inconspicuous & incredible: The City Bakery

Thursday morning I met my college academic advisor for a little catch-up meeting.  As a part-time student, I often feel somewhat out-of-the-loop in terms of GE requirements, registration times, application deadlines, etc.  But all my anxieties are relieved after some academic planning with my advisor…and drinking a super-strong Americano.

My advisor suggested we meet up at The City Bakery (18th + 5th ave.).  I had never been to The City Bakery, and almost walked past the windowed café.  The coffee shop/cafeteria is a bit inconspicuous, hiding out on the side street a few blocks from the chaos of Union Square.  I finally spotted my advisor reading his newspaper out front and we entered the café.

The coffee shop/café/cafeteria is large and bright with a central coffee and bakery bar and an upstairs seating area.  We made our way around the bar, ordering our steaming coffee and freshly baked pastries before heading upstairs to find a table.  The café wasn’t crowded, per se, but most of the tables were occupied by people chatting and sipping coffee from their large white mugs.  There were two major observations I made when I looked around at the crowd at City Bakery:

  1. This is not a quiet little study spot to read your book or write your essay.  The large, bright room and wooden tables with 2+ seats encourage “coffee and conversation.”  This is the kind of place you A) meet with your college advisor, B) grab coffee with your girlfriends, or C) buy a cup of joe for your friend/family visiting from out-of-state.
  2. This is a sort of “in-the-know” joint.  Like I mentioned, The City Bakery is somewhat hidden from general passersby since it’s not on the main avenue drag.  This makes your coffee-drinking experience a little more hip than just ducking into any old Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts.

My advisor ordered a Baker’s Muffin (a large, crumbly, crispy muffin that looks a bit like a funnel cake with a generous sprinkle of powdered sugar on top) coupled with large mug of hot coffee with lots of creamy milk.  I had already eaten breakfast and just ordered a medium Americano (to which the barista forgot to add any milk….).  But no worries, I survived.  An Americano is not just that catchy Italian dance song.  The drink consists of a shot of espresso (or more, to your caffeine-addicted liking) with boiling water and is quite stronger than your average cup of coffee.

I enjoyed my Americano, albeit sans milk, but kept eyeing the drink of the couple sitting a few seats away from us.  Turns out, The City Bakery serves some of the best hot chocolate in New York City.  Who knew?  I’m ordering THAT next time! A large bowl of frothy hot cocoa (hot or cold) with homemade square marshmallows drowning in the chocolatey goodness.  And to make your mouth water even more, The City Bakery celebrates the month of February’s Hot Chocolate Festival with a special menu of 28 (or 29, if a Leap Year) hot chocolate creations including flavors like ginger, caramel, tropical, and chili pepper hot chocolate.  Verdict? Get the hot cocoa!

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