By Emma Cullen
One of the most common things I hear from my friends is how much they miss their mom’s cooking while away at college. Same goes for me- my mom’s homemade cookies are one of my very favorite things about being home. So in the city I’m always on the hunt for a comparable cookie for when I need a little comfort. My mom makes soft fluffy cookies, always served warm and with a glass of milk, and a slight taste of salt. It balances the sweetness of the chocolate perfectly, and that’s what I wanted to find in a NYC cookie shop. I immediately ruled out Insomnia because although they deliver at any time of the night, which is a huge plus, the taste is just too sweet.
Enter Levain bakery. Fans of this tiny Upper West Side hole in the wall will line up around the block for one of their famous chocolate chip walnut cookies. Taylor Swift is a fan, so naturally I had to give it a try. Upon entering the basement level bakery that is Levain, customers are overcome with the aroma of fresh baked cookies. It is heavenly. Honestly, if I could get a candle made with that scent, I would. But on to the cookies.
They are big. Definitely sharing size, although it’s difficult to share when a cookie is this delicious. They only have four flavors of cookies: chocolate chip walnut, oatmeal raisin, dark chocolate chocolate chip, and dark chocolate peanut butter chip. Each cookie is $4.00, and they also have a large selection of breads. The cookies are served warm, as a cookie should be, and the outside has a bit of crunch to it, while the inside is warm and gooey. Normally, I am a firm believer that nuts do not belong anywhere near a chocolate chip cookie, but with Levains’, they’re delicious. I am officially converted; walnuts in cookies may not be such a bad idea.
I was referred to Citycakes Bakery by a bouncer at Artichoke Basille Pizza of all places, after hearing my friend and I raving about Levain while standing in line. He said we absolutely had to try the massive half pound, yes half pound, cookies in the Chelsea bakery. At first, I walked right past this place. It’s small, and similar to Levain, it’s in a basement. Citycakes has more of a bakery selection than Levain, meaning they have an amazing assortment of cakes and cupcakes. Citycakes has a lot of flavors compared to Levain, including chocolate chip, red velvet, ginger spice, and oatmeal raisin.
Citycakes cookies are definitely meant for sharing, so I split a chocolate chip and a red velvet. Each one cost $4.00, the same as Levain. They were not served warm, which was a bummer, but they were chewy on the inside. The red velvet one was so good and had a sort of cream cheese frosting flavor in the middle, but it was very sweet even for me, which is saying something. The girl working also gave us a rewards card, which was a huge plus. Citycakes has been featured on tons of TV channels such as TLC and the Food Network, and they’ve won many baking contests for their insanely realistic and out of the box cakes. One looked so much like a zombie head that I thought it was a mask until the baker told me otherwise.
In comparing these two cookie shops, it came down to one important factor: how the cookie was served. Levain’s were served warm, right out of the oven. I thought that may have been just a stroke of luck the first time I was there, but the second time it was the same, and reviews online confirmed that every customer gets a warm cookie. Levain cookies are soft and gooey, with just the right amount of crisp on the outside. So if you’re looking for the best chocolate chip cookie in NYC, I found it at Levain bakery. Do yourself a favor and try it.
All images courtesy of Cullen.