Food & Drink

New York City's Most Iconic Desserts, Mapped

Published On 04/27/2016 Published On 04/27/2016
Jason Hoffman and Jennifer Bui/Thrillist
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

Red velvet donut

Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop

Address and Info

Greenpoint

There is little better than having an excuse to eat cake for breakfast, especially in a deep-fried, handheld form. This 62-year-old donut shop starts turning out its popular red velvet cake doughnuts at 4:30 in the morning. Cakey and unfussy, the red doughnuts are a lightly glazed take on the classic Southern cake. And on hot days, owner Donna Siafakas and her staff will split open the doughnut and fill them with cherry amaretto ice cream to make an ice cream sandwich that puts all others to shame.

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Salty Honey Pie

Four & Twenty Black Birds

Address and Info

Gowanus

It’s impossible to have a conversation about pie in New York City and not bring up Four & Twenty Blackbirds. Sisters and founders Melissa and Emily Elsen started baking pies out of their Brooklyn apartment for custom orders before opening their famed pie shop in 2009. The Salty Honey pie -- which features an extra buttery crust and rich honey custard filling -- is one of their most famous and most unique creations. Each pie is topped with large flakes of sea salt to cut through the filling’s sweetness.

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S’mores pie

Butter & Scotch

Address and Info

Crown Heights

Before Allison Kave and Keavy Blueher opened their cocktail and dessert bar in Crown Heights in 2015, they were selling slices of their addictive s’mores pie to the hungry crowds at Smorgasburg. The pie features a graham cracker crust made from scratch, a filling of thick chocolate ganache, and a chewy layer of toasted marshmallow fluff. It’s all the best parts of camping without any of the bugs or lack of toilet paper.

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Banana cream pudding

Magnolia Bakery

Address and Info

West Village (& other locations)

People who like to pretend they are in an episode of Sex and the City may line up for this bakery’s cupcakes, but its tubs of banana pudding are the real draw. Vanilla wafers are layered with slices of fresh banana, creamy vanilla pudding, and condensed milk to create a dessert so good that any serving size is a single serving. Magnolia opened its first location in the West Village in 1996 and now sells its banana pudding around the globe. Best of all, the bakery very recently launched a chocolate version just incase you needed an excuse to order a second tub.

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New York cheesecake

Junior’s

Address and Info

Downtown Brooklyn

This is the cheesecake that P. Diddy has cast members of Making the Band walk across bridges to go get. Since 1950, the Downtown Brooklyn institution has been serving up incredibly dense slices of its famed cheesecake. Unlike many cheesecakes, Junior’s version skips a graham cracker crust and ricotta in favor of of a thin layer of sponge cake and a heap of cream cheese. While the restaurant serves a range of other flavors, the original version still remains the most iconic.

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The Salty Pimp

Big Gay Ice Cream

Address and Info

East Village (& other locations)

One of the best ice cream cones in the city also has one of the best names. The Salty Pimp -- which started out as a special in 2009 when Doug Quint and Bryan Petroff were still running just an ice cream truck -- is true to its name. An elegant twist on a Mister Softee, the dessert features vanilla soft serve that’s drizzled with stripes of thick dulce de leche, sprinkled with sea salt, and dipped in chocolate to create a crunchy, sweet exterior. While Quint and Petroff empire has grown to include shops in cities like Philadelphia, you can grab a Salty Pimp anytime you want at their two New York City locations, as long as you are willing to brave a line.

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Salted chocolate chip cookie

Ovenly

Address and Info

Greenpoint

These magical cookies created by Ovenly founders Agatha Kulaga and Erin Patinkin are soft but chewy, rippled with melty chocolate, perfectly salted, and secretly vegan. The pair launched Ovenly in 2010 and ever since then their chocolate chip cookies have been displayed in charming glass jars in pretty much every coffee shop and ice cream store in the city, which makes chocolate chip cookie o’clock an all-day everyday affair.

