If it weren’t for the man sitting on a bench out front snacking on a massive chocolate chip cookie, it would be easy to accidentally walk right past Michaeli Bakery. The faint smell of fresh pastries does drift nonchalantly out of the Lower East Side business, which is so new that there’s no sign outside.
The bright, white-tiled space is home to baker Adir Michaeli’s first business, offering a spectrum of items reminiscent of his upbringing in Israel. But to Michaeli, who ran the pastry department at the popular Lehamim Bakery in Tel Aviv, his namesake business actually seems like his second. That’s because he played such an integral role in Manhattan’s beloved Breads Bakery that he felt like it was partly an extension of himself.
Fans of Breads will appreciate Michaeli Bakery, and not just because of their fondness for the man behind it. Michaeli is staying true to some of the favorites he developed at Breads, such as the rugelach, he said.
“There’s nothing to change if it’s already working really well,” he said.
Upbeat music vacillating between ambient and pop pulsed gently through the shop on a recent sun-kissed afternoon as a woman tried to convince the guys behind the counter that they should market to visitors of the Tenement Museum a short walk up Orchard Street. She’d stopped by to check the new place out, offering that she and her husband were big fans of Breads. A few other patrons slipped in, picking up rugelach, babka and challah as Michaeli’s employees chatted about Shabbat and Israel.
The quality of the babka is undeniable, the moist and chocolate-laden bread coming in loaf form. Michaeli’s version has evolved considerably over time, he said, adding that he was able to achieve its current state by adjusting the amount of butter in his laminating process. It isn’t available by the slice, but the snack-size rugelach makes an ideal stand-in for those on the go because it relies on the same basic dough and dark chocolate but adds some Nutella, Michaeli said.
Like in Israel, Michaeli said the soft dough mini kugelhopf and the burekas are particularly popular, but he’s quick to note that they also serve vegan doughnuts and a gluten-free cake that uses a very light cream. His bakery offers several cakes, but he’s particularly proud of this one.
“One of the cakes that I make that’s very special is meringue roulade,” he said. “It melts in your mouth and it’s very summery.”
Michaeli will add more cakes as the bakery grows, and he plans to have at least 15 in regular rotation.
While his current offerings may be slightly limited, they provide more than enough allure. Take, for example, the tempting alfajores—Argentinian cookies that aren’t dissimilar to macarons and which are also popular in Israel, Michaeli said. A dulce de leche spread sits between two “super delicate” butter cookies, and it’s topped with coconut flakes. The result is just as transfixing as Michaeli’s babka, and at just $3 a pop, there’s no reason not to try one.