The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie Roundup

There’s something about a chocolate chip cookie (CCC, for short) that embodies a certain casual American exceptionalism. The French, Kings of Pastry as they deservedly are, take hours to make and assemble the perfect croissant or ideal Paris-Brest or any number of other complex dough-and-cream concoctions. We Americans get to waltz in with our flour and our sugar and our eggs and our chocolate chips and–in 10 minutes flat–create something near Godliness. Hold off on those U-S-A!, U-S-A! cheers, though. In NYC it’s French bakeries, with their supreme attention to detail, that are churning out some of the best versions of the CCC in the city.

For this roundup, I sampled 18 cookies all across NYC. There were plenty of winners, and I found it difficult to whittle down my favorites to a “Top 5” so I went with a “Top 6.” All are exceptional in their own way.

Top 6 (in no particular order)

Smile To Go: This cookie has an intense brown sugar flavor that plays off of the saltiness of large visible flakes (seen below), creating an ideal medley of salty-sweet. The chocolate disks are ideally distributed throughout.


Maman: If I were to award an official No. 1, this gargantuan cookie would be it. From the cutesy new French bakery in Soho, this CCC is perfectly browned on the edges with an incredibly melty, gooey middle. Also, I’m usually a hater of nuts-in-cookies, but the whole hazelnuts here add great texture.


The Dessert Club by Chikalicious: This has been one of my favorite CCCs for years (at the sister location in the East Village), and the one at the new spot is just as lovely. It’s slightly underdone with crunchy edges and a chewy interior. They know to warm up the cookie to order for just the right amount of time to achieve optimal softness.


Levain Bakery: The most famous of the bunch, this French bakery is perpetually mobbed–and with good reason. They churn out large mounds of deliciously under-baked CCCs that are so heavy, you could use them for weight training. Bring a friend and indulge in the cookie dough-like interior. There are walnuts, but they’re not super loud about making their presence known, if you know what I mean.


Pret a Manger: Yes, it’s a chain, but so what? These cookies can compete with some of the top bakeries on this list. They’re kept under a warming lamp, so they’re toasty and gooey no matter what time of day you purchase one. There’s a crunchiness at the edges that gives them a nice textural balance.


Épicerie Boulud: Another Frenchy on our list, this cookie has it all. It’s buttery and soft, with a proportional combination of dark chocolate and milk chocolate discs. I’ve only ever had it warm, so in order to experience the magic, it would be worth it to ask if the ones on display are fresh out of the kitchen.


Honorable Mentions

Blue Ribbon Bakery Market: The smallest (and cheapest, at $1) of the bunch, this cookie has a lovely home-baked quality. It’s soft, crumbly and not overly buttery. A perfect CCC for when you want a cookie all to yourself, but don’t want to consume a 500-calorie sugar bomb.


Macchiato: A great spot for cookie cravings in Midtown, this European coffee shop stocks perpetually warm cookies with intense chocolate flavor.


Bouchon Bakery: Yet another French bakery with a great CCC. This cookie is huge–nearly literally the size of one’s head. The edges are crunchy, but take one more bite and you’re in pliant, chewy heaven.


The City Bakery: This institution has expanded its dessert empire with Birdbath Bakeries all around Manhattan, featuring the original icon’s famous cookies. The CCC here is flat, chewy and just right amount of underdone. It goes well with their exceptional hot chocolate, if you’re looking to spend the subsequent hours in a blissful sugar coma.


Jacques Torres Chocolate: Jacques knows his customers, and what he knows is they want a warm CCC. They keep some of the cookies on a hot plate all day to ensure the one you receive is warm and soft. Mine may have spent a little too much time on the plate; it was falling apart when I held it up for a photo. Jacques is also the king of chocolate chip layering–a cross section resembles sedimentary rocks, which is perhaps why his chocolate chip cookie recipe is an Internet favorite.


Other cookies sampled: Amy’s Bread, BKLYN Larder, Milk & Cookies Bakery, Breads Bakery, Baked, Maison Kayser, Roasting Plant.


