Momofuku Milk Bar
(Williamsburg Location on Metropolitan Avenue between Havemeyer Avenue and Marcy Street)
The neon expedition I was wanting to undertake won’t work as well on weekends, which is probably all for the best as I should take it easy for another day or two. But I just remembered that I actually did stop in at a neon spot earlier this week — Momofuku Milk Bar. The photo above is from the East Village location, but I stopped in at the Williamsburg branch this week. Man, they have a LOT of outposts now! I gotta say, seeing the sign all over town lessens the neon appeal a bit. But still, dessert!
Somehow, I’d never been to Milk Bar. Crazy, I know, for a dairy queen like myself — I’ve even made Lucky Charms ice cream inspired by them. It was on my mind, too, because my friends are getting their wedding cake there. I’m looking forward to that! It’s hard to believe I resisted a giant MILK sign for so long.
Sadly, though, I was not really in love with the cereal milk soft serve I got the other day. The texture was great and the serving was generous, but the flavor was like the milk left over from bran flakes, not Froot Loops or Apple Jacks or something yummy. Next time I’ll go for cake truffles or an espresso shake, and I bet I’ll be happier.
The neon signs are the same in all locations — all milky white and gooily squashed like a delicious dessert. They’re medium-sized window signs, and a bit hard to photograph as the white neon isn’t terribly bright, but I think they’re pretty perfect for the shops. I usually hate sloppy-lettering in neon, but this is right in the sweet spot (so to speak) between precise and slapdash. Just right for carefully designed but slightly messy desserts.
Little Cupcake Bakeshop
(on Prince Street at Mott Street in SoHo)
Oh man, I had the best neon expedition planned for this evening, which is, from what I can tell from indoors, the loveliest evening ever. Alas, I’ve been at home feeling poorly the last couple of days, and an exploratory trip to the post office this afternoon revealed that I was not up for anything more ambitious. Perhaps later this weekend if I’m feeling better and the weather continues fine.
And so! Here is one from the files for you. This is the Little Cupcake Bakeshop’s outpost in SoHo (the original location is in Bay Ridge). As you can see, they included quite a nice neon sign with channel letters (that’s the metal part surrounding the neon tubes) hanging over the sidewalk (I think on the Mott Street side, if I’m remembering correctly).
I know some people get annoyed about cupcakes, labeling them (unfairly, I think) as harbingers of gentrification doom, but this is in fact a bakery with a wide ranging menu and a lovely place. I can’t remember where I was coming from or going to last summer when I stopped in, but I got caught in one of those volatile summer rainstorms. As the rain was soaking me through, I remembered I’d been meaning to stop in this bakery and realized I wasn’t far. So stop in I did, trying not to drip too much, and ordered a banana pudding.
Once you’re safely indoors, a rainstorm on a hot summer day makes for very entertaining people watching. At least a dozen people huddled inside the doors of the Bakeshop (while dozens more rushed past or sheltered under neighboring overhangs), though most of them neglected to sample the wares. The staff was friendly nonetheless, but they missed out — the banana pudding I had was quite excellent.
The shop is a cheerful addition to the neighborhood, and the new neon is a delight!
(in Midtown on Lexington Avenue between 61st & 62nd Streets)
To those of you following along on Twitter, apologies for not posting this last night. I think you’ll understand why.
After a long week at work that began rainy but ended with that perfect early summer dry warmth, I probably should have ventured up to the Bronx or to one of the further-flung pins on my Neon To Do map, but instead I stopped off at this nice liquor store on Lexington. It had only occurred to me to stop there late in the afternoon, so I hadn’t done a good survey of my ridiculously overstocked (for someone who lives alone, rarely throws parties, and doesn’t drink cocktails much) liquor stash. There’s one liquor I need to save for a different neon visit, and I knew I wanted something summery, but that still left the field wide open.
Embassy Liquors is on a chaotic block (most of Lexington in Midtown is pretty chaotic — lots of shops, narrow sidewalks, subway entrances, etc.), and the chaos was continuing inside on Friday night. A buxom woman with bleached hair in an undersized acid-green tank top (pleeeeease don’t call that color neon) was handing out samples of something that did not appeal, while several men wheeled handtrucks stacked high with heavy cases of wine and liquor down the narrow aisle. There were about 8 people besides me in the tiny shop, none of the others customers.
There’s a neon sign inside that shows the way to the “Bargain Basement,” which is just a corner down a step in the back. Ha!
I find most liquor stores overwhelming. I know little about cocktails and less about wine, and the packaging and layout tends to confuse me. What about Lillet? Do I have that? I couldn’t remember. Would pear liquor be delicious or disgusting? What about sherry? In the end I remembered that I had wanted St. Germain — elderflower liqueur from France — at one point in the past, but ended up buying something else. Of course it was no where to be found, but one of the many handtruck-haulers stopped long enough to go to the basement and get some for me.
Ack! $41! Ah well, all in a good cause. And it is kind of a fancy bottle (though I don’t like the oversized plasticky cap), so it must be worth it, right?
I stopped, of course, to admire the sign on my way out. It’s a simple swing-sign hanging over the sidewalk, but classic. The red and white colors seem very official somehow (though I have no idea which embassy they purport to be associated with, it’s not too far to the UN so there are a lot about, though none on Lexington that I know of).
On the same block is a pet shop. I would never buy a puppy or kitten from a place undoubtedly supplied by mills, but it does always make me smile to see the kittens gamboling on one side and puppies on the other. And at night after they’re all asleep, the neon cat and dog come out.
I headed down to 53rd & 3rd (humming the Ramons to myself) to get on the subway and escape Manhattan. Back in the ‘hood, I picked up some lemons, limes, and tonic water, not sure how to deal with the St. Germain. On my doorstop, I found a lovely sack of radishes with my name on them. Hurrah for spring produce and for gifts from friends! I headed inside to make a drink, and ended up with a gin & tonic with a healthy dose of St. Germain to boot. Oh wow it was, I think, the most delicious cocktail I’ve ever had. So good. This is totally going to be my jam this summer.
I decided to make some open-faced radish & butter sandwiches to go with my classy cocktail, and OUCH! Sliced well into my thumb with the mandoline. Don’t drink & slice, kids! I managed to catch myself before the flap of skin was severed completely, but a second later the blood welled up and was everywhere. So I had a second St. Germain gin & tonic (they need a better name) with my delicious radish sandwiches. And it still hurt quite a lot after that, so I had a third.
Before the first one, I managed to remember to take a picture. Notice the glass — I just got a pair of kind of old-fashioned looking champagne goblets. Such great glasses! And infinitely superior to flutes, which are nearly impossible to drink out of without getting bubbles up your nose, and if you’re so worried about the bubbles escaping quickly, you’re probably drinking too slowly. So yeah, I recommend goblets for cocktails of all kinds. By the way that’s Scout all blurred out in the background, helping with the photo shoot.
OK, now I’m craving radish sandwiches again (though I think I’ll skip the cocktails tonight). Wish me luck!