First, a complaint: we have way too many fantastic pastry shops in New York, and highlighting so few means some greatness is sure be excluded. But here are 10 delightful places to go eat pastries anyway. The list include some American cookie standards, sweet German riffs, and classic French viennoiserie, each with its own distinct style and strength.
Don’t see a favorite of yours here? Show it some love in the comments, and don’t forget to tell us what you like to order.
10. Annaliese’s Pastries This quiet little bakery in Yorkville isn’t much to look at, with its fake flower displays, peeling paint, and airbrushed shortcakes, but don’t be fooled–the crisp raspberry bars of deeply browned puff pastry topped with a thin layer of jam and crumble are utter delights. And the ever-so-simple, heart-shaped Linzers with a tender, butter-rich cookie? They don’t make ’em like that anymore. 1516 1st Avenue
9. Bouchon Bakery It’s a bit unfortunate that Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery is on the charmless third floor of a mall, but you can always get a boxful of treats to go. Bouchon excels at refining old-fashioned American sweets, without ruining them. The TKO, a grownup Oreo, and the Nutter Butter, are real crowd pleasers. Traditional French viennoiserie, and dense chocolate tarts, are also always on point. 10 Columbus Circle
8. Ovenly Owners Agatha Kulaga and Erin Patinkin first bonded over their love for baking and books. But Ovenly’s pastries aren’t cerebral–they’re pretty, delicate and delicious. The Stumptown Shorty is a crumbly shortbread, gently salted, and flecked with bitter coffee and toothsome nuggets of dark caramel. The nut cookies (which just so happen to be gluten-free) are lovely, teeny bites, held together by beaten egg whites and sugar–try the dense, floral pistachio number. 31 Greenpoint Avenue, Brooklyn
7. François Payard Bakery This French pastry shop is part of François Payard’s international patisserie empire, and as a result, it has a whiff of corporate sameness to its decor. But in pastry, consistency and precision can be a great strength, and Payard uses it here for good, not evil. We love to sit and have the super fancy cakes by the slice, rolled up beautifully with buttercreams and jams, or a passion-fruit macaron with coffee, while watching the bustle in the kitchen behind the glass. 116 West Houston Street
6. Grandaisy Bakery
Known for its rustic, artisanal breads, Grandaisy’s small, underrated selection of sweet pastries also hit the spot. The tortino di frangipane, those tart cherries in a lopsided cake of frangipane, held together by a chocolate crust, and the buttery ginger cookies sandwiched with sharp lemon curd, are reliably wonderful. 250 West Broadway
5. Milk Bar
Christina Tosi’s unique style of baking often walks the line between cooked and raw, or sweet and savory. Such is the power of the sweet flavors and textures at Milk Bar, that a tender corn cookie or a slice of crack pie aren’t just desserts, they’re tickets back to the sweetest, stickiest days of your childhood. 382 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn
We first tasted Matt Tilden’s work a few years ago, when he was baking out of the Toby’s pizza oven after hours, turning out small batches of sourdough breads that were rich with texture, flavor, and character. His sweet baked goods at his Bed-Stuy shop are just as fun, like the chai sticky buns made with cocoa nibs and cornflour, and the buttery chocolate-and-fruit-studded scones. 1069 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn
3. Dominique Ansel
Daniel Boulud’s pastry chef, Dominique Ansel, left the Daniel kitchen to open his own French pastry shop, where he specializes in lovely updates of textbook pastries, like filled choux pastry religieuses, layered cakes, and Bordeaux-style canneles with dense crusts and custardy insides. Go early to get a sugary, buttery kouign-amman. 189 Spring Street
2. Levain Bakery This Upper West Side bakery makes massive, weighty cookies that are still the stuff of legends. Cookies with browned edges and soft, tender middles, that somehow never taste raw. How do they do it? When will we stop talking about it? The monster chocolate chip cookie is packed with walnuts and semi-sweet chocolate, and always wins us over with its satisfying chew and intense flavor. 167 West 74th Street
1. Bien Cuit Everything from this rustic Brooklyn bakery run by husband-and-wife duo Zachary Golper and Kate Wheatcroft is both pretty and delicious. We go weak in the knees for their beautiful Frenchy fruit tarts with buttery crusts, gorgeous, dark brown croissants with feathery centers, and pains au chocolat with crisp, singed edges of chocolate. While you’re there, pick up a loaf of bread that’s so good, you’ll want to buy it some fancy butter. 120 Smith Street, Brooklyn