I love sweets. Baked goods, desserts, chocolate, yes yes yes. So when I found out our marketing department offsite was at JCC Manhattan on the Upper West Side, right near the original Levain Bakery, I HAD TO GO.
It’s not a joke when I say that Levain (pronunciation forever unclear) is considered, by most, the best cookie in NYC. In researching for this post, I learned a lot about the bakery — it’s founded by two women who came across this perfect cookie recipe while training for an Ironman! And it’s as old as you are — the bakery was founded in 1994!
Despite it’s crazy praise (Oprah named it one of her favorite things, tons of celebrities Instagram about it, and the line often literally wraps around the block), it’s a hole-in-the-wall little place. Levain isn’t on a main avenue (it’s on a side street) and it’s the basement-level of a building. And other than the small painting on the window with its name, it’s pretty inconspicuous! I guess when there’s a line of 50 people pouring outside it’s a little easier to find, but that wasn’t the case when I went with my friend Sara!
Once you step inside, you walk down a few very narrow steps and end up here (above): the totally unglamorous kitchen which doubles as the customer counter. Stainless steel everything, racks and racks of cookies, and oh my goodness, as you reach the bottom step the smell of baked goods hits you and you almost want to cry. It’s amazing.
It’s also baffling. Read some fun facts here — they’re actually cool! — and you’ll notice the bakery only sells literally four kinds of cookies, and none of them are regular ol’ chocolate chip! It was weird stepping up the counter and not being served with a million choices. I’m so used to options, especially in the city.
After some deliberation, Sara and I decided to split two cookies: oatmeal raisin and dark chocolate peanut butter. My fav was dark choc PB. Those little peanut butter chips freakin’ melt in your mouth and it’s just DELISH. It was the first time Sara and I had each had a Levain cookie and, while eating them in nearby Central Park, we kept turning to each other and freaking out: “THESE ARE AMAZING!”
Other than the cookies being legitimately delicious, they’re especially famous for their size. They are HUGE. We’re talking two or three inches HIGH and maybe four inches in diameter. So of course you wonder, how could this literal brick of a cookie be good on the inside AND the outside? Dude, I don’t know how but they seriously are! You break into them and it’s soft and fresh and warm and lovely and the outside is solid and slightly crunchy and completely mouthwatering. It’s insane. Thinking about them now, I’m trying to figure out when I’ll next be on the UWS (answer: never lol) so I can pick up more.
Clearly, the bad news is that I live so far from Levain. But the GOOD news is that a cookie place just opened up in Astoria, Chip. It’s less than two blocks from me and opened up in early July. Micky and I stopped by while she was visiting (their first weekend open, ironically), and split the smores and blueberry cheesecake flavors. They were insaaaane in the membrane. Like, SO GOOD. And they’re already being compared to Levain cookies 😉 Astoria coming in strong with the real competition, yessssss.
So many treats, so little time. But always time for one more cookie 🙂