City Bakery is one of those newfangled New York institutions whose history closely mirrors the experiences and tastes of Manhattan's citizenry. Born of the 90's renaissance of Madison Square Park and the Flatiron District, dedicated to seasonal, local ingredients, and just pricey enough to convince New Yorkers of its value, it's always crowded, packed with a jumbled mass of West Village families, NYU grad students, and Upper East Side wannabes, like me.
I visited for Sunday brunch with a few friends, and we had a good time - we were lucky enough to find a table, and went through the cafeteria-style line in shifts. I picked out a couple of salads (radicchio and chickpeas; snap peas with sesame) and supplemented with a bit of mac & cheese.
Once we had our mains, it was time for the check-out line. My friend Caroline breezed through, but I was on the opposite side of the counter, and my line took a bit longer - still not sure if it was the fault of the patrons or the workers. Either way, I had ample time to gaze longingly at the croissants, muffins, and cookies. I also watched a man ladling hot chocolate (thick enough to be from Prague!) into cups. He topped each one off with a homemade marshmallow, a cloud of sugary, gooey goodness. I ended up giving into temptation and ordering a hot chocolate and a pair of vanilla sugar dome cookies.
Back upstairs, safely ensconced in our booth, I sampled the wares. The salads were great - not at all soggy, for all their having been made much earlier that morning. The mac & cheese was cold by the time I made it through the line, but still tasty - not up to Etâts-Unis standards, but solid nonetheless. The hot chocolate was the thickest I've ever tried, and was a bit unctuous even for my tastes. That said, it was made with excellent-quality chocolate and had great flavor. The marshmallow was insanely pillowy and dissolved really, really slowly into the molten chocolate. Definitely the highlight of the meal.
After brunch, the other girls headed downtown for some serious shopping, while I headed home for some serious work, fueled by a cheesey-choco-marshmallow high.
3 W. 18th Street
Between 5th and 6th Avenues