Upper East Side. Those three words have probably conjured up a strong image and atmosphere in your mind that would make an adjective superfluous. While the UES has a high class ambiance on certain streets, there’s more to the neighborhood than meets the eye. You might not believe that you can find a good bargain apartment in Yorkville. You might not believe that there’s an Oslo Coffee Roasters on 75th between York Ave and 1st Ave. Yet both those facts are surprisingly, delightfully true.
A couple weeks ago, I was up there taking care of business and decided to try my luck croissant-searching. A little sleuthing led me to Le Moulin a Café on York Avenue. It looked cute from photos and I appreciated that they had some french supermarket products.
Le Moulin a Café sticks out. From the moment you walk in, you feel as if you’re meeting Le Pain Quotidien’s independent cousin. There are a few tables in the front, with a line of stools in an L shape around the window and far wall. Walk into the back and you’ll find a restaurant that serves weekend brunch, dinner and lunch. The pastries are all displayed on a counter up front, protected behind glass from NYC germs.
The croissants aren’t much to look at, not like those from Cannelle Patisserie. Their exteriors seem soft and somewhat flaccid, as if they could use a few more minutes in the oven. There wasn’t much of a crunch on the outside, though the top layer did break into a few satisfying pieces. Luckily, the butteryness was spot-on and the layers were soft and satisfying. It wasn’t sweet, it was almost dry. The flavor was nearly identical to the croissant I ate at Au Levain du Marais.
I also sampled a pain au chocolat, which wasn’t spectacular but pushed a certain pastry button. If the name ‘chocolate croissant’ could ever accurately described a pastry, this was the one it would describe. The texture verged on doughy, the chocolate was melty; it was the cousin of a microwaved chocolate chip cookie. This isn’t to say it was bad, it was pretty gosh-darn good. It was satisfying when you want an American version of a French pastry. If you’re looking for a refined French pain au chocolat, you might want to head to nearby Maison Kayser.
Le Moulin au Café is a little gem on the Upper East Side. You might not want to make the trip from far away, but if you happen to be in the neighborhood, it’s a worthy stop.
What makes a bakery destination-worthy for you?