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Hibiscus donut

Dough

Address and Info

Bed-Stuy (& other locations)

Walk into any relatively hip coffee shop in the city and you are likely to find Dough’s recognizably large and puffy yeasted donuts in their pastry case. They are the brainchild of Chef Fany Gerson, who opened the first location of Dough in Bed-Stuy in 2010. Her doughnuts -- most notably, one glazed with a bright pink hibiscus-flavored frosting -- first gained attention when she started selling them at Smorgasbord. The hibiscus donut, which is inspired by Gerson’s childhood in Mexico, is sweet and tangy and will make you question why you ever bothered eating any other flavor.

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Mille Crêpes

Lady M

Address and Info

Upper East Side (& other locations)

Lady M’s crepe cake takes the concept of a layer cake to a new level. The bakery -- sorry, cake boutique -- which has been open since 2004, is inspired by the bakeries of Japan, but their most famous creation finds its roots in France. The cake is made from a stack of 20 thin crepes, each of which are capped off with a layer of a light and subtle pastry cream. The cake comes in a number of flavors, including green tea and strawberry, and the result is one of New York City’s most Instagram-friendly desserts.

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Cronut

Dominique Ansel Bakery

Address and Info

Soho

Dominique Ansel is a wickedly talented and imaginative pastry chef behind such creations as the frozen s’more and the chocolate chip cookie shot, but his legacy will forever be tied to the Cronut (a name he quickly trademarked). Ansel nonchalantly added the doughnut-croissant hybrid to his SoHo bakery’s menu just before Mother’s Day in 2013 to fill the doughnut void on the menu. It quickly took off, thanks to a little help from the food blogs, and within a handful of days hundreds of people were lining up each day to grab one. The pastries, which are filled with cream on the inside and glazed on the outside, are still incredibly popular, with people still lining up as early as 6am to get their hands on each monthly flavor.  

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Black and white cookie

Glaser’s Bake Shop

Address and Info

Upper East Side

Upper East Side institution Glaser’s Bake Shop -- which first opened in 1902 -- is the go-to spot for the popular bi-colored cookie. While many black and white cookies feature a soft cakey base with fudgy frosting, Glaser’s version is topped with a drier fondant-style chocolate and vanilla icings. Clearly, the recipe has been working for the bakery, seeing as the cookie has been on the menu for nearly 100 years. Still, to this day, no one can answer the question of which half should be eaten first.

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Cereal Milk Soft Serve

Momofuku Milk Bar

Address and Info

East Village (& other locations)

The menu at pastry wizard Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar is a veritable list of iconic New York desserts, from her Crack Pie to the Pinterest-friendly Naked Layer Cakes. Tosi’s most famous creation however, is her Cereal Milk Soft Serve, which people have been lining up for since she threw open Milk Bar’s doors in 2008. The lines aren’t surprising considering that the dessert tastes exactly like the milk leftover after pounding a bowl of cornflakes at midnight. And since it’s made with real corn flakes, it counts as a healthy breakfast too (kind of, maybe).

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Creme brûlée dounut

Doughnut Plant

Address and Info

Lower East Side (& other locations)

Doughnut Plant blessed New York City with its portable take on a creme brûlée in late 2008. While the creme brûlée is much smaller than their other doughnuts, it weighs nearly as much as its compatriots, thanks to heavy dose of vanilla custard filling. The top of the soft, yeasty doughnut (sorry, cake fans) is crowned with caramelized sugar to give it the custard dessert’s signature crunch. Best of all, it requires no spoon and can be shoved into your mouth in one very large bite.

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Chocolate babka

Breads Bakery

Address and Info

Union Square

It’s not hard to see why Breads Bakery can sell upwards of a thousand loaves of their braided chocolate babka per day during the holidays. Ever since Gadi Peleg opened the bakery in 2013 the rich loaves -- which are made from a laminated dough -- have been a major draw. It probably helps that the loaves are bursting with ribbons of chocolate-hazelnut spread. Many say Breads Bakery helped spurn a babka renaissance in the city, a buttery revolution we can get behind.

