Dulce Hogar, a New Cafe in Soho
Gonzalo Cabrera says the torrija is famous in Spain and will be soon, he hopes, in New York.
All photos by Hannah Palmer Egan
Around the corner from Dominique Ansel Bakery, Hogar Dulce Hogar (341 West Broadway), Spanish for "Home Sweet Home," serves a different kind of pastry. Sweet and humble, but no less worthy than a Cronut™ but for the lines, the torrija is an old sweet, a poor-man's treat, a kind of Spanish French toast with roots in the Spanish Civil War. "All the mothers and little grannies were making it as a way to use up the old bread," says Gonzalo Cabrera, general manager at the new Spanish bakery and cafe that opened in Soho in late March.
Direct from the Michelin-starred streets of San Sebastian, Spain, where it has a sister bakery, the cafe brings simple, tasty Spanish and Basque foods to New York, most of which are made from scratch in-house, many from time-honored Old-World recipes.
Here, you'll find pastries: cakes and cookies, croissants and little tartlets, all made moist and just right; none too sweet. Of particular note, of course, is the torrija, a rich, sweet treat made with milk-soaked stale bread, eggs, and just a touch of lemon, then fried and rolled in sugar. It's as good as it sounds and worth trip just to try.
But you can also sit down to a meal. Cure a hangover with huevos rotos, a skillet full of soft-cooked fries topped with chorizo or paper-thin flakes of jamon Iberico and a runny fried egg. Get it with a side of guac, well worth the $6 it'll cost you for a hearty half-order.
Or try an apple-bacon burger on a soft whole-wheat bun, drizzled with tangy sauce with wide-cut, well-salted fries; it's just right for lunch, not super huge or heavy. And we'll be heading back for the Iberico, a killer grilled manchego sandwich with tumaca (Spanish-style cooked tomato with garlic) and nutty ham. The sandwich, on plain white bread (which is also excellent) isn't much to look at, but it is great. There is also a smattering of fresh, crisp salads, simple and lovely.
Freshness and simplicity, Cabrera says, are at the heart of the cafe's philosophy: "We want to bring food back to another time," he says, when food was uncomplicated and made in-home by families who ate together. "It's nice to have a place where you don't have to spend a lot of money, and where you can feel like home," Cabrera says. "You can come here and do whatever you want."
In the coming weeks, look for more sandwiches stacked into house-baked bread -- hams and other cold cuts, guacamole, and more manchego -- and, once the liquor license goes through, Spanish beers and wines to drink into the evening.
But in the meantime, post up on the couch, snuggle under a blanket with a book (they keep a small, crowd-sourced library) and a cup of thick (like pudding) Spanish hot chocolate, and watch the tourists wander down West Broadway.
Ensalada dulce, with apples, nuts, and sweet-tangy dressing.
A burger, with apples and bacon.
The Iberico grilled cheese is ridiculously good.
All the gelati are made in-house; light and bright ones like green apple or lemon, or deep, dark, black chocolate that is basically toasted cocoa incarnate.
The cafe uses 6 Origins Coffee, with beans sourced from six locations around the world.
More pastries, these with toasted marshmallow and sweet glaze.
Huevos rotos with jamon Iberico.
There is also a wall of flowers.
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