Fast Food International: Beard Papa's
Country of origin: Japan
Locations worldwide: Over 300 in Australia, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Tahiti, Taiwan, Thailand, Russia, and the US
NYC locations: One, on the Upper West Side
While cupcakes currently show no signs of slowing down, New York City has witnessed its share of pastry fads. Way back in 2004—decades, in food blog years—cream puffs captured our hearts. Quintessentially Japanese Beard Papa's simultaneously puzzled and charmed, with its pipe-smoking mascot who resembled a cross between Santa Claus and a Maine fisherman, and still-warm pate de choux shells filled with custard on demand. Of course, sweets-lovers lined up for a taste.
Over the years the crowds died down and outposts in Midtown and the East and West Villages shuttered with false promises of reopening. Only the Upper West Side location remains, shattering my dream for Muginoho International, the parent company, to bring their cheesecake brand Tio Glutton stateside.
The turnover might not be as rapid as it once was, but the cream puffs ($1.75) are just as good as they always were. The sog-resistant shells are airy and the vanilla bean-speckled custard mixed with whipped cream is creamy and light. Neither overly sweet nor rich, they won't weigh you down after you eat one—or two.
Flavors, often featuring green tea, coffee, or chocolate, rotate on a periodic basis. On this visit, I discovered dulce de leche ($2.10), which isn't typically thick and milky, but more like the burnt caramel coating on Cracker Jacks. Paired with the classic vanilla custard in the same puff, the combo was fantastic.
Beard Papa's also sells a pasty resembling a doughnut with the texture of an éclair called a Paris Brest ($2.50). Available plain or half-dipped in dark chocolate, the pliable ring (also filled with vanilla custard) is tidier than the standard cream puff and equally satisfying.
You may also choose tiny three-bite mochi ice cream balls ($1.15) in a variety of flavors like lychee, passionfruit, and the pictured tiramisu and green tea.
Maybe we've moved onto macarons--or is it pie? Either way, I hope that Japanese cream puffs will be able to survive as we constantly move onto the next big edible thing.
2167 Broadway, New York NY 10024 (map)
About the author: Krista Garcia is a freelance writer and librarian (who does not work with books). Being obsessed with chain restaurants and Southeast Asian food, she would have no problem eating laska in Elmhurst and P.F. Chang's crab rangoon in New Jersey on the same day. She blogs at Goodies First.