The Insider

The Hungarian Pastry Shop: the star of the show is the food

Like most cult establishments in New York, The Hungarian Pastry Shop looks like nothing and won’t reward you with fawning service, writes Holly Baxter

Tuesday 04 January 2022 21:30
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<p>There comes a certain cachet with opening up your laptop in a cosy corner</p>

There comes a certain cachet with opening up your laptop in a cosy corner

The Hungarian Pastry Shop is a simple bakery on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with a utilitarian name and blocky, no-nonsense signage: a red awning with white lettering announces the dimly lit cafe near Morningside Park, and standardised metal chairs at plastic-covered tables are scattered round. The star of the show is the city-famous display of pastries: freshly made cheesecakes, croissants, gerbeaud cake, and cremeschnitte. Despite the fact that the place has no wifi, it’s a known haunt of writers knuckling down to complete their final drafts of essays (students) or books (destitute types visiting the area or more well-to-do nobel laureate types who snagged a penthouse on the UWS).

Like most cult establishments in New York, The Hungarian Pastry Shop looks like nothing and won’t reward you with fawning service. Wander further down toward Central Park and you’ll find yourself in touristville, where waiters will compete to give you everything you need in your life and more for a good tip. At THPS, however, you’re handed your pastry with a vague smile and delivered a standard-issue cappuccino. No one’s going to run to the back and make you a coffee in a V60, but that’s not what this is about. Like Joe’s Pizza in Greenwich Village (but a touch less manic), this shop is specialised and the star of the show is the food, not the customer.

That’s not to say that the service isn’t notable. Regulars are remembered and orders are plated up ahead of the most dedicated customers. There comes a certain cachet with opening up your laptop in a cosy corner of THPS, too. People eye each other over their MacBooks conspiratorially, happy to be part of a group that knows a little more than their counterparts over in Starbucks. It is a place to be seen, but only subtly. Like most places actually populated by New Yorkers, it isn’t flashy – but it’s all about the fact that you knew to come here in the first place.

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