A good bakery is essential to make a neighborhood feel like home.
Fortunately, for Ridgewood residents, we have long been blessed with some of the best bread and best deserts in the city, benefiting from a history rich in studiously-crafted baked goods. And, every so often, a new bakery comes along and adds to this, finding that they fit in easily inside this collective basket.
Here are some of the best (at least according to Bushwick Daily):
Built near the overhanging Seneca Avenue stop of the M line, Plaza Piaxtla begun operations shortly after 9/11 and remains family-owned and folds neatly into Seneca Avenue, besides grocery stories and newly opened bars. The entry-way is slender and easy to miss. Mexican pastries line the entryway, are stacked on open shelves, at arm and eye level. Highlights include a medium concha, with thick sugary frosting and that can be purchased for under $1.
The bakery’s crown jewels are kept behind glass. Brick-sized tres leches, which come buried in vanilla, strawberry and chocolate. Among cakes, tres leches are a tricky dish and feel like they would so easy to get wrong. But Plaza Piaxtla does not get them wrong and, in fact, they are to die for and are notoriously impossible not to finish in one sitting. Save the treat for a friend or, maybe, a solitary celebration after a dentist’s visit.
The strategy of the somewhat-recent, somewhat-bougie Buttah Bakery, to locate itself far along Onderdonk Avenue, is probably why it has largely “flown under the radar” since its opening, as Gothamist wrote in 2015. While bad for food tourists, this is good for you, who can appreciate some of the richest cupcake food in the city without very much traffic and which comes in a number of milky varieties, including a particularly heavenly and thick red velvet. Run by a family of inventive bakers, the cupcake-ness of the food available stretches to the savory dishes as well, where scones come stuffed with slight bits of bacon. Stylishly modern accruements accompany everything and make this walk away from the neighborhood’s hubbub worth it, from the bakery’s name, written in neon, to the minimal grey of the walls. It’s kind of like being in Manhattan, but paying Brooklyn/Queens prices.
Also easy to miss is Joel’s Bakery, a quint Caribbean meets Mexican operation squeezed next to a Planet Fitness. A neat line of fresh loves are stacked to the side—more small bakeries should have bread!— and less practical treats include cream-cheese-filled rolls, soft conchas lopped with frosting and an earnestly friendly staff eager to set up the custom cake order for upcoming birthdays and social events that demand cake (all social events should demand cake.)
They’re one of the few places in the neighborhood that still have custom Dominican cakes with the thick fondant-like frosting and the crumbly but still moist cake and tropical fruit fillings. They also have fresh pastelitos de guayaba (guava puff pastries). Few things please quite so much or as pleasingly as the donuts that line the bottom of the case and which are frosted with sugar dust and filled with a crème that’s impossible to place.
El Montanero Bakery and Restaurant
A Colombian bakery that can satisfy lunch and dinner just as well—a wall behind the cashier is lined with wine bottles to suggest just this very possibility. Situated near the façade of the century-old Ridgewood Theatre, El Montanero feels dressed in spillover historical Queens meets South American elegance (more so, now that the Theatre has since been converted into a “Blink”-branded gym). Come in the morning for fresh, flakey sticks filled with rich, sticky guava the color of a delicious fuselage.
Available at most hours and persistently fresh is the bakery’s take on arepa de choclos, the corn pancake traditionally accompanied by a soft queso. El Monanero offers a baked variety, startlingly different from the kind you almost always find fried at street fares. Here, they look like large cookies that would crumble easily and you can eat them without getting grease on your fingers
Technically located just past the border between Ridgewood and Glendale, Mahalo New York Bakery is among the few recently-opened bakeries both with something to say and an approachable manner. Shortly after the bakery opened, the Ridgewood Times called the Hawaiian-themed bakery “one of the best businesses in North America” based on its energetic engagement on Yelp.
An impressive selection of brightly colored cupcakes are the most immediate and satisfying of Mahalo’s charms—all of which can be purchased for an economical $3. They are richer, creamer and also larger than the kind typically found on every block in Manhattan. They come in a number of milk-based flavors and include varieties like mango and coconut along with the seasonal concerns like pumpkin spice. There’s also a “milk-lovers” variety of cupcake, which is really an interesting take on tres leches as well as equally vibrant cakes and a satisfying ice cream collection for hotter months.
In one form or another, Rudy’s Bakery & Café has remained for almost a century, passing through owners, all interested in satisfying the kind of cravings that bakeries have been meant to supply. An almost infinite line of pastries, strudels, cupcakes line the entry, which is accompanied by a café space that, itself, feels antiquated. It’s hard to imagine a place opening today coughing up the rent for anything so cozy and wood-paneled.
And yet Rudy’s blazes on into the future. A favorite recent treat are their Nutella tarts, something which surely did not exist in the early 1930s. Lined in cookie crust and draped with the frozen hazelnut-chocolate goo, they are both delightful and make a compelling argument for the 21st century. It’s good to know Rudy’s is there too.
Competing with Rudy’s for longest-running Ridgewood bakery is the Grimaldi Bakery Corp, which has been maintained by four generations of the Grimaldi family and operates a small factory that supplies local grocery stores. But making the trip there is highly recommended for the kinds of variety that you will not find in the baking section of any grocery store. There are rye loaves baked with cut-up onions, there are small pumpernickel loaves that feel so fresh you will be tempted to finish them on the spot.
Those less interested in making the trek to Grimaldi’s (it’s up a hill!) will find much to satisfy themselves at the ambitiously-named International Bake Shop. Dinky in the best way possible, with low yellow lights and a frame door that creaks open, it’s another family-run business that has spent at least a generation perfecting the right way to bake a loaf of bread. The kind here, there aren’t quite as many varieties, are incredibly crispy and feel warm. They’re hard not to bite right out of the moment they’re in your hands.
Cover image courtesy of El Montañero’s Yelp page