It’s Pretzel Day! Get excited! 😀 😀 😀
Yes, National Pretzel Day is a thing, Office fans, and more specifically it’s a Pennsylvania thing: in 2003 the governor of Pennsylvania declared today National Pretzel Day to acknowledge the importance pretzels have had on Pennsylvania’s development. Pretzels have been around in their current salty, crunchy, folded state since at least the Middle Ages, where it’s alleged that monks created the dough and formed it in the shape of arms crossed in prayer. They’ve since been a European dietary staple, especially in German lands, where tradition stands that some pretzels are actually made with lye! Here in the States we inherited the pretzel from the Pennsylvania Dutch–German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania, naturally–and thus began Pennsylvania’s long tradition of making every kind of pretzel you can imagine.
New York doesn’t have as storied a history with pretzels as our Northeast neighbor, but you can’t deny that the pretzel has become one of the culinary trademarks of our great city. Who hasn’t suggested to a passing tourist to snag a soft pretzel steaming from a food cart outside of Central Park, or picked one up, covered in coarse white salt with mustard slathered all over its limbs, at a ball park? Pretzels have gone in the United States from being a fringe immigrant food sold by wooden pushcarts through the streets to something of a ubitquitous snack, made either soft, hard, in knot form, in sticks, and even covered in chocolate and an M&M candy shell. Pretzels are everywhere, and I think that’s definitely something to celebrate.
There are quite a few places in New York City to snag that great, salty, crusty pretzel, in all different varieties and twists. (No pun intended!) One of the most popular and buzzyworthy by far is the City Bakery, which is known for quite a few of their top-shelf confections and breads, one of which being the pretzel croissant. A strange hybrid that you think you might see in a mad baker’s laboratory, the pretzel croissant has the crisp, hard outer shell of a pretzel, complete with the coarse salt sprinkled on top, but is shaped like a delicate French croissant. The interior of the pretzel is also flaky like the dough of a croissant, not soft and chewy like a pretzel. It’s the bakery version of a pluot! It’s wholly unique in all of New York, so for even just that reason you should pick one up. But folks from all over rave about it, not just for the novelty but for the taste, mixing the best parts of both the pretzel and the croissant to make a snack everyone can enjoy. (But hold the mustard for this pretzel, it’s better eaten with light jam, or even butter to accent the croissant inside!)
The City Bakery
3 W 18th St (between 5th Ave & Avenue Of The Americas)
“When cut in half, a pretzel croissant from City Bakery looks oddly like a chicken drumstick. The built-in handle makes the croissant easier to eat, although no matter what you do you’re going to get buttery flakes of dough all over yourself. It’s a hefty pastry, but I scarfed a whole one down in a disturbingly short period of time.”–Serious Eats
“The City Bakery took the classic New York deli concept and elevated the ingredients. Its loft-like, balconied dining room in the Flatiron district has a great prepared salad bar, serve-yourself entrees, mac-and-cheese and organic yogurts. But the real centerpiece is the enormous horseshoe bakery counter serving cookies, muffins and a notorious, chewy, salty, stretchy pretzel croissant.”–CBS New York
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Sitting on the cake stand, this pretzel croissant looks quite boring and unassuming. Upon the first bite, your first impression of the pretzel croissant is that the outer 2 mm is super crisp and salty, just like a pretzel (guestimating that the crust is 2mm :P). Then that first bite gives way to a superrr soft buttery inner croissant. Mind boggling… I still can’t get over it. I need another one…”–Elizabeth M.
“However, I do think City Bakery’s pretzel croissants are worth the hype, price tag, and sometimes long lines. These creatures are the perfect amount of saltiness, flakiness and butteriness thats not too chewy like a pretzel or too buttery like a butter croissant. I LOVE THE OUTER SHELL STUDDED WITH COARSE GRAINS OF SEA SALT!”–Cecilia Z.
While doing my research for this food holiday, I decided, as I always do, to try to find at least one restaurant in New York that’s putting a unique spin on pretzels and the hearty flavors that go along with it. And what I found was a great surprise, even to me: one of my favorite cheftestants is doing just that! Anyone who is a big fan of the Bravo show Top Chef knows Dale Talde, of both Season 4 and All Stars fame. Anyone who is a NYC foodie also knows the name: last year, inspired by the pop-up restaurant that won him the Restaurant War challenge on Top Chef, Dale created a real-life bodega-themed pop-up restaurant in the city to much buzz and acclaim. Now, he’s set down permanent restaurant roots in Park Slope with the aptly named Talde. Dale does what he does best here: sticking to his cooking style and heritage with Asian-inspired flavors, he puts his own spin on Pad Thai, kare kare, and other dishes by adding quirky, seemingly low-end American twists that surprise and delight his patrons.
