Insomnia Cookies has sat on West 8th Street since 2008, and during that time has cultivated the loyalties of numerous NYU students thanks to its namesake product: cookies delivered throughout the wee hours, usually warm, and often with milk. Plenty of people frequent the place during the daytime, too — it’s pretty much the only place to score a cookie fix on the block, which sits between Fifth and Sixth avenues.
Or was until last month, when Casetta Organic Coffee quietly began selling cookies from Sarivole Organic Bakery in an all-but-unmarked storefront down the street. Sarivole is the work of baker Michelle Sarivole, a production manager for Roni-Sue’s Chocolates. Sarivole bakes out of Roni-Sue’s Essex Street Market stall, and sells her wares at spots throughout the city (last summer, they shared a Hester Street Fair booth with Roni-Sue and Allison Kave’s First Prize Pies). Curious to see how they compared, we decided to hold a West 8th Street chocolate-chip-cookie battle.
First we went to Casetta, which occupies a storefront about the size of a cockpit. But it’s as well-appointed as it is tiny, and offers an impressive variety of Sarivole’s cookies. The chocolate chip cost $2, and though diminutive in diameter, had promising thickness that looked to accommodate an even more promising quantity of chips.
As pictured above, the cookie made good on its promise: One bite through its crisp exterior yielded lots of bittersweet chocolate and a rich, crunchy-chewy crumb that tasted of good butter, brown sugar, and a hint of coffee. The flavor was also faintly salty, which gave depth to the sweetness. All in all, it was a well-balanced cookie long on both flavor and chips — in other words, exactly what we look for in a chocolate chip cookie.
Next, we walked west to Insomnia.
Although its storefront is small and unassuming enough to look like it houses a mom-and-pop business, Insomnia is actually part of a chain that was founded by a University of Pennsylvania student in 2003. It now has locations on campuses throughout the Eastern Seaboard and Midwest, and offers a lengthy roster of its titular treats, which are always served warm. Their $1 chocolate chip is billed as a chocolate chunk, and while there are indeed chunks, in our cookie they all coalesced into a single fissure in the middle of the cookie, leaving the rest with a slightly bereft appearance.
To better judge the cookie’s true merits, we let it cool, since, frankly, even the worst baked goods can be passable when they’re warm out of the oven. Once cooled, the cookie’s texture proved slightly tough and rubbery, though still agreeably soft in the middle. But the flavor was as flat as the cookie itself, and gave us nothing to work with but sugar. It was also oddly familiar, and after a few bites we realized why: It reminded us of the half-price, week-old boxes of Entenmann’s chocolate chip cookies that the father of our best friend in high school used to bring home in bulk from the grocery store.
Although we were already disposed to give Sarivole the win, this minor epiphany cinched it, and so we can say unequivocally that Sarivole’s chocolate chip cookie holds our affections, regardless of the time of day or night.
Casetta Organic Coffee/Sarivole
11 West 8th Street
50 West 8th Street