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Chocolate chip walnut cookie

Levain

Address and Info

Upper West Side (& other locations)

The thick, gooey cookies from Levain weigh in at just under a 1/2lb each and definitely embrace the saying, ”Bigger is better.” Loaded with chocolate chips and walnuts, the cookies have spawned a number of copycats -- but don’t be fooled by the imposters. The cookies are best hot out of the oven of the bakery’s tiny store-front on the Upper West Side, which has been a New York City institution since it first opened in 1995. Created by Levain owners Constance McDonald and Pamela Weeks as a way to refuel while training for the Ironman triathlon, the hefty treat will definitely be able to help you power through a city-wide dessert eating marathon.

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1. Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop 727 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222

This donut shop in Greenpoint is over 60 years old, having opened its doors in the 1950's. They offer all kinds of pastries, egg sandwiches, and more than 20 varieties of donuts, like French crullers and creme-filled and crumb-topped yeast varieties -- but the signature is the lightly glazed red velvet cake donut, which they start turning out at 4:30am. During the hotter summer days, you can get it split open and get it filled with cherry amaretto ice cream.

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2. Four & Twenty Blackbirds 439 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215 (Gowanus)

Four & Twenty Blackbirds is synonymous with great pie in New York. Before opening their famed Gowanus shop in 2009, sisters and founders Melissa and Emily Elsen were baking made-to-order pies out of their Brooklyn apartment. Four and Twenty's menu changes seasonally, but expect a mix of custard, fruit, and chocolate pies. The signature is the trademarked Salty Honey pie, which features a buttery crust, a rich honey custard filling, and large flakes of sea salt.

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3. Butter & Scotch 818 Franklin Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11225 (Crown Heights)

Butter & Scotch is a genius dessert and cocktail bar in Crown Heights. The menu is split between drinks like crafty cocktails and boozy milkshakes, and desserts that range from ice cream sundaes to cakes and pies, including the signature s'mores pie made with graham cracker crust, thick chocolate ganache, and toasted marshmallow fluff. The spot's weekend brunch serves up breakfast cocktails that go beyond the basic Bloody Mary and biscuit-centric plates.

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4. Magnolia Bakery 401 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014 (West Village)

What started out as a tiny West Village cupcake shop has since expanded across the world (it has a location in Hawaii). Magnolia's frosting-laden cupcakes are definitely worth the hype, but it's the tubs of banana pudding, thick layer cakes, oversized muffins, and dense cheesecakes that make this bakery such a destination. The West Village location, which opened in 1996, is also the best spot to catch a glimpse of the expert cake decorators icing cupcakes in the window.

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5. Junior's Restaurant 386 Flatbush Avenue Ext, Brooklyn, NY 11201 (Fort Greene)

Since 1950, this Downtown Brooklyn diner has been serving up incredibly dense slices of its famed cheesecake. Unlike many cheesecakes, Junior’s version skips the graham cracker crust and ricotta filling in favor of a thin layer of sponge cake and tons of cream cheese. Though every table at the landmark restaurant orders the cheesecake, the menu features all the New York diner staples, like loaded corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, steakburgers, and all-day breakfast.

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6. Big Gay Ice Cream Shop 125 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009 (East Village)

A funky and elegant twist on Mister Softee, this ice-cream-truck-turned-brick-and-mortar operation has reinvented the art of soft-serve with kitschy-named creations that breed snaking lines around the block in the summer. Take the Salty Pimp, an ice cream cone filled with vanilla soft-serve, drizzled with thick dulce de leche, sprinkled with sea salt, then dipped in chocolate. Aside from the elaborate speciality cones, Big Gay Ice Cream Shop also churns out sundaes, shakes, and seasonal flavors.

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7. Ovenly 31 Greenpoint Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222 (Greenpoint)

This Greenpoint bakery started out as a side project between two friends, Agatha Kulaga and Erin Patinkin, who bonded over a shared passion for baked goods. Their confections were so popular that Kulaga and Patinkin quit their jobs to become full-time bakers, and now, Ovenly is one of the most critically-acclaimed bakeries in the city. They sell adventurous but uncomplicated treats like multi-flavor layer cakes, salty-sweet cookies, and brownies and bars. They also cook up gluten-free and vegan options that taste as good as the real white flour-and-dairy thing.