One such twist is a pretzel twist (this time, the pun is intended!): an appetizer of pork and chive dumplings is taken far away from the traditional Asian pot sticker by being pan-seared and oven-baked with a baking soda solution bath, giving it a crisp, pretzel-like exterior. A pretzel on the outside, a pork dumpling on the inside? Oh, man, does this sound good! And even if it doesn’t thrill your palette, it’s worth it just to try something new and utterly unique. I was really sad that they weren’t open when my family wanted to have dinner for my birthday a few weeks ago–I really want to try this place out!
369 Seventh Ave, Park Slope
“The playful, genre-busting menu is much more successful than the space as an Asian-American mash-up. Talde’s “pretzel” dumplings are classic pork-and-Chinese-chive pot stickers, burnished the same shade as the street-cart snack with egg wash and butter, then dredged in coarse salt—a crunchy and rich cultural composite that makes sense.”–Time Out New York
“What’s takeout with an order of dumplings? Not a takeout order at all! Only Talde offers dumplings that have been blanched in a baking-soda solution before being pan-seared and oven-browned, creating a crunchy exterior like a pretzel. Naturally, they’re served with spicy Chinese mustard.”–Village Voice
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Talde’s opening was surprisingly smooth given the hype and the general frothing-at-the-mouth type of anticipation here in South Slope. That being said, the overall experience of dining here has improved each time I’ve visited. The pretzel pork dumplings remain the absolute pinnacle for me and count among the best appetizers I’ve had at any restaurant.”–John H.
“Just like everyone else has been saying, the pretzel and chive or whatever dumplings are insane. The mustard that comes with them is incredible and I want it on everything. I was very seriously debating licking it off the plate, and was definitely sneaking licks of it off my fingers.”–Alexis G.
But sometimes, new twists on a good thing can be too much for a foodie; sometimes, when it’s National Pretzel Day, all you really want is a simple, fresh-baked, honest-to-goodness soft pretzel. But don’t settle for the mass-produced knots from a food cart on the street corner: head to the Lower East Side, where Sigmund Pretzel Shop will solve all of your pretzel desires. And we really mean it: this family-owned bakery puts love and care into each pretzel, making them fresh, warm, crunchy and chewy where they should be, and flavorful as hell–exactly how a pretzel should taste. Since owner and chef Lina Kulchinsky focuses solely on making pretzels here, you can bet they’re freakin’ amazing, any variety you choose to stuff in your mouth. The tastes range from simple and traditional to savory, sweet, and decadent: gruyere-paprika and caramel-pecan are definitely not flavors you expect to see when describing a pretzel shop! They also use their pretzel dough to make bread for some scrumptious sandwiches, if you’re feeling like having more than a little nosh. But their best seller is the simple caraway pretzel: their plain recipe dotted with caraway seeds tastes exactly like a pretzel-rye bread hybrid, in the best way possible. If you’re just looking for a pretzel fix on this national food holiday, there’s absolutely no need to look further.
Sigmund Pretzel Shop
29 Ave B
“On the Lower East Side, Lina Kulchinsky’s Sigmund Pretzel Shop specializes in the chewy, starchy hand-rolled snack and cites its gruyère-paprika and jalapeno-cheddar flavors as its most popular.”–The New York Times
“Kulchinsky’s plain, simply seasoned pretzels ($3) are indeed a beautiful thing, fulfilling all my wanton pretzel desires. The salted pretzel has just the right amount of salt. But the caraway pretzel tastes like a great piece of seeded rye bread in pretzel form.”–Serious Eats
“At Sigmund Pretzel Shop in the East Village, the hand-rolled, organic pretzels are chewy, comforting, and warm. (If you don’t get one fresh out of the oven, they’ll grab one from the counter display and heat it up for you—but you can rest assured that your pretzel won’t be hanging in a hot glass case, drying out all day.) Some are sprinkled with caraway, poppy, sesame, or sunflower seeds. They also come in sweet varieties, like cinnamon-raisin and caramel-pecan, or savory flavors, like gruyere-paprika and jalapeno-cheddar. It’s like Auntie Anne’s, minus the guilt and the mallrats. Sigmund pretzels are priced at $3-$3.50 and come with free dipping sauces—Nutella, herbed goat cheese, and beet-horseradish mayo, to name a few. We liked the honey-mustard, which had the sticky and gooey consistency of honey with a sharp Dijon bite.”–The L Magazine
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Wow, this place is as legit and delicious as soft pretzels come. Choose a free dip with any pretzel — the herb goat cheese might change your life. I also love the sandwiches served on pretzel rolls: both the mozz, pesto and tomato and hot dog with sauerkraut are great. Check out the pomegranate iced tea for a sweet kick.The trouble is trying not to overstuff yourself and keep ordering more.”–Elizabeth P.
“Stop everything and head over to Sigmund Pretzel Shop and pick up a Gruyere Paprika pretzel and dip that sucker in the herb goat cheese on the side! Super delicious pull-a-part dough covered and baked in goodness.Don’t forget to get them to warm it up so it’s nice and hot as you walk down the street with it or sit at their tables overlooking the street.”–Mark A.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!