New York City is full of famous places. Some deserve the hype, while others don’t. Some people truly believe that Times Square is a wonderful place and think Sbarro serves up a quality slice of New York pizza, and others feel that “Little Italy” in Manhattan has some of the best authentic Italian food in the country (they clearly haven’t spent any time on Arthur Avenue).
Similarly, when it comes to dessert, many NYC visitors overspend on subpar slices of cheesecake and dried out cupcakes. I made the sacrifice and ate my way through some the most famous desserts in New York City and determined which ones are actually worth the hype.
Frozen hot chocolate sounds like a contradiction, but after taking a sip of this magical concoction, nothing will seem out of place. The appropriately named “Frrrozen Hot Chocolate” is essentially a frosty chocolate milkshake topped with an insane amount of whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Share this massive dessert with a friend (or two) in the charming Upper East Side cafe. The whimsical decorations of Serendipity 3 remind me of a “Friends”-era NYC coffee shop, but you won’t be able to get a table without a reservation. They have a long menu of savory and sweet eats, but stick with this classic drink — unless you’re willing to splurge for the $1,000, record-breaking Golden Opulence Sundae.
Magnolia Bakery is kind of a two-for-one. We began obsessing over their cupcakes thanks to Carrie Bradshaw, but the adorable retro-style bakery has way more to offer. (Read: banana pudding.) I hate bananas, but am obsessed with Magnolia’s banana pudding. It’s a super generous portion of light, fluffy bananas and Nilla Wafers, so you can save some for the next day or pretend it’s a meal. Their cupcakes are also decent, but stick with classic flavors like red velvet or black and white. Its Bleecker Street location is open until 12:30 a.m. on the weekends, so it’s the perfect place to grab a late night snack.
If you’re someone who thinks the Cronut is overrated, you probably haven’t had one from Dominique Ansel’s bakery. Layers and layers of fresh pastry are revealed after you take the first bite, and a new flavor each month keeps newbies and Cronut veterans coming back. Each pastry is rolled in sugar, filled with cream and topped with a special glaze. According to Mr. Ansel, the entire Cronut process can take up to three days depending on the complexity of the flavor. At $5 each, these are a bargain. (P.S. December’s flavor is Gingerbread Valrhona Milk Chocolate and Pear, with cinnamon sugar and speculoos cookie.)
If you think your mom makes the best chocolate chip cookies in the world, you’re in for a wake-up call. Chocolate chip cookies are one of the most perfect foods — crispy on the outside, soft and melty on the inside and perfect with a glass of cold milk. Levain Bakery has taken this classic after-school snack to the next level. The large cookies look more like scones, are nearly an inch thick and are deliciously gooey on the inside. I must warn you, the chocolate is going to get all over your face. At $4 a pop, I can definitively say that these are worth every penny.
There is perhaps no dessert more iconic than classic New York cheesecake. The indulgent, creamy treat is done best at Eileen’s, a bakery that’s overshadowed by the better-known Junior’s. Cheesecake is a relatively simple dessert (my mother’s no-fail recipe has only four ingredients), but it’s very easy to overcook or undercook, resulting in soggy crust or dried-out and crumbly filling.
Eileen’s Cheesecake is a no-frills bakery in Nolita that has an endless selection of cheesecake flavors, everything from Pina Colada to peanut butter. But still, I recommend ordering the original, plain, no-fuss cheesecake. Top it with strawberries if you must, but this dessert doesn’t need any pomp or circumstance.