When my friend Vince told me that we should go check out Arcade Bakery, I listened. After all, he is a walking encyclopedia of food knowledge who could easily start his own food concierge service. I’m not talking about the info you can easily find from generic lists on Eater or bullshit places on Yelp that are overrated. Sure he knows all the touristy spots but his wheelhouse consists of quality spots that won’t break the bank and are just flat out delicious. Places where the food is the star while ambiance, service, decor, and Michelin stars take a backseat.
Best spots in chinatown for dumplings? (Lam Zhou for steamed, Prosperity for fried), the best ramen? How about pizza or indian joints or a place that serves the best brisket? Even though I don’t drink, I still appreciate his in-depth knowledge about bars in the LES and even the financial district (The Dead Rabbit, 2nd floor).
Suffice it to say, when he tells you about a spot, you don’t ask questions, you go.
It was 3:06pm and we found ourselves outside a nondescript office building with a small “Arcade Bakery” sign hinting at its presence. Even before walking through the doors, a faint aroma of fresh bread lures you in down a long hallway with vaunted ceilings and lots of open space.
The tangled mass of tables and chairs found in your typical crowded bakery were replaced by functional wall-mounted folding tables designed by Workstead.
Even though the store hours were 8am - 4pm, everything was already sold out except for 2 almond croissants, raisin danish, one baguette, and a loaf of quinoa bread. Julia and I got the last two almond croissants and Vince snagged the baguette and raisin danish.
We happily unwrapped our spoils on a large gorgeous wooden table and took a bite. Mmm, the danish was naturally sweet from the raisins and had a croissant-like texture; crispy and buttery.
The almond croissant was also flaky and had a generous mound of almond paste filling. Went perfectly with the single origin Ethiopian coffee.
Note to self: come back to try their savory offerings for lunch: sandwiches and pizza.
So the next day, I brought some coworkers to check out their lunch options.
On the menu were 3 sandwiches ($9), one of them being vegetarian. We decided to get the first two: turkey on focaccia with mozz, roasted peppers, olives, arugula and the ham and cheese on baguette. Also shared one pizza ($9) with addition of pepperoni ($1).
Luckily at 12:02pm, there were only 3 people ahead of us. Minutes later, the line stretched 15 deep. Our premade sandwiches were available immediately and we grabbed one of the available folding tables which came with pitchers of water.
I started with the ham and cheese. The baguette was perfect while the ham was soft and juicy. Crisp on the outside and chewy and on the inside. Naturally, the salted butter just made everything better.
The turkey sandwich was even more enjoyable. Roasted peppers with a little vinegar, creamy mozzarella, peppery arugula, and the focaccia was like a buttery sponge that soaked up the olive juices and vinegar, ay dios mio! The only thing I didn’t like were the salt flakes on the bread which ruins the bite and forces you to drink water to wash it down.
While we were waiting for the pizza, we observed the crew assembling a large platter of chickpea, eggplant, and carrot sandwiches.
The smell of chickpeas was intoxicating and the carrots had the most brightest shade of orange I have seen. If it wasn’t for eggplant, my kryptonite, I would have ordered it.
The pizza was brought to our table about 12 minutes after the order, the crust still bubbling. 4 Cut into good sized quarters, the freshly crushed San Marzano tomato sauce was light and tangy, unlike the faux concentrated paste used at many pizza joints. the layer of cheese (imported buffalo mozzarella + fior di latte mixture) was just right, not too thick or thin and had a creamy taste.
Even the slice of pepperoni made me pause. Bold with spicy notes and not too salty.This standout ensemble is led by the star - the dough. Now usually, I throw away my pizza crust because it’s flavorless and dry, but when the crust is this good, there’s no reason to commit sacrilege. Just eat it with a smile on your face.
My pilgrimage next week will hopefully include a chocolate walnut babka.
Get: Not sure how often they change up the 3 sandwiches or whether they will offer additional choices, but everything I had was good. I would pick the turkey focaccia over the baguette sandwich 8/10 times. The pizza for now is also adhering to the “less is more” mantra. Only 3 toppings available on top of a pizza with one type of sauce and cheese. Try the pepperoni. You can’t go wrong with the pastries. Both the raisin danish and almond croissants were great. Can’t wait to try the babkas.
Tip: If sharing with a friend, have them cut the sandwich in half before serving. Plastic forks don’t work, trust me. For the turkey sandwich, brush off salt flakes before eating. The turkey and other ingredients bring more than enough flavor and having a mouthful of salt is never a good thing.
Beat the lunch rush: Come before 12pm to avoid the lunch crowd.
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