What? Cake, ice-cream, cookies, pie, milkshakes.
Where? 251 East 13th St for review purposes, others across NYC and nationally
How much? Cookies starting at $2
Let me just get this out of the way. OH MY GOOD HEAVENS THE ICE CREAM!!!!!!
Ok here we go- I saw a restaurant listed close to our NYC holiday digs with great reviews called Momofuku. I sniggered at the name because I’m childish, then I looked them up to see if they would be worth a visit. They went onto the definitely maybe list. Then google showed me a ‘related’ link depicting a cartoonishly bright birthday cake associated with an also closeby eatery. The Milk Bar- sister restaurant to the Momofuku dynasty serving kookily titled cakes, bakes, truffles, you know, all the good stuff. Intrigue as to the contents of a Compost Cookie drove me to more research, more sprinkles, and the life changing introduction of Cereal Milk as an ingredient.
Cereal Milk, I hear you cry, WTF do you mean? Remember when you were nine and you ate all your cereal then you took a cheeky look around to see where the Mothership was before picking up your bowl and downing the sweet milk dregs that had been transformed whilst hosting your cornflakes?* That my friends is cereal milk and the evil genius house of Milk Bar take that unique flavour of childhood and turn it into soft serve icecream. That’s a Mr Whippy to those on this side of the Atlantic. I was enthralled, nigh on obsessed with this concept in the months rolling down to the trip and no matter how many painful rewrites of our scheduled time I went through there was always a clear spot left free to visit Milk Bar.
We almost made it on arrival night, skimming past on our way to a speakeasy themed bar in the East Village after first night dinner at the mightily Mighty Quinn’s BBQ. We were full of meat and beer and saw a queue of sorts outside the cutely understated neon Milk sign, so we thought a return at a less busy time may be in order. Ha. Flash forward to our last night, legs sore from a day speedwalking around many sights on the back of a Smith & Wollensky hangover. We went for pizza (another NYC box to tick) and the way home lead past 13th St so yeah, we’ll fit that Milk Bar visit in.
I say we didn’t really want to queue some nights before, despite this being the national sport of our Motherland. There has got to be something going on for a small, hole in the wall sized food outlet that has a 25 minute queue forming past 9 on a drizzly Sunday night in October. That many university students can’t be wrong when it comes to ice cream. We got in line.
Milk Bar, East Village, is a tucked away and unassuming premises that put me in mind of the cramped newsagents you find squeezed into unlikely sized slots in tube stations across London- a door, a few feet to the counter then the awkward shuffle out again apologising to all the waiting customers you have to bump past. Only much cleaner and more lighthearted because you get cake from it instead of a copy of the daily fail and an overpriced bottle of Evian. The chalkboard menu is mildly too trendy but balanced with blaring colours and wiggly writing leaving it just on the charming side of fun. Despite the many items on offer I had one thing in mind, as did most people there. One of the two-human team at the counter sat poised next to the soft serve machine with a fresh tub in hand at all times, ready for action. During our wait I would say maybe 2 people left infront of us without an icecream. Yes plenty of them also bought the technicolour cookies and truffles and crack pie but at the core it’s all about the soft serve.
So sixish bucks you get a little paper tub with a glorious fat wiggle of soft serve, expertly encrusted with your topping of choice- in our case the Cornflake Crunch (cereal bits pimped up with extra addictive sweet crunchiness). This is where my sophistication fails me because all I can say is that it is absolutely ****king awesome. Because it tastes exactly like your cheekily slurped cereal milk dregs, dressed up in a seaside style icecream with sticky crunchy bits. You have to grin. You have to suck the top off immediately before realising your foodlust has just killed the photo you needed for this blogging. You have to lick the little melty bits off your fingers as you stumble homewards under the weight of your expanding belly with no need to apologise to your cold achey feet because if anything was ever worth the unnecesarry indulgence push- this was.
Sugar high childhood flashback aside, Milk Bar is also ‘king awesome as it felt to embody the summary of my experience of the East Village as a whole. It wasn’t too big, because rents around here are massive. It wasn’t too flashy, because flashy isn’t cool. When you have friendly staff serving a serious quality product you don’t need to shout about that because people will hear about it and come to you. I was naively amazed to later discover how many people knew about Milk Bar, how many said oh yeah you need to check them out. I’ve found their cookbook in high street shops in Colchester for the sake of all that is sacred how the hell did I go so long not knowing about this?!?!?!?! BTW friends and fam I’m currently barred from buying myself anymore cookbooks so if anyone comes across a copy around July……
So this post may not be news to you, but if it is and you are going to be near one of their multiple outlets, just go there. Line up and get an ice cream it is absolutely epic. Maybe also try some birthday cake truffles and tell me about them because they look like the sweet sprinkly work of the heavens too.
almost enough from me on the subject, I’m off now to resume my letter writing campaign to convince them to open a Milk Bar a little closer to home. Like, my home, right outside on a street corner in Brightlingsea. I will keep them in business, diet or not.
Check out all the Milk Bar sights, sounds, locations and wares on their jolly website here.
*I should note here that I tended to throw most of my cereal milk over my front via a good dribble off my chin attempting this method as a child but the older male sibling was expert level at leftover milk chugging. It seems apt now looking back that we went here together, it was maybe more his homecoming than mine!