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8. Dough 448 Franklin Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11205 (Bed Stuy)

Dough is the brainchild of chef Fany Gerson, who first started gaining attention for her glazed goods when she sold them at Smorgasburg. She opened the first Dough bakery in Bed-Stuy in 2010 and has since expanded with a second shop in the Flatiron. Gerson's cult-favorite donuts and pastries are inspired by her childhood in Mexico, especially the signature bright pink hibiscus donut, which comes topped with a sweet and tangy glaze made with dried Mexican hibiscus.

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9. Lady M Cake Boutique 41 E 78th St, New York, NY 10075 (Upper East Side)

Lady M is an upscale bakery-slash-cake boutique inspired by the minimalist bakeries of Japan, but its most notable creations are rooted in France. The specialty is the crepe cake, which takes the layer cake concept to a new level. Each cake is made from a stack of 20 thin crepes, each of which is capped off with a layer of light pastry cream. Lady M also sells elegant pastries like mille-feuilles, éclairs, and rich galettes.

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10. Dominique Ansel Bakery 189 Spring St, New York, NY 10012 (Soho)

Master pastry chef Dominique Ansel’s eponymous SoHo bakeshop is best known as the birthplace of the Cronut, a croissant-doughnut mash-up that attracts lines of tourists every morning. There’s a limit of two Cronuts per customer, but luckily the hybrid pastry isn’t all Ansel has in store. The shop sells bite-size fruit tarts, rich chocolate cookies, and Ansel’s other signature sweet, the kouign amann.

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11. Glaser's Bake Shop 1670 First Ave, New York, NY 10128 (Upper East Side)

If there's one thing this century-old, family-run bakery does well, it's the black-and-white cookie. Glaser's take on the New York classic is really more cake than cookie, but still light enough to let the flavors of the half-chocolate, half-vanilla frosting shine through. After just one bite of its doughnuts, cakes, or muffins, you'll see why it’s a safe bet Glaser’s will be here for another century or two.

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12. Momofuku Milk Bar 251 E 13th St, New York, NY 10003 (East Village)

The original, pint-size location of pastry wizard Christina Tosi's Milk Bar serves all of her signature confections: the sugar-and-butter-based crack pie, birthday cake truffle balls, and the pretzel-potato-chip-coffee-oatmeal-butterscotch-and-chocolate-chip creation known as the compost cookie. Milk Bar's most famous outpost is arguably its cereal milk soft serve, which tastes like a creamier and sweeter version of the leftover milk in a bowl of cornflakes.

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13. Doughnut Plant 379 Grand St, New York, NY 10002 (Lower East Side)

Doughnut Plant laid its roots in owner Mark Israel's Lower East Side basement in the ‘90s, and grew to be a leader of New York City’s new-wave donut craze. DP now has outposts in three boroughs and Tokyo, and its popularity continues to spread thanks to seasonal specialty items (coconut-lime and rose petal) and beloved inventions (a jelly-filled peanut butter doughnut). But it’s the game-changing creme brulee doughseed with a crisp shell and creamy vanilla innards that takes the cake -- or glazed icing -- every time.

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14. Breads Bakery 18 E 16th St, New York, NY 10003 (Union Square)

Right off of Union Square (and with a second location on the Upper West Side), Breads bakes sweet and savory bread, pastries, and cakes on-site. The bakery is most known for its braided chocolate babka loaves that burst with ribbons of chocolate-hazelnut spread. Breads is also a good option for a grab-and-go midday meal -- the lunch menu features cheese and smoked fish sandwiches, plus soup and salad.

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15. Levain Bakery 167 W 74th St, New York, NY 10023 (Upper West Side)

This tiny bakery on the Upper West Side has been a New York City institution since it first opened in 1995. Levain sells fresh baguettes, quick breads, and other baked goods, but it's the thick and gooey cookies that draw a line out the door most days of the week. Weighing in just under a half-pound each, the giant cookies come in rich flavors like walnut chocolate chip, dark chocolate peanut butter, and oatmeal raisin. They taste best when fresh out of the oven, and they usually are.