Power Outlets: Few.
Noise Level: Medium to loud.
Seating: Plenty with outdoor area as well.
Hours: 7:30 a.m.- 11 p.m.
Patrons: Columbia students and professors
Music Playing: Soft hits.
Hungarian Pastry Shop is a densely packed sálon on the Upper West Side. The coffee’s robust flavor is further deepened and accentuated by the deep red tones of the shop’s interior. It’s dimly lit atmosphere is offset by ample outdoor seating. But, before I go any further into reducing this review to a number out of ten, I think it deserves a story…
In its years nestled in the ribs of Columbia University, I can only imagine what Hunagrian has seen. But, its decor gives some of that away. The walls feature framed book covers of writing produced in the coffee shop. Yes, and the sheer volume of books written in Hungarian would blow you away.
This coffee shop is, in essence, why I started this blog. It proves that a place and an atmosphere can inspire a person to be creative, and a building or a storefront can be so much more than just space.
The first person to take me to Hungarian, almost two years ago now, was my friend Nicki Felmus.
Nicki was, at the time, a sophomore at Columbia studying education policy. She and I met through my NYU roommate and resident unicorn, Samantha. As my friendship with Nicki blossomed, she told me that we had to go to Hungarian because, beyond being the school’s hotbed of awkward tinder dates, it had really good pastries.
Nicki and I have always shared an affinity for sweet things and the total bizarreness of online matchmaking. When I first walked into Hungarian with her two years ago, it was bursting at the seams with people.
People reading, people talking about politics, people downing espresso like it was the fountain of youth, people scribbling, people sighing, people sipping, people delivering dapper little cookies on shiny silver trays. People. It looked like Nicki’s mind, personified. Nicki is one of those people that you meet, and she’s so talented and smart that she almost radiates intelligence. Her laugh is infectious and her smile is to be envied. And, like Nicki, Hungarian was notably one of those people you never find anymore.
Nicki wasn’t the only person I knew who loved Hungarian. One of my favorite professors at NYU was an eastern philosophy genius named Ethan Harkness. Ethan was as smart as he was kind, and he had both qualities (if you could quantify them) in excess. Because of his adroit manner of teaching Chinese sages, I like to read The Analects every so often to reroute my life.
I once brought up the coffee shop in discussion before a class, and Ethan immediately joined in. He also teaches at Columbia and loves to sit and read in Hungarian. The shop has no wi-fi and thus usually serves as the ideal place to read and grade papers. We connected over how much we loved the books on the wall and how Hungarian is a gem in the gutter that is New York.
Ethan told me to try the croissant with jam and butter. He described an apple butter that melted into a croissant in such a manner that he nearly transformed into Ina Garten or Paula Dean. As I sit in Hungarian now, trying it for the first time, Ethan was right. It’s a pastry worth fawning over. The bread is folded in heavy, buttered layers. The jam is so shiny it resembles lipgloss in a small plastic cup.
I’ve never been to Hungarian alone before, but it is an excellent place to people watch. It is certainly a coffee shop held near and dear to me, as I’m sure it is to many others. 7/10