THE GRIND 8/19
Hungarian Pastry Shop
Reviewed By Emma Holter
Location: 1030 Amsterdam Avenue (between 110th and 111th in Morningside Heights, across from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine)
It goes without saying that if I had gone to Columbia, I would have probably gone to the Hungarian Pastry Shop every day of my undergrad. This charming cafe has been fueling Columbia students and the surrounding neighborhood for over five decades with their old-world pastries like fresh cream puffs, eclairs, croissants, danishes, apple strudel, walnut hamantaschen, an enormous variety of cakes (the carrot cake and sachertorte are not to be passed up!), AND delicious drip coffee. You place your order at the front counter, and if you’re going they will give your pastries in a box tied with string, if you’re staying they’ll take your name and bring it to you at your seat. One of the things I like most about the cafe is that the staff does not pressure you to finish your coffee/conversation/studying quickly--which is very European of them--you can stay as long as you like and order as much as you like.
I don’t usually drink for American-style coffee, but on this particular weekend nothing suited me better. The brew at Hungarian Pastry Shop is rather bitter and strong (but certainly won’t give you heart palpitations) but tastes wonderful with a bit of creamy whole milk. The friend that I was meeting, a grad student at Columbia, told me that there is an unspoken rule that regulars can get unlimited refills if they ask for them! There is also a Hungarian coffee drink on the menu that looks drip coffee topped with whipped cream, cinnamon and hazelnut that I will definitely be ordering on my next visit.
The cafe itself is crowded with small wooden tables, all full of people pouring over textbooks, macbooks, novels & that morning’s NY Times. The midsummer weather was lovely when I was there this weekend, and the staff set the cafe tables outside onto Amsterdam Avenue, where you have a clear view of the spires of the St. John the Divine and it’s cool green garden. When the university is in session, the cafe is usually filled with the chattering din of students, professors, writers, and creative people. It’s one of my favorite cafes in New York because it feels like its character will never change, and I can go back again and again and indulge myself with good company, a good book, something sweet and something bitter.