NYC Eats: Levain Bakery

We're currently in NYC. Chaz needed to travel here for work, so Elise and I decided to come along for the ride! We'll save the "Here's how we traveled with a baby!" post for another time, since not EVERY post on this here blog should be baby-focused. Instead, we'll turn our gaze toward my other great love: cookies. Though I don't have extensive familiarity with NYC (having only been here twice and only walking around at night), I have lots and lots of experience with cookies, and while I wouldn't use the term connoisseur, per se, perhaps we can consider me something close to it. In other words...I freaking love chocolate chip cookies and will seek them out if I get an opportunity.

That opportunity came knocking on this trip. When we arrived at the hotel yesterday, I spent our initial couple of hours soothing an overstimulated, travel-weary baby into slumber while Chaz went out and got us some chicken tenders for a quick dinner. While he was out, he took it upon himself to look up some things for Elise and me to do during the day, since he would be working. What he found was a bakery with a claim to the world's greatest chocolate chip cookie. Since he knows me well, he sent me the link, and I immediately added it to our agenda for the next day. Truth be was the ONLY item on the agenda for the next day.

Well, today was "the next day," so after Elise took her morning nap, we set out on a mission to try the world's greatest chocolate chip cookie. Things started well. I put Elise in the wrap (looking at you with allllllll the heart eyes, Solly Baby wrap!) and stuck the diaper backpack on my back, so I probably looked like a turtle with a shell on both sides. What a sight. Speaking of...we happened to find a turtle on our excursion:

Moving on.

I could either take a bus, walk + subway, or just walk for 45 minutes. I went with the last option, because a) walking is good for me and b) I didn't feel like figuring out the bus system. Since the walking + subway option was going to take me as long as just walking, I figured that if I needed to change a diaper midway there, it'd be easier to do it on foot rather than on a train.

Off we went! We hit up Starbucks for a late breakfast, and then made our way west...until five blocks later, when I'd already developed a blister and it had started to rain. Not the most auspicious start.


We bought some bandaids, prayed that the rain would stay a sprinkle and not convert itself to a downpour, stopped to take a photo of some lovely flowers, and found the nearest subway station.

40 minutes later we had emerged from the subway and found the bakery. From a visual standpoint, it wasn't much to look at, but I had high expectations. 

 My most sincere apologies for the lack of an artsy picture.

My most sincere apologies for the lack of an artsy picture.

We went in, evaluated the choices, and selected two cookies: chocolate chip (obviously) and chocolate chocolate chip. At $4 a cookie, I wasn't getting any more than that. Off we went with our cookies to Central Park, and since around 2.5 hours had passed since both of us had eaten, I found a spot where both of us could snack. 

So! My entire tale boils down to this moment. If you're still reading, I applaud you. HOW WERE THE COOKIES, you ask? They were decent. But I would not say that I keeled over in ecstasy because I'd just encountered the worlds greatest chocolate chip cookie. In fact - and I'm about to make a very bold, very daring, highly suspect claim here - I actually think my homemade cookies are better. Shoot me.

I liked the chocolate cookie better than the chocolate chip cookie. And that's for two reasons. First, the bakery includes walnuts in their chocolate chip cookies, and while that's probably a feature for some people, it's a bug for me. I'm a bigger fan of a walnut-free chocolate chip cookie, because there are no distractions from the cookie dough plus chocolate flavor. Second, and more importantly, I was expecting the dough to have more of a substantial flavor. They were good - don't get me wrong - but if you're claiming to have the world's greatest chocolate chip cookie, I want a dough that is a little more complex rather than just a sweet base that suspends the chocolate chips.  That said, they did a couple things very well: 

1) It's hard to get a giant cookie to have a just-right crispy outside with a soft inside, and this cookie delivered. 

2) The chocolate was still nice and gooey even though the cookie wasn't just-out-of-the-oven warm. I'm not sure how they did that, but it was great!


And so, with both of our stomachs full, we traipsed back to hotel just in time for Elise's afternoon nap. This time, it had stopped raining and the blister was remedied with the bandaid, so we walked. 

And in case you want my chocolate chip cookie recipe, here you go:


  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup salted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups chocolate chips


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the brown and white sugar with the butter. (Cold butter will yield higher-rise cookies, but I always end up nearly melting mine because I'm impatient and I want it to mix easily.)
  3. When the mixture is smooth, add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each egg addition. Then add the vanilla and almond extract.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, and mix with a fork. 
  5. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients in three installments, mixing after each batch. I'm pretty sure three installments are unnecessary flavor-wise, but it makes it easier on your arm while stirring.
  6. When fully mixed, add the chocolate chips and stir to disperse them evenly in the dough.
  7. Drop the cookies by rounded teaspoonful on to an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 9 to 11 minutes.
  8. Take the cookies out of the oven when the bottoms/edges look browned but the middle still looks nice and gooey. Let the cookies sit on the top of your stove for 10 minutes or so while you watch a show or something so that they continue to set.
  9. Eat all the cookies. ALL OF THEM. Or if you don't want four dozen cookies in a single sitting, put them in an airtight container and eat them over the course of the next three days.

For fear of someone disagreeing with a "world's greatest" cookie, I make no claims in that regard. I just happen to like them the best.