Upon first glance, the famous Milk Bar bakery everyone is buzzing about appears to be a well-designed, but cramped, coffee joint. Led by head pastry chef Christina Tosi, the eatery on I and 11th streets is an extension of its sister restaurant, New York’s Momofuku.
I headed over during one of its first days in the District to give you a low-down on what to expect.
When you should go:
When I arrived there on Thursday at 3 p.m., about 12 people packed the small shop.
Every day, no matter the time, lines form out the door and around the corner. I learned from fellow customers waiting in line that the best time to visit is late afternoon.
What you should expect:
Far from a cozy cafe, Milk Bar is more of a nook, created as a place for pick-up items exclusively. Its loyal fan base of hipsters and foodies comes for the unique desserts, which include pumpkin pie truffles ($4.35 for three and $16 for a dozen) and “crack pies,” a sweet, buttery filling piled on a chewy oat cookie crust ($5.50 for a slice, $44 for whole pie).
As I made my way through the line, I noticed neon light fixtures and shelves lined with cute bags, cookie jars and recipes, which add to the homemade vibe. On the counter, there are cookie-decorated postcards with information about how customers should store their baked goods.
What you should eat:
Definitely give the $5 crack pie soft serve a try. With the texture of a whipped, light soft serve, it has a rich and creamy, cake-like flavor. Served in a small cup, you can choose toppings such as cereal, fudge and sprinkles.
Other trendy menu items include Milk Bar’s take on birthday cake – chunks of cake crumbs that have been soaked with sweet milk glaze to keep them moist sit atop layers of vanilla frosting, yellow cake and multi-colored sprinkles. It has the classic taste of a boxed birthday cake, but the cake crumbs and milk glaze elevate it to being a unique, mouth-watering favorite. The cake ranges in price from $42 for a small 6-inch one up to $250 for a large sheet cake.
Instead of traditional chocolate chip, Milk Bar offers $2.25 blueberry cream cookies and “compost cookies,” packed with with potato chips, pretzels, oats and butterscotch chips. The compost cookie has both a sweet and savory flavor, while the blueberry cream is very buttery and actually tastes like “the top of a blueberry muffin” as the label claims.
The Milk Bar is also known for its amazing truffles. I gave the birthday cake and chocolate malt truffles a try. I discovered that they taste much like cake pops, but with a more gooey center. For all of the chocolate lovers, the chocolate malt does not disappoint. With its rich core and malt dusted cover, its a velvety-textured delight.
What you should skip:
I first decided to sample Milk Bar’s most talked-about menu item, the cereal milk-flavored soft serve ($5). Though the ice cream tasted surprisingly like the milk leftover at the bottom of a bowl of Frosted Flakes, the flavor fell flat. It lacked sweetness, and I was only able to take a few bites until I was sick of its flavor.
What’s unique to D.C.
Unlike at the New York locations, the D.C. location spotlights breakfast on its menu, with a selection of yogurt parfaits and a $7 Thanksgiving croissant, loaded with turkey and cranberry sauce. For the crowd that wants to go easy on the sugar, the $4 “bagel bombs” are bagels shaped into small buns and filled with bacon cream cheese.