Consider the Sticky Bun, the most dessert-y of all breakfast pastries, a glorious bit of sweet and chewy heaven with which to start your day. But it's tricky to get them right! During the course of my intensive investigation over the past month I consumed countless not-worth-it calories, and a couple of big players in the NYC bakery game got caught selling day-old buns, which is a bad strategy and particularly fatal when it comes to these brioche-based beauties. That said, there are plenty of excellent sticky buns to be had around town, and these are the very best.
Ciao For Now, $4.75 (Photo by Scott Lynch/Gothamist)
Ciao For Now: This relentlessly charming Alphabet City cafe only sells its sticky buns on the weekends, but these monsters are worth whatever it takes to get one into your mouth. The Ciao For Now version is extra large, wonderfully sweet, and so generously slathered in syrup it's almost like eating a first-rate pecan pie... but instead of crust you get soft, buttery brioche. This was possibly my favorite such pastry overall.
Ciao For Now is located 523 East 12th Street between Avenues A and B. Sticky buns are available WEEKENDS ONLY (212-677-2616; ciaofornownyc.com)
Amy's Bread, $3.75 (Photo by Scott Lynch/Gothamist)
Amy's Bread: Amy's is a bit of a baked-goods empire these days, with three full-on storefronts, several ancillary shops, a thriving wholesale business, and one of the most satisfying sticky buns around. The secret to success here is the thick coating of chopped, candied nuts, so there's plenty of crunch in every bite but no sacrificing any sweetness. As is the case with many of these goodies, the Amy's sticky bun tends to sell out by early afternoon, so go early to avoid disappointment.
There are Amy's on Bleecker Street, Chelsea Market, and in Hell's Kitchen, among other outlets (amysbread.com)
Rockaway Beach Bakery, $5 (Photo by Scott Lynch/Gothamist)
Rockaway Beach Bakery: The best new place out at the beach this summer had to be Tracy Obolsky's Rockaway Beach Bakery, located about a block away from the water and always filled with an array of delights both savory (get any of the stuffed croissants, but especially the Everything Ham and Swiss) and sweet (the unassuming-looking Plum Cake is fantastic). But no matter what else you order, also order one of Obolosky's classic sticky buns, a dense and delicious energizer before hitting the waves.
Rockaway Beach Bakery is located at 87-10 Rockaway Beach Boulevard between Beach 88 and 87 (347-727-7680; Instagram)
William Greenberg, $3.50 (Photo by Scott Lynch/Gothamist)
William Greenberg Desserts: Don't be put off by the prime Madison Avenue address, this is an old-school kosher bakery, with plastic-wrapped baking trays providing the display, and service that's refreshingly opinionated and direct. William Greenberg's Black & White is one of the best in town, and their Sticky Bun is an equally first-rate showing in its category. So shockingly sweet, so packed with raisins and cinnamon that, really, the $2 mini version is all you "need," though I never seem to have a problem finishing the regular size.
William Greenberg is located at 1100 Madison Avenue between 82nd and 83rd Streets (212-861-1340; wmgreenbergdesserts.com)
Sunday In Brooklyn, $6 (Photo by Scott Lynch/Gothamist)
Sunday In Brooklyn: Located on a quiet stretch of Wythe Avenue, this multi-leveled, ridiculously pretty restaurant (once home to the great, short-lived Isa, and still rocking much of its rustic charms) serves a lot of excellent food, but if you come during the day for a coffee and a treat, the thing to get is their Pecan Sticky Bun. The Sunday In Brooklyn creation distinguishes itself by its impressive size, the lightness of the brioche dough, and the unique and welcome addition of honey to the sticky part of the proceedings.
Sunday In Brooklyn is located at 348 Wythe Avenue between S 2nd and S 3rd Streets (347-222-6722; sundayinbrooklyn.com)
Balthazar, $4.25 (Photo by Scott Lynch/Gothamist)
Balthazar: This 20-year-old Soho institution is, at this point, one of NYC's most famous restaurants, but if you don't have the time or the bank account for the $41 Steak Frites, at least treat yourself to one of the superb Sticky Buns sold at the adjacent bakery. The almost cylindrical pastry (it's probably the tallest one on the list, for whatever that's worth) is wholesaled to various outlets all over town, but it's at the mothership where this baby really soars. There's an almost crackling crust, crunchy pecans, plenty of gloppy filling, and just a few raisins for added chew and sweetness. Perfection.
Balthazar is located at 80 Spring Street between Broadway and Crosby Street (212-965-1414; balthazarny.com)
Flora Coffee, $6 (Photo by Scott Lynch/Gothamist)
Flora Coffee at Met Breuer: One of the city's most pleasantly serene spots to enjoy a hot beverage and big sweet treat on a Sunday morning is the shady subterranean terrace adjacent to Flora Coffee, the newish cafe at the Met Breuer. The Sticky Bun here is the literal stickiest I've ever eaten, with every bit of the bready surface coated in sweetness. Adding to the delicious mess: the pecans are ground into tiny bits which drop all over the place until scooped up with your fingers. Get there early on the weekends, though, to avoid the dreaded "sold out" sign.
Flora Coffee is located in lower level of the Met Breuer museum, 945 Madison Avenue between 74th and 75th Streets (646-558-5383; florabarnyc.com)
Bread Alone, $3 (Photo by Scott Lynch/Gothamist)
Bread Alone: Bread Alone is mostly an upstate operation—I went to the Woodstock location this summer, and it was bonkers crowded with weekenders—but three days a week they set up a tent at the Union Square Greenmarket to hawk their freshly-baked fare, including these first-rate Sticky Buns. The puck-shaped pastry here is about two-third brioche, one-third gooey pecan topping, and definitely makes wading through the USQ hordes a whole lot sweeter.
Bread Alone has a year-round tent at the Union Square Greenmarket on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and brings their baked goods to 15 other farmers markets in NYC as well (breadalone.com)
Sadelle's, $5 (Photo by Jen Carlson/Gothamist)
Sadelle's: I'm always reluctant to recommend anything from a Major Food Group restaurant because their prices are usually so outrageous, but if you're strolling in SoHo and want to indulge in a treat, the move is the pastry counter at Sadelle's for one of Melissa Weller's sublime Sticky Buns. Yes, they're only about two or three bites big, but man do those bites taste good. The brown-sugary glazed rolls of fluffy brioche are sprinkled with of a touch sea salt to simultaneously counter and emphasize the sweetness.
Sadelle's is located at 463 West Broadway between Houston and Prince Streets (212-776-4926; sadelles.com)
Mah Ze Dahr, $4.50 (Photo by Scott Lynch/Gothamist)
Mah Ze Dahr: So this one's cheating a bit. Technically Mah Ze Dahr's newish, phenomenal-as-usual pastry is called the Candied Hazelnut Nutella Brioche Bread, but enough classic sticky bun elements are in place to warrant inclusion here— withthe crunchy nutty top, and the gooey sweet veins running through the mound of soft dough. Plus it's guaranteed to make you happy.
Mah Ze Dahr is located at 28 Greenwich Avenue between Charles and West 10th Streets (212-498-9810; mahzedahrbakery.com)