6 Must-Try Russian Bakeries in NYC

Food Lists Russian Bakeries

They say New York City is the place you can find whatever you want – and this is definitely true – but some things are harder to find than others, and Russian breads and pies fall into that category. They’re not as well known in NYC (or as easy to find) as many foods of other global cuisines. Bakeries and shops where they’re sold are generally found in neighborhood enclaves where for the most part their customers are local – and thankfully, loyal. It’s also not uncommon that little or no English at all is spoken in these wonderful bakeries and shops.

Russian bakeries do open in different locations of the city – sometimes successfully, sometimes not. We’ve asked Rich Sanders, a long-time connoisseur of the global cuisines in NYC, where to find the best Russian bakeries in the city and what he thinks about the Russian food scene. Read on to see six great places where you can find Russian breads and pastries in NYC.

Paste: You’ve been exploring the cuisines of NYC for a long time now. Do you think Russian cuisine is changing, or growing, in any way in the city? If so, how?

Rich Sanders: One of my favorite cuisines! But at the outset, let’s stipulate that by “Russian,” we’re including all of the Former Soviet Union countries since Central Asia (Uzbekistan for example), Eastern Europe (notably Ukraine), the Southern Caucasus (more about Georgian breads in a minute) and the Baltic States have each had their own delicious impact on Russian cuisine.

There may have been a small overall increase in Russian culinary presence although I don’t have data to back that up: new markets, bakeries and restaurants come just as old ones go; but it feels like the newer markets are more contemporary – larger, shinier, and they embrace more regional cuisines. You’ll see a tremendous amount of prepared food in these venues and many of them have a baked goods department that rivals the tiny, scattered bakeries.

Of all the FSU countries, Georgian cuisine seems to be gaining in popularity (which makes me happy). The food is delicious, of course, but the breads are incredible.

Paste: Where are some of your favorite places in the city to get Russian breads and pastries?

RS: As with any ethnic group, there are Russian enclaves in New York City. Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach area, aka Little Odessa, is certainly the motherlode, but there are others to be found in Gravesend, Bensonhurst, Sheepshead Bay, Bath Beach, Midwood and Forest Hills, Queens. On any given day, I’ll choose a neighborhood, poke around all the food establishments, and buy anything I haven’t already enjoyed on a previous visit. That’s the best way to make discoveries and perhaps ferret out a new favorite.

Paste: I remember talking to you about Russian breads and pastries and you rattled off a long list of breads or pastries I didn’t know by name. Can you give us a shortlist (or a longlist) of some of those different types of breads or pastries to be found in the city?

RS: Let’s talk about Georgian breads first. The overarching term is khachapuri, literally “cheese bread,” and there are at least a dozen kinds that I know of. They’re commonly filled with tangy, salty sulguni cheese and imeruli, a fresh crumbly cheese which when melted together combine to make stretchy, cheesy nirvana.

Two of my favorites are adjaruli and megruli. Adjaruli is shaped like a kayak, the center of which is filled with cheese; a raw egg and a chunk of butter are added just as it’s removed from the oven. Stir the mixture: the egg cooks and combines with the butter and melted cheese. Break off pieces of the bread and dip them into the cheese mixture. Now picture hot bread with melted buttery cheese, fresh out of the oven that you eat with your hands – what’s not to like? Megruli is a little more self-contained: cheese bread filled with cheese and then topped with more cheese and baked. Did I mention cheese? Think Georgian pizza.

I like Berikoni Bakery’s take on those breads – 125 Brighton Beach Avenue, Brooklyn.

I keep finding a marginally better version of a pastry favorite each time I try a new bakery. For example, qada, a sweet, buttery Georgian specialty that’s a soft, thick cookie was especially good at Georgian Deli & Bakery – 2270 86th Street, Brooklyn. They also did particularly delicious penovani, another cheese bread, this time in puff pastry; mine had just come out of the oven – not sure if that prejudiced me!

There are many kinds of cookies; oreshki, walnut-shaped shortbread cookies with dulce de leche filling are fairly ubiquitous and, although technically not baked goods, various flavors of cheese curd snacks, little cheesecakey bites frozen and dipped in chocolate are surprisingly rich.

As for over-the-top cakes, you’re more likely to find those in the bakery departments of the larger markets and palaces of prepared food like Brighton Bazaar, Gourmanoff, and others along Brighton Beach Avenue; there are traditional Russian multicolored, multilayered, multicaloried favorites, but you’ll also see their spin on adopted treats like tiramisu, Napoleons, strudel, and cannoli to name a few.

There’s a bakery called Stolle that’s both outstanding and an outlier. They refer to their product as “pies” but I’d be hard pressed to choose that word for their beautifully ornate works of too-pretty-to-eat baked goods loaded with both sweet and savory fillings. Unlike the modest bakeries you’ll find elsewhere, Stolle, a St. Petersburg émigré, is a little upscale, has a more contemporary look, and offers seating. But their attention is as much to deliciousness as it is to the aesthetics of their wares: everything I’ve tasted there has been wonderful; the rabbit pie is not to be missed.

Paste: Your absolute favorite Russian bread or pastry is (fill in the blank). You love it because (fill in the blank).

RS: Tough question. I guess my favorite bread would have to be adjaruli because I love turning people on to food they’ve never tried and the response I get when I introduce folks to it on my neighborhood ethnojunkets is so gratifying! That’s why I do what I do.

Paste: Any funny stories about visiting one of the places you’ve mentioned, or any advice to people who’d like to do a Russian bakery/pastry crawl?

RS: I do have a story about a Russian market crawl on my website although it’s not strictly about bakeries or pastries.


Here’s our list of six of the best places to find Russian baked goods in NYC (If you’d like to go with someone who knows the ropes, Rich Sanders can be contacted for tours):

1. Stolle

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Stolle is a Russian bakery first opened in 2002 in St. Petersburg. Their authentic and beautiful sweet and savory pies can be bought whole or by the piece. Offerings range from rabbit to mushroom to cabbage to blackberry and more, which are all freshly prepared at their Long Island City location.

2. Brighton Bazaar

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Brighton Bazaar is a popular supermarket that carries almost anything Russian one might want, from caviar to cured and smoked meats to baked goods and freshly made crepes to take home and roll with caviar and sour cream. It also has the great advantage of being a walk-able distance from the Coney Island Boardwalk.

3. Tone-Café

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Tone Café has a full menu that includes a variety of freshly baked/filled specialty breads. If you stay for a meal it can be like a full-body immersion in the culture of Russian-Brooklyn life but take out is also available if you’re short on time.

4. Berikoni

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Berikoni claims to have “The best kachapuri and bread in the whole New York.” It’s also on Rich Sander’s list of favorites, so it’s definitely worth checking out what might be thought of as their “Georgian pizza.”

5. Moscow on the Hudson

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Moscow on the Hudson is way uptown, which puts in it a different part of the city than most of the other Russian places. Though it doesn’t specialize in baked goods (it’s a grocery store) they do have a range of breads, cakes, pies and pastries available.

6. Georgian Deli and Bakery

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Georgian Deli and Bakery has an expansive variety of baked goods both sweet and savory as well as some great salads, main courses, and soups to go. It’s a recent addition to the Russian NYC food scene and it’s receiving consistently great reviews.

Karen Resta is a writer, a food culturalist, and a sometimes-fashionista who mostly loves ice cream and Brooklyn.

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