On a dull morning when I woke up not-quite-hungover but definitely drained, I continued searching for my new favorite café. When I lived in Portland, Maine, over a year ago I frequented Bard Coffee on Middle Street in the Old Port. After translocating I returned every couple of months to buy a bag of single origin beans and revel in a cup of Vietnamese drip, but since I moved to the city of cities I’ve been on the hunt for a replacement. I know I sound like a coffee snob, but I promise it’s not my fault. Bard raised my standards. I knew I couldn’t find better coffee in New England, but I’m surprised how long it’s taken me to find something up to par in New York City.

 

After hitting up a party at Columbia, a few students told me to visit Hungarian Pastry Shop in Morningside. I didn’t find the perfect cup of coffee, but I did find an excellent spot to perk up after a long night. The sight of a filled pastry case was enough to brighten my day. I don’t have an extremely strong sweet tooth, but I couldn’t resist the combined visual-olfactory appeal of dozens of croissants, hamantash, napoleons, cakes, eclairs, and danishes. I promptly asked the woman working the counter my favorite question: “What can I get here that I can’t get anywhere else in the city?”

 

She suggested a poppyseed strudel. I assumed it would be a cheese or fruit-filled strudel sprinkled with poppyseeds. To my surprise the strudel it was a truly delightful strudel, filled with a poppyseed filling sweetened with apples and honey, graciously veiled in confectioner’s sugar. It was dense, but delicious. The filling was smooth and sensual, rather than gritty or sappy in consistency. I could roll dozens of tiny sweetened seeds across my tongue and against the roof of my mouth similarly to roe or caviar, and take pleasure in a slight crunch when I crushed the poppyseeds with my molars. The dough was flaky and light, adding a slight crisp to every bite. Even after noontime it wasn’t soggy and held its own against the density of the filling.

 

I also ordered a Hungarian coffee, not knowing whether it was their signature coffee or an authentic Hungarian beverage. I had tried Hungarian coffee once before in Budapest, where it is prepared it by percolating boiling water through a mixture of coffee grinds and a whole egg—shell and all. Coffee at Hungarian wasn’t quite the same: regular American joe with almond extract, whipped cream, and cinnamon. Despite the tinge of disappointment, this cup was a great compromise between my routine caffeine intake and the joy I felt as a kid receiving a mug of hot chocolate with whipped cream at breakfast. I walked out of Hungarian full and happy, but I’m still searching for the perfect pour.

 

Poppyseed Strudel $3.95

Hungarian Coffee $3.25

 

Hungarian Pastry Shop

1030 Amsterdam Avenue

(between Cathedral Parkway & 111th street)

Morningside Heights, New York, New York

 

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