L.A. Burdick: Manhattan Gets a Superior Chocolate Shop
5 East 20th Street, New York NY 10010 (near Fifth Avenue; map); 212-796-0143; burdickchocolate.com
Service: Friendly, knowledgeable, eager to please and explain
Setting: Snug storefront loaded with goodies
Compare It To: Jacques Torres, Mariebelle, Chocolate Bar
Must-Haves: Hot Chocolate, chocolate lemon layer cake, cannelés, lemonade
Cost: A piece of cake and a large hot chocolate is around $10
Larry Burdick and I go way back. In the early '90s I called him (people used telephones much more frequently way back then) in search of his chocolate mice, which, at the time, were served only at Bouley, to bring to a New Year's Eve party. He was making his chocolates in the tenement apartment he and his wife shared on the Upper East Side. I'll never forget his response:
Well, I'm all sold out of the mice I made today, but I still have some of yesterday's mice. They're day-old mice, so I wouldn't feel right about selling them to you. But you can just come over and pick up as many mice as you can carry.
I had no idea that a chocolatier could care so much about freshness.
Burdick and his wife moved to Walpole, New Hampshire, and set up a legitimate chocolate-making facility, as well as a restaurant and the first L.A. Burdick chocolate cafe. A Brattle Street location in Cambridge, Mass., followed in short order, as well as one in Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard, which didn't last very long.
Now, the Burdicks have tackled the New York market with a tidy cafe on East 20th Street in the old Fleur de Sel space. It's a cheerful spot filled with everything from bags of almond flour to bars of single-origin bean chocolate.
You order at the counter—staring down ten different pre-sliced cakes that you might think would be dry and dull. That would be a mistake. Like every great pastry chef I know, Burdick is an obsessive perfectionist. Just about every slice of cake we tried is worth the calories. The slices are small, but they are obscenely rich and flavorful. So much so that most serious eaters wouldn't want the slices to be any bigger.
Burdick's hot chocolate is world-class, intense, seriously chocolate-y, and plenty creamy, without being too thick or filling. You could finish a large hot chocolate here without feeling bloated. The iced hot chocolate tastes like the best Yoo Hoo ever, and the lemonade is pretty swell, too. Fresh-baked every morning, the croissants and pain au chocolate are carefully baked, plenty buttery, but not particularly light or flaky.
Bottom line: Serious eaters should be thrilled that Larry Burdick has come to New York City. We need all the talented, obsessive chocolatiers we can get.
My take on L.A. Burdick's offerings, in the slideshow below.