Ice Cream Sandwich Roundup

What better way to relish the dog days of summer than with a really good ice cream sandwich? An ice cream sandwich, just like most really great treats, is all about the contrast in textures. You have the soft, chewy–alternatively, dense, crunchy–cookie (or other delivery device, as you shall see below) and the cold, smooth ice cream. All of this is why, in my expert opinion, the best ice cream sandwiches are made-to-order. An MTO ice cream sandwich is not an easy find. Many of the city’s most-touted ice cream sandwich suppliers, including Melt Bakery, The Good Batch, Jacques Torres Chocolate (you can get non-pre-assembled sandwiches at two locations, but they insist on only using frozen cookies) and Bierkraft, keep pre-made sandwiches in a freezer. I’ve tested my sensitive teeth too many times on frozen solid cookie. Which is why I’ve scouted the city for well-made MTOs. You’re welcome.


A longtime favorite dessert, the chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich ($6.95) at Dessert Club ChikaLicious in the East Village is everything you’d want from a delicious summertime treat. The cookies are chewy if not downright out-of-the-oven-warm, and the in-house vanilla soft serve is rich and satisfying. A few squirts of hot fudge are exactly what you didn’t know you wanted.


With endless ice cream and cookie flavor combinations, including unique offerings like fried chicken and waffles (ice cream) and peanut butter captain crunch (cookie), the Coolhaus truck, with mutliple locations around NYC and elsewhere, is the king of the MTO ice cream sandwich. On a recent visit to the CPW location, I paired s’mores cookies with a chocolate-stout-and-pretzel ice cream. The cookies had just the right texture, thin and pliable, and the ice cream had a lively beer-y kick. If you’re really looking to diversify, ask for two different cookies as I’ve done on more than one occasion. They’re more than happy to oblige.


When I was first handed the above sandwich from Roneybrook Milk Bar ($3.50) in Meatpacking District’s Chelsea Market, I was a tad disappointed. I could tell the cookies were hard and was worried I’d have trouble biting through them. But then I started eating. And, well, I couldn’t stop. The cookies were dense, yes, but not in a stale way. They had an appealing crunchiness with oversize white chocolate chips that broke up the texture. The cinnamon ice cream I had chosen was simple but incredibly creamy with the perfect amount of cinnamon flavor.


Carb-laden sweets are my Kryptonite. I had no idea brioche ice cream sandwiches existed until I saw one advertised at a now-defunct Midtown East Italian restaurant five years ago. At Amorino in Greenwich Village, their sandwich, called a Foccacina ($7.50), combines a sugary brioche with two of their gelato offerings. The gelato at Amorino is not to be missed, with two types of pistachio and all of the best Italian classics (despite the chain being of French origins). I went for the saltier of the two pistachios coupled with the hazelnut. The scoops were stuffed into a small-ish roll and dusted with powdered sugar. Though the brioche was good, albeit less dense than I prefer my brioche bread, the gelato is the star here.


The ice cream sandwich at Milk & Cookies Bakery ($5.50) in the West Village was a knock-your-socks-off surprise. The cookies were chewy, layered and–wait for it–warm. There’s nothing better than biting into a soft cookie and cold, creamy ice cream at the exact same time. I went for a milk-chocolate-and-caramel cookie and paired it with caramel gelato, which they source from city favorite Il Laboratio del Gelato. There are over a dozen cookies and nearly as many ice creams to mix-and-match according to your preference. Since their specialty is cookies, it seems prudent to treat the cookie selection process the way you would picking a bagel. Ask for what’s fresh and warm and use that as your guide.


I knew the sandwich at Wafels & Dinges, a.k.a the de Verdekke ($6), was going to be good when I saw the woman working the truck (60th and CPS location) put two mini liege waffles onto the grill. After they warmed, with the beautiful sugar crystal edges you see above, she paired them with a single scoop of their specially made Spekuloos ice cream (a version of their famous spicy cookie spread ) and topped it off with powdered sugar. Yowza. This was delicious. In a way that, when you first bite into it, you’re totally unprepared for. It was warm and chewy and melty and all around satisfying. Plus, it’s small and portable–a perfect dessert for a quick city stroll.

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