I think it’s hard to argue with the assertion that New York City is the best city in the US – and one of the best in the world – for food. Sure, you may be able to get better Cuban in Miami or better fried chicken in Atlanta, but there’s no city in the US that has anything resembling the depth and diversity of NYC’s food scene. I try new restaurants every time I visit my in-laws there, and yet I feel like I have barely begun to scratch the surface of New York’s restaurant scene. But if there’s one area where I feel like I’m a little bit more well-versed, it’s New York’s dessert offerings. I have a wicked sweet tooth and allocate far more of my daily calories to chocolate than I probably should, and as a result I’ve sampled countless cupcakes, macarons, cookies and more.
One place I never miss on a trip to New York is La Maison du Chocolat. As the name suggests, it’s just about as close to heaven as a chocoholic can get. They sell chocolate candy and drinking chocolate, but what keeps me coming back again and again is their macarons. Of course, the fact that all of their macarons incorporate chocolate somehow, either in the cookie or the ganache, is enough to make this place worth a try for any chocolate lover, but, chocoholic tendencies aside, their macarons are simply the best ones I’ve ever had. Until I had LMdC macarons, I didn’t really understand the hype about these tiny treats and would always choose a cookie or a cupcake over a macaron when given the opportunity. But the perfectly airy and fudgy macarons here have made me a convert. I’ve subsequently tried almost all of the major macaron brands and nothing can top La Maison du Chocolat in my mind. Like the famous Ladurée, they advertise that they fly their macarons in from Paris daily; I guess the French just do not trust us Américains to not screw up the baking process.
The runner-up in my NYC macaron rankings is La Maison du Macaron (confusing, I know, but just remember: if it has La Maison in the name, it’s probably good!). They don’t have the same emphasis on chocolate that La Maison du Chocolat does, but their macarons are excellent. The caramel fleur de sel in particular is a stand-out, and their chocolate offerings are quite good too.
Thomas Keller is best known as a West Coast chef, but he has a strong presence in NYC, including a couple of outposts of his Bouchon Bakery. Bouchon offers all kinds of sweets, from croissants to macarons, but my favorite treats here are the namesake “bouchons,” bite-sized brownies that are incredibly dark and rich, and the TKO, a gourmet take on an Oreo, consisting of a dark chocolate shortbread cookie with a white chocolate cream filling.
You might not expect a place called The Meatball Shop to be a dessert destination, but their ice cream sandwiches, with warm fresh-baked cookies and homemade ice cream, are truly delicious. I especially recommend the combo of chocolate chip cookie and brown sugar ice cream (and if you’re looking for a more complete meal, I also highly recommend their meatballs and noodles).
No round-up of NYC desserts would be complete without a mention of Levain Bakery, the famous Upper West Side cookie shop that’s become almost as a big a tourist destination as the Empire State Building. They’re known for serving melty, fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies that are the size of baseballs and are so rich I need several glasses of milk to get through one. My favorite flavor is the dark chocolate chip, but they also have classics like chocolate chip (with walnuts) and oatmeal raisin.
I haven’t really bought into the whole food truck craze, as I often find them to be overpriced and lacking on the quality front, but one exception to that rule is the Wafels & Dinges truck. They serve up fresh, crispy Belgian waffles and an array of toppings (“dinges”). I’m a big fan of their chocolate fudge sauce and their signature speculoos spread (aka cookie butter). They also have excellent hot chocolate.
Speaking of hot chocolate, one of my favorite spots in NYC for that treat is City Bakery. Their version rich and dark, while still tasting more like a drink than a melted chocolate bar. They also have really excellent chocolate chip cookies.
I know it’s a national chain, but I have to give Sprinkles a shout-out for having the best cupcakes in NYC. I’ve tried many of the local places, from Magnolia to Baked by Melissa to Buttercup, and none of them have come close to touching what I consider the gold standard for cupcakes. A must-try for any chocolate lover is their dark chocolate, which has the best chocolate frosting I’ve ever eaten, but you really can’t go wrong with any of their other flavors. I especially enjoy the milk chocolate, banana, salty caramel, and their signature red velvet.
What other sweet treats should I add to my list for my next trip?