The rise of the bakery-café hybrid in New York City

The bakery-café trend takes over NYC, from Deutsch joints specializing in Brot and Brezeln, to French-inflected spots where you can linger like a true Parisian.

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Pastry and coffee to go no longer cut it: The city has seen a wave of bakery-café hybrids—any-hour affairs where you can pop in for a sugar-dusted croissant on your way to work, sammies on fresh-baked bread during your lunch break and house-made pastas for dinner. From baguette-wielding French boulangeries to Italian-accented wine bars churning out serious ciabatta, these straight-from-the-oven spots offer more than a loaf for dinner.


Photograph: Jessica Lin

Brezeln at Landbrot

Landbrot

The bakers: Düsseldorf expats Volker Herrmann and David Rothe found a vital piece of their motherland missing from New York: a traditional German bakery. The pair recruited Bavarian master baker Robert Scholtz to satisfy downtown carbo loaders on both sides of Manhattan with a pair of bakery-cum-bars in the West Village and LES, plying Teutonic pleasures like jelly-filled Berliners, wood-fired Flammkuchen (flatbread) and yes, beer.
The space: Night owls looking for a witching-hour bite before stumbling to their next watering hole can pop into the narrow LES location. Line your stomach with Gouda pretzel pockets and hoist prost-ready pints of Höss Holzar (the bar’s the only one in the States to pour the brand) until 2am. The cozier, wood-walled West Village spot is geared toward daytime noshing, with fresh-baked bread and robust coffee perfuming the joint. Watch the treats lowered 30 feet from the second-floor kitchen to the marble bar via a glass dumbwaiter.
The goods: A knotty New York staple, street-cart pretzels endure for their sentimental—not gastronomical—value. But take Scholtz’s brezeln ($3): More German than Gotham, the blistered twists are hand-formed in the Swabian (southwest) style, with thin, crunchy arms and a fat-bottomed base, slashed to reveal fluffy white dough straining against a golden-brown bark. Also from the hearth come dense breads like the eponymous Brot (a caraway-flecked country bread), enjoyably tangy in its own right, but even better as a vehicle for zippy herring fillets ($10.50) or plump farmer’s brats ($8). The baked apple strudel ($4.25) is downright gorgeous, a flaky wedge of phyllo encasing a moist mixture of apples, raisins and walnuts, with a light snowing of powdered sugar on top. 137 Seventh Ave South between Charles and W 10th Sts (212-255-7300) ● 185 Orchard St between E Houston and Stanton Sts (212-260-2900) ● landbrotbakery.com

  1. Multiple locations

Runner & Stone

The bakers: Peter Endriss spent years finessing high-end rolls at Per Se and Bouchon Bakery before teaming up with Blue Ribbon Brasserie toque Chris Pizzulli and winning over the Smorgasburg set with his Bolzano ryes. At this bakery-restaurant, Endriss burnishes yeasty creations in the second-floor kitchen while Pizzulli oversees the menu downstairs.
The space: The sleek 45-seat eatery finds itself in good company near the Gowanus Canal—it joins indie clam shack Littleneck and its spin-off, the Pines, on Third Avenue’s burgeoning restaurant row. It’s also only a few blocks  from the site of Brooklyn’s first flour facility, the 17th-century Gowanus Mill, an apt setting for the flour-dusted venture. Signifiers of the spot’s bread obsession run from obvious (goods piled up on the dark-wood bar in front) to winking—its name refers to the top and bottom millstones in an old-time flour mill, and antique flour sacks have been cast in cement as “bricks” in the walls.
The goods: Endriss’s crusty, nutty buckwheat baguette ($3.50) is a standout, with its speckled crumb and slight sourdough bite courtesy of wild yeast levain (a starter). There are clever signs of the baker’s mark throughout Pizzulli’s kitchen menu as well: Buckwheat flour, the same used for those baguettes, gets folded into toothsome dumplings ($6), and fudgy dark chocolate is mixed with slightly spicy rye and caraway for a rich, offbeat brownie ($8).

  1. 285 Third Ave, (between Carroll and President Sts), 11215
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Breads Bakery

  • Price band: 1/4

The baker: Uri Scheft may be new to Gotham, but he’s already cemented his loaf-legend status in the bread world, running Tel Aviv’s acclaimed Lehamim Bakery since 2001. The Denmark-bred baker brought his mix of Scandinavian (dark rye breads) and Jewish staples (hamantaschen, challah) to Union Square this past January with his first U.S.  outpost.
The space: The utilitarian, 9,000-square-foot complex is split into three areas: a retail front filled with hubcap-size loaves and sugar-dusted croissants; a 20-seat café supplied with lattes from the coffee station; and a bustling open bakery in the back, stocked with racks of rising dough and gigantic mixers. That bustle is a testament to the freshness of the goods: Unlike many “bake in the p.m., sell in the a.m.” operations, Scheft’s deck ovens run around the clock, ensuring that his challahs are as eggy soft at noon as they are at dawn.
The goods: Seinfeld’s Elaine Benes once referred to cinnamon babka as the “lesser babka,” but Breads’ version proves the funny femme’s notion as outdated as ’90s threads: A finger-licking cross between brioche and a sticky bun, the sweet, swirled dough ($9.95) is laced with cinnamon and studded with plump raisins and crushed walnuts, moist in the middle with a sugary crust on top. And Scheft’s chocolate rugalach ($6 for 8) rivals your bubbe’s best: tender cornets packed with cocoa powder and laminated with brown butter.

