Muffins at Blue Sky Bakery (around $2)
There are many kinds of muffins in this world: some oversweet and over-oily, some tasting more like cupcakes, some joyless vehicles for chunky whole grains. But we've found that Blue Sky Bakery in Park Slope strikes the perfect balance of virtuous and delicious. Whether they're bran-based or paler, most of the muffins have sparing sugar tops and soft fruit cores—you won't find blueberries, or bananas, or rhubarb studded evenly all the way through, but hiding in a gooey center.
Blue Sky Bakery: 53 5th Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11217 (map); 718-783-4123
Olive Oil Muffin at Maialino ($4)
See the little guy in the middle? That's the olive oil muffin. Tender with a sticky moist top, crunchy on the edges, it's positively saturated in olive oil, but not at all heavy; every other item in this basket is just as tasty.
Peels Muffin at Peels ($2.50)
Muffins at Ted and Honey ($2-3)
The muffins at Ted and Honey in Cobble Hill have a nice pinchable bulge and a wonderfully delicate crumb that will get any morning off to a good start. There is a rotating array of choices, but on any given day you can nab lemon blueberry, banana dark chocolate chip, or a lemon poppy seed with a zingy lemon glaze. One of our favorites is the Morning Glory, heavy with healthy things like carrots, apples, zucchini, bran, raisins of all colors (well, yellow raisins and raisin-colored raisins) and pecans.
Spice Muffins at ABC Kitchen ($3)
It's a stout muffin, moist and outfitted in a crunchy oat-kissed streusel topping, fragrant with cinnamon and nutmeg. Don't expect a light, fluffy muffin, as this is more on the dense side—hearty, and fantastically satisfying. Stop by ABC's to-go counter to pick one up.
Apple Streusel Muffin from Lulu Cake Boutique ($2.75)
Muffins at Van Leeuwen (around $3.00)
While muffin flavors change often at Van Leeuwen, we've been quite happy with the carrot currant muffins (with chewy, caramelized edges) and the sweet, cider-spicy apple vanilla.
Van Leeuwen: multiple trucks and storefronts; follow on Twitter
Muffins at Locanda Verde ($3.75)
There's not a single item, past or present, on the Locanda Verde pastry counter we wouldn't recommend. Though pastry chef Karen DeMasco's creations change often, we're particularly fond of the lemon-fennel (its delicate crumb flecked with fennel and sprinkled with zest) and the blueberry-polenta muffin (the surface is lightly dotted with sugar crystals, and the polenta brings about a moist, almost nutty crunch).
Little Miss Muffin 'n Her Stuffin ($2)
For name alone, Little Miss Muffin deserves a shout-out. There's nothing subtle or delicate about these muffins: they're softball-sized and sweet and, as Kathy YL Chan once said, "greasy in a good way." But they've got soft, cakey interiors and awesome crusty edges; they're honest and soul-satisfying. And they're such nice people, you really do find yourself wanting to stop in each morning.
Little Miss Muffin: 174 Park Place, Brooklyn NY 11238 (map); 718-857-4963
Morning Glory Muffin at Stumptown ($3)
Coconut adds flavor and moisture to this not-too-sweet breakfast treat, flecked with carrot and three different kinds of raisins. Baked by The Breslin next door, it tastes so wholesome you might even be able to claim it's healthy. And muffins always taste better with the right coffee to wash them down.
Stumptown at the Ace Hotel: 20 West 29th Street, New York NY 10001 (map); 212-679-2222
French Breakfast Muffin at Trois Pommes ($2.25)
Chocolate Coffee Cake at Jeffrey's Grocery ($4)
Is this a muffin? Well, it's baked in a muffin tin, so we can pretend. The chocolate in this Chocolate Coffee Cake is a subtle flavor, most pronounced on the cake's crust, and visible in a very thin ribbon that runs through the middle. The muffin tin helps the cake attain the perfect texture—light and fluffy on the inside, crisp on the outside. In a word: delicious.