I walked out of the subway on the Upper West Side and knew instantly that I was in the right place. The smell of baked chocolate and browned butter greeted me as I stepped out into the sunlight. It may have been my imagination and the anticipation of eating Levain Bakery’s famous chocolate chip cookies, but I lie not when I say I followed my nose to the small, almost hidden gem of a bakery. Actually, it wasn’t quite a direct journey. My sense of smell may be good, but my eyes sometimes fail me. I walked deliriously up and down Amsterdam Avenue trying to locate the semi-sub level bakery. I finally caved, and asked the fruit cart man who told me it was around the corner below the waxing salon. Hey! It wasn’t just me though, even my friend confidently strode past it and continued almost half a block before I finally caught up with her as I hopelessly (and obnoxiously) yelled, “Angela! Angela!” to a girl who had her headphones on. Levain is a very humble place. It’s not fancy, cutesy, or filled with shades of pastel. Here, it’s all about the tastes and smells.
We ordered the two favorites: chocolate chip walnut and dark chocolate peanut butter chip cookies. The cookies’ success lies almost completely in the unique size and shape. The baked goods are the smitten image of a scone: densely large and asymmetrical. However, the taste is completely opposite. They are moist and chewy, sweet and crunchy, everything a cookie should be but bigger and better.
The chocolate chip walnut was exactly how you would imagine the traditional cookie to taste like. The melted chocolate bits glazed your lips as you bit into a piece filled with nutty walnuts and sweet sugary dough. Each bite had the right ratio of chocolate, walnut, crunchy browned top, and soft moist center. Not one piece lacked or overdosed on one element. Perfection. The dark chocolate peanut butter chip was a collaboration between a brownie and a cookie. It had a soft and cake-y interior like a brownie but instead of a slightly crusted top, it was firm and crumbly. Sweet and salty goodness oozed throughout the cookie and before we knew it, Angela and I were glowing in a state of sugary bliss.
If you’re ever in the Upper West Side, visiting the Museum of Natural History, on a date at the Planetarium, near Julliard, or really anywhere in the city, go to Levain Bakery. It is worth it. Even I, the girl who rarely ever travels to that side of the park, will definitely be taking a few more trips across town.