When pastry chef Dominique Ansel opened his eponymous bakery on a tree-lined SoHo side street in 2011, it immediately won scores of local fans loyal to his miniature meringues, chocolate-covered canelle and flaky French pastries. But it's the preternaturally popular Cronut, a fusion favorite that is half croissant and half doughnut, that has garnered countless headlines. Pro tip: call ahead to skip the line. Forgot to pre-dial and don't have time to wait on line? Opt for a cookie cup instead. Not as famous as the Cronut, but certainly delicious this shot glass is made from cookies, coated in chocoate and topped off with vanilla-infused milk. Not too shabby.
Supplied with the freshest ingredients from nearby Union Square Farmer's Market, this wonderful American bakery specializes in all of the good stuff: scrumptious scones, marvelous muffins and an array of buttery baked goods. The loft-like, balconied dining room is a great place to watch people as they swarm the horseshoe-shaped bakery counter below. Chances are they're after one of two things: a chewy, salty and stretchy pretzel croissant, or a cup of thick, molten hot chocolate - City Bakery is known city-wide for these signature items. Ordering one, or both, is probably one of the best ways to start your morning off with a smile.
Balthazar oozes a cool vibe that's impossible to replicate. Perfectly positioned on a Soho corner, this is the breakfast spot of the rich and famous. It's not uncommon to spot a celebrity, and of course, the food is divine. Billed as a French brasserie, the energy is something else entirely - not quite New York, not nearly Paris. Instead, it feels like its own little world, a hideaway for anyone who's in on the secret. We'd recommend visiting for brunch and then popping over to indulge in the bakery where you'll find decadent options like flourless chocolate cake, lemon tarts and pistachio opera cake.
Doughnut Plant fanatics run rampant in the streets of New York. With flavors like Blackout, a chocolate cake doughnut, filled with chocolate pudding, dipped in chocolate glaze and sprinkled with chocolate cake crumbs, it's not hard to see why. Doughnut Plant also makes all of the jelly for their signature jelly doughnuts in-house - perhaps a mark of the quality passed down from owner Mark Rosati's grandfather, himself a baker and the creator of the first cake mix in the 1930s. Whatever the reason, the craze is spreading - Rosati recently teamed up with Shake Shack for a sweet collaboration and has opened shops in both Chelsea and Tokyo. You can also find these doughnuts all over town in various cafes and restaurants.
Ample Hills Creamery seemingly popped up out of nowhere, but locals couldn't be happier about it. The husband and wife duo at the helm of Ample Hills opened the first location in 2011 and from there, the rest is sweet, sweet history.
Part of what makes Ample Hills' stuff so great is that it starts with high-quality ingredients like hormone-free milk from grass fed cows and organic cane sugar. The other part of the magic are the mix-ins. Mostly made in-house, from scratch, they include everything from peppermint patties to pistachio brittle to brownies and more.
Though we're partial to the Gowanus spot, with its adorable rooftop seating and slightly off-beat location, the goodness can be found all around the city. Ample Hills has four permanent locations (Prospect Heights, Gowns, Gotham Market West and Bubby's on the High Line) and two seasonal ones (Brooklyn Bridge Park and Jacob Riis Beach Bazaar).
Sure, it's touristy, but there's something about Max Brenner's Union Square location that feels magical. Maybe it's the chocolate piping that runs along the ceiling or the massive vats of melted cocoa churning in the corner.
In any case, this place is a chocolate fanatic's fantasyland. While it's hard to go wrong with anything here, a good place to start is with the Hug Mug, an ergonomically shaped cup of hot chocolate that's perfect for sipping. From there, move on to the crepes or sugar waffles, or split a chocolate fondue for the table. Afterward, the gift shop is a great place to snag some fun mug-ware to take home.
Romantic movie fanatics will remember this restaurant from the 2001 John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale film, Serendipity. In the movie, the two stars share a dessert that kick starts their love affair and consequently cemented this spot in lover's minds forever. Due to the popularity of this dessert haven and their now infamous frozen hot chocolate, be prepared to wait before being seated. However, if you're willing to eat more than just dessert, the restaurant takes reservations for dinner. Looking to pull off a romantic stunt of your own? Serendipity's "The Golden Opulence Sundae" may be your answer. Covered in 23-karat edible gold leaf, this creamy treat costs $1,000, making it one of the most expensive desserts money can buy.
In NYC, there are few places better to satiate your sweet tooth than at Christina Tosi's Milk Bar. Stocked to the rafters with cookies, cakes and pies, everything here is delicious, but purists will insist you try the "crack pie." Lovingly named for its addictive qualities, this pie is a mess of gooey butter filling in a toasted oat crust. The Milk Bar has locations all around town, but during the holidays, visitors to the Union Square Holiday Market will get an extra surprise: the shop has a pop-up outlet right next to the info booth, making it easy for you to get your cookie fix while simultaneously doing your shopping.
If you've ever wondered what a milkshake would look like if Buddy the Elf or Willy Wonka had their way, welcome to Black Tap. These outrageous milkshakes have turned Instagram on its head, with many visitors adding Black Tap to their lists of NYC "musts." But it's not just tourists going gah-gah over these gooey treats. New Yorkers are also lining up in droves to dig in. With toppings like cotton candy, whole pieces of cake and drippy chocolate and caramel, these photo-worthy sugar bombs are definitely a super special treat. This joint also serves up burgers and beers, in case there's any humanly possible way you're hungry after demolishing this monster.