The next time you’re in New York City, there’s a secret bakery in Tribeca you need to find.
It isn’t literally hidden, but if you don’t know that Arcade Bakery is located inside the lobby of 220 Church Street, you’ll likely walk right by. I managed to miss the entrance even with the assistance of Google Maps when I met my friend Sheri there a few weeks ago because I didn’t catch the small Arcade Bakery sign on the exterior of the building.
The passageway of the century-old office building has been retrofitted for Roger Gural’s small retail bakery. He displays and sells his handcrafted breads and yeasted pastries behind an open window built into the wall, and customers sit inside wood-paneled nooks with fold-down tables that used to be display cases.
In the morning, Arcade Bakery’s menu is limited to freshly baked loaves of bread and hot-out-of-the-oven pastries like croissants, Danish, and babka. We arrived just before lunch, when sandwiches and flat bread pizza are added to the menu.
It was a tough decision, but Sheri chose a classic chocolate walnut babka, while I went with the more unusual-sounding whisky pecan babka.
If I lost you at babka, let me try to explain. Babka, often described as a “yeast cake” or a “sweet loaf,” is a popular Jewish pastry that looks like bread twisted with ribbons of chocolate or cinnamon.
Beware: babka can be controversial. According to my family, babka should be slightly dry, more like bread than like cake. However, my dad once critiqued a babka for being too chocolately, something the rest of us would argue is impossible.
By my standards, the babka at Arcade Bakery was among the best I can remember tasting — warm and flaky but not too moist, with the perfect amount of swirly filling. The only thing I regret about my purchase is that I didn’t buy any extra slices to bring home.
(I also wish I had thought to get a baguette, Gural’s specialty, to enjoy on the train back to New Jersey.)
Do you live in New York City? If so, I’d love to know what you think is the best babka. If not, I’m curious whether you’re even familiar with the yeasted pastry. My husband, who grew up in Cleveland, had never heard of it before meeting me!