As is the case with so many things in Manhattan, New Yorkers are positively spoiled for choice. And those drool-worthy bakery windows, which seemingly crop up on every corner, enticing passersby with wafts of fresh-baked deliciousness, are certainly no exception. But when you really want to make those calories and carbs count, why indulge just anywhere, when you can seek out one of the 8 best bakeries in all of Manhattan? Whether it's cookies and cakes, perfectly presented pastries and pies, or artful loaves of bread that you're craving, there's a bakery to answer the call. Indeed, in NYC, sweet tooths have never had it so good.
For more than 20 years, the Levain Bakery has built upon its loyal following, with devotees swearing by its baked goods. Coming out on top are its legendary, gooey, oversize cookies (don't miss the six-ounce chocolate chip walnut variety), but whatever you order, you'll be guaranteed that it's baked fresh daily on-site, sourcing only natural ingredients. Cookies aside, choose from a selection of pastries (like brioches and sticky buns) and a spread of rustic breads and rolls. Another nice touch? Anything that's not sold that day is donated to help feed the hungry. This enduring Upper West Side institution's winning combination of cozy digs and addictive baked goods has helped it branch out to a new second UWS location, as well as one in Harlem, too (the bakery has a Hamptons outpost, as well).
Two Upper West Side locations: 167 W. 74th St., btwn Amsterdam & Columbus aves. & 351 Amsterdam Ave., btwn W. 76th & W. 77th sts.
Harlem location: 2167 Frederick Douglass Blvd., btwn W. 116th & W. 117th sts.
For some of the city's very best cupcakes and cakes, make way for this laid-back Yorkville bake shop. Here, you can choose from (or pre-order) an assortment of made-from-scratch cakes, with classic flavors like carrot, red velvet, and "Brooklyn blackout" four-layer chocolate, along with specialty cakes like lemon, marble, and coconut – all finished off with additionally delicious layers like chocolate pudding filling or cream cheese frosting. There are some seasonal flavors, too, including the pumpkin spice cake, which is available each fall. (Just note custom cake orders need three days for processing). If that's not enough to satiate your inner sugar fiend, there are cheesecakes and seasonal pies (from key lime to chocolate pecan) on order, as well.
Yorkville location: 1652 2nd Ave., btwn E. 86th & E. 87th sts.
One word to reel you in: Cronut. Need we say more? Pastry chef Dominique Ansel is behind one of the city's most buzzed about pastry trends, and he's now moved on from his famed croissant-doughnut hybrid pastry to create what he dubs a "hybrid bakery": the bakery-meets-café institution that is Dominique Ansel Kitchen. A West Village spin-off of his cronut-churning bakery just a few blocks away, foodies flock to the café establishment to indulge in made-by-the-minute pastries, turned out by a dedicated team of pastry chefs, with a kitchen menu that claims that at least 70 percent of featured items will be "finished, assembled, or baked right when you order them." See the pastry chefs in action at the open kitchen, as they unveil the made-to-order mystique behind that lemon tart or matcha-dusted beignet with your name on it. Choose from lunch fare, too like sausage and lentil soup, or edamame avocado toast. At nighttime, the venue transforms into U.P., a ticketed after-hours affair, featuring a desserts-only tasting menu. The one caveat? There are no cronuts sold at Dominique Ansel Kitchen – for that, you'll need to hit up the original SoHo bakery, just a short walk away.
Dominique Ansel Kitchen, West Village location: 137 7th Ave. S., btwn Charles & W. 10th sts.
Dominique Ansel Bakery, SoHo location: 189 Spring St, btwn Thompson & Sullivan sts.
You'll have to do some digging to turn up some of NYC's biggest culinary treasures, which is precisely the case with the Arcade Bakery. Tucked away in the lobby of an unassuming, century-old Tribeca office building, it's well worth seeking out: Inside, you'll find genius baker Roger Gural's creations, including some of the city's very best baguettes and a lip-smacking assortment of viennoiserie and babka. For the lunch crowd, they make fantastic pizza, too. Just keep in mind that it's only opened on weekdays.
Tribeca location: Inside lobby at 220 Church St., btwn Worth & Thomas sts.
You might not have your very own French maman (mom) to whip you up delicious baked goods back home, but here's the best next thing: the French-owned and -operated Maman, a cozy café and bakery with several locations in Manhattan and beyond. Pop in and choose from a selection of family-inspired recipes, sourced largely from the south of France. There are plenty of sweets on hand (the chocolate chip cookie is downright swoon-worthy), with savory items, too, spread out over a seasonally updated menu based on changing and locally available ingredients. Choose from baked goods, artisanal breads, and a full breakfast or lunch menu (with items like quiches, sandwiches, salads, and, of course, plenty of pastries and desserts); the Tribeca location even has its own bar.
SoHo location: 239 Centre St., btwn Grand & Broome sts.
Tribeca location: 211 W. Broadway at Franklin St.
Meatpacking District location: Inside Samsung837, 837 Washington St. at W. 13th St.
A spin-off to its popular Philadelphia counterpart (High Street on Market), this bakery-eatery, set at the nexus of the Meatpacking District and West Village, attracts constant crowds for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Morning time rules for delectable house-made pastries and piled-high breakfast sandwiches, lunch promises a selection of elevated sandwich options (made, naturally, with homemade breads), while dinner sees house pastas, seasonal veggie dishes, and main entrées (like a vegetarian beet steak or Long Island duck breast), paired with a new-American wine list. There's a to-go counter, too, so you can take home that perfect loaf of rye or dreamy baked goods like their signature gravy-filled red-eye Danish, draped with country ham.
West Village/Meatpacking location: 637 Hudson St., btwn Gansevoort & Horatio sts.
True to its name, this Union Square bakery and café/coffee shop specializes in fresh-baked breads. Swing by for a dizzying selection of artisanal, handmade breads, rolls, and specialty challahs, baked fresh daily with whole grains and other natural and organic ingredients. The pastries don't disappoint either: Look out for classics like cookies and croissants, paired with special Jewish creations, too, including chocolate babka and rugelach. So good you can't wait to get to the bakery to pick up more? No problem: Learn to make your own, via Breads' baking classes; they're currently offering a challah workshop so you can learn to bake their famous chocolate babka right at home. Bonus: The café has outposts in Lincoln Center and Bryant Park, too.
Union Square location: 18 E. 16th St., btwn Union Square W. & 5th Ave.
Lincoln Center location: 1890 Broadway, btwn W. 61st & W. 62nd sts.
Bryant Park location (kiosk): In Bryant Park, near 42nd St. & Ave. of the Americas
This polished, exotic-sounding West Village bakery/café delivers baked goods that are inspired by flavors and tastes the world over. Sure, you'll get the standard cakes, brownies, and cookies requisite to any proper NYC bakery, but let your palate explore and you'll turn up some deliciously unusual culinary finds, too, courtesy of the creative dessert handiwork of pastry stars Umber Ahmad and Shelly Barbera (who are backed by celebrity chef Tom Colicchio). Case in point: decadent, cream-filled or chocolate "choux"; Linzer cookies; coconut cakes; and their signature brioche donuts. Bonus: The coffee and espresso are pretty darned good, too.
West Village location: 28 Greenwich Ave., btwn W. 10th & Charles sts.