|Landbrot Bakery and Bar|
The east side of 7th Avenue between Charles Street and West 10th Street seems to be in a perpetual state of flux. First, Birdbath Bakery opened and closed, a much lamented passing in our household. (Justin snuck in for something every time he went to the garage to "get the car".) Then a Louisiana snoball shop opened and closed, to be replaced months later by a mediocre, overpriced wine shop. Its near neighbor is a barber shop advertising $12 men's haircuts for senior citizens. The rest of the block seems to be permanently enrobed in scaffolding, which Julius enjoys leaving peemail on. It's an unsightly stretch, often covered with glass from broken beer bottles, but the scaffolding comes in handy when it rains.
Imagine my surprise when, one spring day, after months of walking past all this muck, I look up to see a very attractive, shiny new bakery with huge plate glass windows, and row after row of beautiful breads and sweets, which has appeared out of nowhere. This gorgeous apparition is called Landbrot Bakery and Bar, probably the only German bakery in Manhattan, today -- or one of only two, if you count its sister location on the Lower East Side, which also opened in early April. All the breads and pastries are baked daily upstairs above the West Village store, under the supervision of a certain Herr Udo Fischer, whom Serious Eats identifies as a "Bavarian master baker".
|A Window Advertising Some of the Delights Within|
It's a funny shape, this place, because the trapezoidal block it sits on is typical of this part of the West Village. Once you find the right door (there's a side door that's there to trick you) and enter, there's a bar on the right, set off at an angle, where you can enjoy a few German brews and breakfast, lunch or a light dinner. (Soups, salads, sandwiches, sausages, quiche, schnitzel, and an Alsatian "flaming pie" -- better and less dramatically known as tarte flambée -- are available.)
|The Small, but Lively, Landbrot Bar|
There's also comfortable cafe style seating against the wall to the left. In front of you, there's a nicely lit display of breads on the back wall: the eponymous landbrot (a "round, dark rye" with a "distinctive heavy crust" per the New York Times), Berlin brot, ciabatta rolls, croissants, pretzel rolls, gouda-covered pretzel rolls, Swiss rolls (real bread loaves, not the horrible, plasticine sweets sold by Little Debbie), pretzels and much more. Accessibly at eye level, you're face to face with an array of sweet pastries: berliners, various tarts, apple strudel, attractive cakes sold by the slice, individual cream cheesecakes, tiny little iced cakes and small muffins. It all looks wonderful.
|Some of the Sweets behind the Counter: French Lemon Tart, |
Fruit Tart, Chocolate and Coconut "Grenades", Cheesecake
|More Sweets: Rhubarb Crumble, Roll, Lemon Cakes, |
Apple Strudel, Chocolate Croissants, Muffins
Here is some of the loot we've tried so far:
The plain pretzel roll had a lovely, crisp outside, lightly (perfectly!) salted with the coarse kosher salt you find on giant, bready pretzels all over town. the inside was tender, even light, with nice, medium-sized air pockets.
|Inner Pretzel Roll|
A gouda-covered pretzel roll was also good, though the texture was a bit denser and I'm not usually a fan of previously melted, cold cheese. It would've been heavenly fresh out of the oven.
|Gouda Pretzel Roll|
The Swiss roll was very floury on the outside, with a light texture similar to the Portuguese or Cuban rolls found in markets in East Harlem. There isn't much chew to the bread. I think it's made with a low-gluten flour. These are ideally shaped, sized and priced for Justin's daily lunchtime sandwich. (ETA: The bakery's a bit inconsistent. We've purchased a few rolls that were quite a bit chewier and denser than the one pictured.)
|Inner Swiss Roll|
The apple strudel is absolutely fabulous. Its tender, flakey, hand-rolled phyllo layers manage to hold in a lot of tender (but not too tender), moist (but not too moist) apple, raisins, walnuts and sweet spices, without falling apart. Really, it's a gorgeous confection. You can have it, warm, for breakfast, here. I can't imagine a nicer start to the day.
And of course there's the famous Berliner filled with jam. The doughnut has a nice weight and a nice amount of filling, but tastes almost light there is so little residual grease.
The landbrot and Berlin brot are both dark rye breads with heavy, hard crusts and the key visual distinction is that the Berlin brot comes in a huge round loaf, as big in diameter as a large sized pizza in NYC. The landbrot is a more manageable size for families of smaller than 20 people. You can, however, purchase quarters or halves of the Berlin brot. I asked the very pleasant counterman what the difference was. He said the Berlin brot was twice baked, with a thicker, harder crust.
When we tried the two breads side by side, both had a dense, rustic crumb. The landbrot was slightly softer and more moist, while the Berlin brot was a touch more brittle. The Berlin brot smelled deliciously of honey and had a touch of sourness, similar to sourdough; the landbrot smelled of caraway. Both were delicious with an aged, raw goats milk gouda we happened to have in the refrigerator. The crust of the Berlin brot, especially, was made for dipping in soup.
|A Quarter of the Berlin Brot|
Lunch and dinner offerings are basic and they seem to vary in quality. The best options we've tried seem to be the bread- and baked goods-based items, not surprisingly. The sandwiches are lovely, with interesting fillings. Several incorporate Black Forest ham that's very close to being the real thing, not the cheap and vastly inferior knock-off usually passed off as Black Forest ham in the U.S.
The Black Forest ham, Emmental cheese, hothouse cucumbers, watercress & apple butter sandwich on Italian country bread was a delicious combination, served with a nicely seasoned, sweet, vinegary, southern German potato salad on the side.
|Black Forest Ham Sandwich|
A German herring salad (wine soaked herring fillet, boiled potato, red beets, German pickles, green onion & bib lettuce with sour cream & dill dressing) was fine, but not exceptional in any way. I found the house-made herring a touch over-marinated: too briny and sour with an overly mushy texture. Pickles were soft rather than crisp.
Drip coffee was also only so-so, the quality of coffee you'd find at your average office coffee center. But it came with a very buttery, slightly crisp little chocolate chip cookie on the saucer. I'd think about ordering the coffee again for that cookie. ;)
And last but certainly not least, the beer! I've only tried one so far, a Höss Doppel-Hirsch described on the menu as "The strong one. Dark soul, festive spirit. This noble but traditional beer, brewed with at least 75 % dark malt, excels on its distinctive malty note. Full-bodied, mellow and velvety taste, with light hop bitter." My read on the Doppel-Hirsch was that it was sweet and molasses-y -- so sweet, in fact, I could imagine having it with (or as) dessert.
There's much more to try of the menu. I probably won't make an exhaustive list of them all, since we'll probably get around to trying everything, it's such a pleasant little spot. But I will try to report back with a report of the really good stuff. :)
137 7th Ave South
New York City, NY 10014
Food Rating: B+ (For baked goods, alone: A+)
Baby-Friendly Rating: A-