Doughnut Plant

cinnamon bun

Doughnut Plant is probably the only bakery I have visited twice in one day. It’s that good.

First, there are the yeast donuts, in glazed, jelly-filled, and creme-filled varieties. They’re squarish, faced-sized and unbelievably light, with airy, melty dough under a sticky layer of sweet glaze ($2). Perennial faves are vanilla bean, Vahlrona chocolate (messy), and peanut butter and jelly. There’s a rainbow of seasonal flavors too, including fresh strawberry, pomegranate, pumpkin, and banana pecan. Vanilla is simplicity perfected if you usually find donuts too sweet or too fried. Often there’s one fresh from the oven on a baking sheet poking through the kitchen window, and they’ll drop that one in your bag instead of the one on display in the shelves. (more…)

Kossar's Bialys

bialy

Update 3/18/09: Kossar’s is no longer open 24 hours. See hours below.

I never tasted a bialy before I lived in New York City. Even in New York these cousins to the more-mainstream bagel are hard to come by. Try to find a good one and most likely, you’ll end up standing at a certain spot on Grand Street, where trendy Lower East Side melds with Chinatown and overlooks the projects. Here stands Kossar’s Bialys, the remaining stronghold of downtown’s vanished bialy-baking industry. (more…)

City Bakery Pretzel Croissant

pretzel croissant

I don’t know of too many baked goods that warrant their own website comparing them to mermaids and unicorns, but City Bakery’s pretzel croissant has one, perhaps deservedly so. A dream-concoction of sweet and savory, the pretzel croissant boasts a salty, buttery, sesame seed-studded crust around a chewy whole wheat middle. A hint of pretzel leads to irresistible nibbling while the tad-buttery, doughy center leaves you oh-so-satisfied. Cult-like devotion is completely understandable. (more…)

Artichoke Basille

artichoke basille pizza

The lack of decent pizza slice joints in the East Village has been a long-standing gripe of mine. I’ve been eyeing Artichoke Basille, and the line snaking out its door, since it opened about a month ago. Although I usually avoid excruciating hype-fueled waits, I figured I’d should finally bite the bullet and get in the queue.

Twenty-six minutes, three rounds of phone tetris, and two passers-by wanting to know what the fuss was about later, I emerged bearing two slices. (more…)

Death and Company

Death and Company

Since the church-like doors first parted last winter, Death & Company has been the place for worship-worthy cocktails in the East Village. Personally, I love how the electric candlelight glows off the wood-planked ceilings, the way the charmingly-vested bartenders do some serious chucka-chucka-chucka shaking of the silver tumblers, and of course, the extensive drink list, loaded with artfully paired ingredients. This low-key haunt would probably be my pick for my Last Cocktail on Earth.

Here’s a few things I’ve learned over the past year, all key to enjoying your visit:

Don’t fear the wait list. Death & Co only seats about 50, and the friendly gatekeeper is there to make sure you’re not fighting through a drunken mob, unable to edge toward the bar. Put your name down and grab a cheap drink at divey Cherry Tavern or neighborhoody Joe’s. They’ll call when they have seats.

Sit at the bar. That way, you can chat up the bartenders and watch them work their magic. For the most part, they’re quite knowledgeable, ready with recommendations, and happy to indulge questions. (more…)

Alligator Lounge equals Free Pizza

alligator lounge free pizza

The pizza at Alligator Lounge is a strange phenomenon of budget snacking. I can’t quite figure out how it’s free. Well, not exactly free–you must purchase one drink, at about $5 a pop, to get a free pizza ticket. If you want toppings, it’ll be $2 for the first and $1 for each additional. But assuming you don’t, in about ten minutes you’ll have a piping-hot 12-inch pie to accompany your beer at a cost of zero dollars (except  a tip for your pizza guy).

How is it possible? Because the pizza actually isn’t terrible. True, it tastes better after several beers. (more…)

poutine

It’s winter for another month or two, so there’s no better time to partake in the finest of heart-attack snacks, and curl up in front of the TV holding your engorged tummy.

I’m talking about poutine. If there’s a reason to love Canada, it’s because they thought of marrying freshly-cut fries with cheese curds, and topping it with extremely thick, scalding hot chicken gravy. The potatoes absorb the salty gravy while remaining slightly crisp at the ends, and the curd gobs soften, especially in the melty center of the bowl, and squeak a little in your teeth. (more…)

Employees Only

A few months ago wormwood absinthe was legalized for sale in the US. Now instead of trekking to Europe, we can openly sip the green fairy in a few reputable New York City lounges. Employees Only (fear not the psychic in the window–walk on by and through the velvet drapes) has the kind of classy, speakeasy-inspired vibe ideal for quaffing vaguely-illicit substances. But Jazz Age ambiance aside, the artistically mixed and presented cocktails are the big draw there.

The bartender charmingly answered all my questions about absinthe, despite teasingly asking if I was a cop. At Employees Only, instead of merely diluting the absinthe by dripping water over a sugar cube, they light the sugar on fire, which adds a carmelized flavor as well as a dramatic flair to the drink. He thought that the absinthe sold in the US still lacked a few ingredients one can find in their foreign counterparts, and although it is strong (about 120-140 proof), its hallucinogenic effects are much exaggerated. The “real stuff”–his eyes darted to a glass liquor cabinet–cannot be “sold,” he said carefully.

I wanted to try straight absinthe, but being a bourbon fan I opted for the billionaire cocktail–Baker’s Bourbon shaken with lemon juice, grenadine and absinthe bitters. The bitters are made in-house and stored in a glowing green stoppered bottle with “absinthe” etched on the side–how I coveted that bottle. (more…)

Abraco Espresso

It’s actually Abraço, and I think it’s destined to be my favorite neighborhood coffee spot. I wandered in this morning, thinking I was on my way to Dunkin’ Donuts, and instantly my day started looking up. The barista, a cheerful, lanky dude with a mop of gray hair (this must be Jamie), poured me a polished cappuccino. The espresso ($3) tasted a little less mellow than 9th Street Espresso‘s, more slap-you-in-the face, but was very good, and topped with leafy foam art. While I waited, I was swayed into ordering zeppole–two fried-to-order balls of light, doughnut-like ricotta, rolled in sugar ($3). The standing-only space holds two narrow bars just wide enough for coffee cups, so the folks eating in were either chatting or just drinking coffee–no newspapers, laptops, or cell phones. But ambiance aside (Abraço is Portuguese for “hug”), this cafe’s secret weapon is that it has an actual cook, so there’s a whole rotating lunch menu to explore, complete with grilled cheese panini ($6), a deliciously light, eggy frittata ($4), and sweet-and-savory olive cookies ($2).

The only downside is that Abraço is sure to be popular, so I’ll have to get my happy tropicalia coffee fix early to beat the rush.

Abraço Espresso, 86 E. 7th St., at First Ave. 8 am – 8 pm, Sun. 9 am – 8 pm.

Muffins

I’m well into my morning commute by the time I breeze through the Union Square Greenmarket, but I don’t become conscious until then. Revived by a new landscape of radish-end hills, jam jar pyramids, and arugula forests, I start scanning the stands in hopes of breakfast. When I pass the Muffin Madness stand I weaken, but keep walking. (more…)