  1. 18 E 16th St, (between Fifth Ave and Union Sq West), 10003
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Maison Kayser

The baker: French bakers tend to fall into two camps: patissiers and bread makers. But cult Parisian baker Eric Kayser has managed to master the range of flour and butter incarnations. With more than 80 locations, including his hometown and as far-flung as Taiwan, Kayser’s boulangerie-café chain has sparked a fanatical following worldwide, a sugar-fueled fervor he brought stateside this past August with an Upper East Side offshoot.
The space: Kayser offers up an idyllic, postcard picture of Paris: Staff sport boatneck striped shirts; bicycles with baguettes perched in the front baskets are parked outside; and brass-trimmed tables are primed for hours spent nibbling croissants. French-accented, newsboy-capped cashiers bag up glossy ganache tarts ($5.50) and moist pistachio financiers ($4.50), while servers deliver Gallic standards like quiche lorraine ($13) and croque-monsieur ($13) in the 104-seat eatery next door, handsomely outfitted in dark woods and pale marble. The working bakery is visible behind glass in back, with employees busy churning out close to a whopping 1,200 loaves a day.
The goods: The key to Kayser’s success—and his blockbuster baked goods—is his faithfulness to French tradition, as evidenced by imported butter and natural liquid starter, as well as bakers sent to Paris to master kneading techniques. That’s why even in the middle of Manhattan, you can get a baguette ($2.75) that tastes like it’s fresh from the Rue Monge. The beautiful Epi East Side ($3), a classic wheat-stalk-shaped variety, branches off into crackly-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside segments made for splitting.

  1. 1294 Third Ave, (between 74th and 75th Sts), 10021
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Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria

  • Rated as: 4/5

The baker: Dough-puncher has never been a more accurate job description: Long before working as head baker at Il Buco’s casual sibling, burly Kamel Saci was a professional judo champ in his native Bordeaux. After a knee injury halted his fighting career, a chance temp placement at a bakery got him hooked on bread making. Now he’s using his hefty guns to craft up to 400 loaves a day at the Italian retail-restaurant, the rustic gems lovingly nurtured with organic grains and long fermentation (at least 18 hours) in the basement bakery.
The space: The alimentari (grocery) is stocked with Saci’s handiwork (crunchy ciabatta, fig-and-hazelnut-dotted loaves), butcher-block staples (house-cured salumi, hunks of formaggi) and top-notch pantry items (imported oils, packaged pastas). Tasty provisions are also available for a takeout lunch that’ll make your cubemate drool, or a meal at the counter-stools in front. For an elegant Italian dinner, venture behind the bank of Modena vinegar barrels to the candlelit vineria (wine bar) in back, styled with a marble bar, exposed-brick walls and an open kitchen teeming with bike-capped toques.
The goods: The bread program enhances the impressive Italian dishes executive chef Justin Smillie whips up at the full-fledged restaurant: house-made bread crumbs dusted on top of butternut squash agnolotti ($21) and a crusty baguette stuffed with hearty slabs of spit-roasted beef, cloaked in gooey Gorgonzola and smeared with sweet-sour onion agrodolce for the short-rib panino ($18). But the kitchen is also able to pull off Italian-style simplicity with these superlative ingredients, such as a $1 first course of toasty bread, finished with fruity Umbrian olive oil and a sprinkle of Trapanese fiore di sale (Italian sea salt).

  1. 53 Great Jones St, (between Bowery and Lafayette St), 10012
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Bien Cuit

The bakers: At 19 years old, Zachary Golper learned the art of bread-making by candlelight  from an old farmhand in Oregon, studying traditional European methods like working sourdough starters by hand over three days and finishing loaves in adobe ovens sans electricity. Those old-school skills—blended with high-end finesse gleaned at Philadelphia’s legendary Le Bec-Fin—are showcased at Golper’s popular Smith Street flagship and its West Village satellite (co-run by his fittingly named wife, Kate Wheatcroft), where the toque’s rolling out some of the city’s prettiest pastry, as well as artisan breads with crunchy, well-done (bien cuit) crusts.
The space: While Maison Kayser re-creates the feel of France’s picturesque capital, Bien Cuit looks to the rural countryside. The space is outfitted with rustic trappings befitting a quaint French cottage: wicker baskets stuffed with long baguettes, whitewashed wood doors salvaged from an old church, and shelves stocked with jars of fruit jam and pine honey. Two-seat tables are near the large storefront windows overlooking Christopher Street, a reminder that you are not, in fact, enjoying that pillowy rum-raisin brioche in the middle of the Loire Valley.
The goods: Pop in for a loaf—delivered twice daily from the Smith Street commissary—particularly the signature miche ($10), a rustic blend of rye and wheat flours, fermented for up to 68 hours for a flavor-packed crumb. The display of jewel-tone tarts and pastries will have you heading for a table for a quick sweet. A double-baked, brandy-soaked almond croissant ($4.25)—sporting an almond-cream center and slices on the flaky hull—makes for a morning sugar boost, but for heartier fare, look to the café menu of small plates, sandwiches and salads. Mini potpies (chicken and turnip, artichoke and olive; $8 each) come covered with a peekaboo lattice of croissant dough, while a pillowy, bread pudding-like slab of miche is topped with bright celery-and-caper salad in the tomato-feta strada ($8).

  1. 35 Christopher St, (at Waverly Pl), 10014
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NYsucksnow
NYsucksnow

Not a single good French pastry shop in New York now. I really miss Paris or Tokyo...