March 12, 2018

Black & white cookies of Dyker Heights

This is the third in my series of posts about black & white cookies. Today, I headed to Dyker Heights to visit six bakeries: Grandma’s, Gold Star, Mona Lisa, and the Tasty Pastry Shoppe on 13th Avenue (a.k.a. Dyker Heights Boulevard), St. Anthony’s Bakery on Fort Hamilton Parkway, and the other Mona Lisa Bakery location, on 86th Street (where I’d been a number of times before; I was curious to see whether the two locations differed in quality).

As before, ratings are on a 5-cookie scale.


Grandma’s ($1.75)

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(Note: the label next to the cookie in each photo is exactly 578″ long.)

This is a very unsatisfying cookie. It suffers from the problem that many poor-quality black & white cookies do: it’s very dry. The cookie itself is so dry that it could be mistaken for a shortbread or sugar cookie (but without anything resembling the rich, buttery flavor of such cookie varieties); the white frosting is nothing more than powdered sugar mixed with just enough liquid (probably water) to make it stick together. This isn’t the horror show that the Shlomy’s cookie was, but it’s still not worth eating.

My rating:

Gold Star (no cookies!)

They didn’t have real black-and-whites. All they had was one container of the tiny mini versions. No, thanks.

Mona Lisa ($1.50)

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Another poor frosting application job—most of the black frosting stuck to the wrapping paper (what’s the point of wrapping it in wax paper if it’ll stick anyway?!) and the bag (they didn’t even wrap it carefully…).

As for the cookie—mediocre. Not bad, I grant that. But not great. The white frosting has an odd, strong flavor, that suggests synthetic vanillin or something similar. Basically, this is the very bottom of what I’d judge to be an acceptable bakery black & white cookie.

My rating:

Tasty Pastry Shoppe ($1.50)

(click to enlarge)

A refreshing change of pace—this cookie is really not bad! The Tasty Pastry Shoppe makes a good (though ultimately insufficient) effort at living up to its name with this cookie.

I have somewhat mixed feelings about the Tasty Pastry Shoppe cookie. Unlike the other cookies I’ve reviewed so far in this post series, which have either been objectively bad (i.e., incompetently or shoddily made), objectively good (i.e., exemplars of what a black & white cookie should be like), or somewhere in the middle, this cookie is tricky to rate. The reason for that is that Tasty Pastry Shoppe makes an interesting design decision here—one I dislike, personally, but cannot, in all honestly, label as bad: namely, that the cookie itself is, rather than being sponge-cake-like, is significantly closer on the spectrum to being a traditional, i.e. crunchy, sugar cookie. (It’s not actually all the way there—the interior is still soft—but it's no sponge cake.)

Now, as I said, I don’t like this. I want my black-and-whites to have a soft, moist texture. This cookie is far from soft and moist. Don’t mistake me: it’s not simply stale, or dried out, as several of the low-rated cookies in this series have been; the texture is clearly the result of a deliberate choice. The convex side of the cookie (i.e., the non-frosted side, which would’ve been the top side during baking) shows the familiar cracked and browned (due to the Maillard reaction) surface of a well-baked sugar cookie, and the surfaces of the cookie are slightly crunchy.

The black frosting is good. It’s not exceptional, but it’s competently made, and delicious. It is soft and smooth, while still sticking well to the cookie, and has a satisfying chocolate flavor. The white frosting, on the other hand, is merely mediocre. It lacks any flavor to speak of except that of raw sugar. Its texture is acceptable, however.

This is easily the best cookie out of the ones I bought today (though it still lags behind the better black & white cookies of Midwood).

My rating:

St. Anthony’s (no cookies!)

Not only did they not have black & white cookies, but this place was the saddest bakery I have ever seen. It’s absolutely tiny, there’s almost nothing there (I have seen a better selection of desserts in some bodegas), and the storefront looks like it has not only not been renovated, but not even dusted, since the 1970s. I have no idea how this place is still in business.

Mona Lisa, 86th Street location (CLOSED!)

Giant “FOR RENT” signs were plastered over all the windows, and the interior was cleaned out. Another one bites the dust…


(click to enlarge)

The Tasty Pastry Shoppe pulls ahead of this pack, though not by much. The competition was unimpressive.


Midwood seems to be emerging as the place to go if you want a proper black & white cookie. I’ve yet to find a cookie elsewhere that compares (much less exceeds) the offerings of Meir’s and Isaac’s bakeries.

(Side note: I had planned to do similar posts about Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst—but those plans fell through, because after a long walk around Bay Ridge, I came up with but one bakery selling black & white cookies—and in Bensonhurst I found none whatsoever.)

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