City Bakery

photo by Robert Menzer

As owner Maury Rubin tells it, when City Bakery opened in 1990 to “a minefield of dust” on 18th Street, Union Square was transforming from a drug-fueled area full of ancient, decrepit businesses into the bustling city epicenter it is today. And like the Union Square Greenmarket, which had just opened with only a dozen or so farmers, Rubin wanted his spot to be part of the change: “I wanted to breathe life and ideas into the neighborhood bakery, to make it a sensory experience, personal, up-to-date with the changing food world,” he says. Nearly 25 years later, the shop continues to carry out that vision with each gooey chocolate-chip cookie, decadent cup of hot chocolate, and fluffy pretzel croissant it sells. Rubin says he subscribes to “Frank Lloyd Wright’s dictum that a house should be of the hill, not on it,” and he’s worked to make sure City Bakery remains an essential part of what it helped create. Proof that he’s succeeded is in the crowds that throng the tables — despite the lack of wireless connection — all day long.