Morningside Bakeries, Let’s Get Ready to (C)rumble
Written by Bwog Staff
In a constant search for Morningside’s finest, Bwog was eager to weigh in when a dispute arose about the best cookie in the neighborhood. Secretary of Snack Alison Herman followed the aroma wafting over Morningside Park and investigated.
After an honorable mention of Levain Bakery in our Bwog Thanksgiving, an anonymous tipster indignantly called us out on our blinkered view of the local confectionary landscape. “Fuck those yuppies and their $4 cookies,” she proclaimed. ” Right across the street, on 118th just east of Frederick Douglass, is a bakery called Lee Lee’s that has been making and selling the best rugelach in the five boroughs since long before the Upper West Side started to franchise.”
Bwog could not resist such a challenge, especially when so forcefuly endorsed: “These tiny rolls of goodness will bring you to your knees, and your bubbe to hers.” Although it specializes in rugelach, Ashkenazi Jewish pastries of rolled dough wrapped around a filling, Lee Lees’s also offers cookies—Levain’s claim to fame. Clearly, a showdown was in order.
A trip across Morningside Park and up Frederick Douglass Boulevard will bring hungry Columbians to the Harlem location of Levain Bakery. Don’t be distracted by the scones or brioche: the real stars of the show are the gigantic cookies. The buttery calorie-bombs weigh in at over six ounces (according to the bakery’s website), cost $4, and come in chocolate chip walnut, dark chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and peanut butter chip varieties. The price may seem steep, but the cookies are big enough to serve as a full meal. They’re also mind-blowingly delicious: melty, soft but crisp around the edges, and begging for a glass of cold milk to wash them down.
Walk up to 118th Street and turn right and one finds Lee Lee’s. Decorated with floral wallpaper and a red-and-white color scheme, the bakery even looks like your Jewish grandma’s Brooklyn apartment. The rugelach—apricot on the day we visited, but Yelpers report chocolate and walnut flavors as well—are $0.80 apiece, and chocolate chip cookies are three for $1. It’s definitely more of a bargain than Levain, although the cookies pale in comparison. The rugelach, on the other hand, are flaky, chewy, and generally delicious; get a bagful to go and keep them in your dorm room for finals stress-eating and you won’t be sorry.
While Levain is marginally closer and the clear cookie champion, Lee Lee’s rugelach are both a great deal and a great find (who knew there were Jewish bakeries in Harlem?) In the end, comparing the two proved impossible, largely because the two bakeries have such different areas of expertise. Bwog declares this showdown a draw.