After a day that kind of went off the rails richness-wise (lunch at Grand Sichuan 24th Street...comparison dinner at Grand Sichuan 7th Avenue South), I was walking up Bleecker with some friends who desperately needed to top things off with something sweet. Who was I to say no? One of us, a fairly recent addition to New York, said he'd never been to Magnolia Bakery. Now, many of my friends have heard me complain about this place for years (unfriendly service, annoying lines of people from the Sex and the City tours, waaaaay overrated cupcakes). But, after reading Wednesday's New York Times article about whoopie pies, I was curious about Magnolia's version. So, as it was after 10 and the place was relatively empty, I agreed to go.
I made a beeline for the counter, searching for the whoopie pie area, and my eyes fell upon...
WRONG! WRONG! WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!
Admittedly, these are called "whoopie cookies," so maybe they decided to do their own weird thing (according to the menu on Magnolia's website, they are "two brown sugar cookies with a dollop of maple cream cheese icing in between"). But if that's the case, call them something else! They look more like Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies, so why not go for something emulating that idea? No, instead they offer a pile of faux Pennsyltucky Dutch wrongness that screams "someone needs to do their research!"
(Also, why didn't the Times article mention the Magnolia version isn't really Whoopie-like at all?)
After recovering from my little freak-out, I decided to pick up a chocolate cupcake with vanilla icing while I was there (if I'm going to continue to complain about the place, I might as well be up to speed on its most famous offering). The Magnolia virgin among us went nuts and ordered a miniature flourless chocolate cake and a slice each of red velvet, coconut, and one of the chocolate cakes.
After a taste test, I'm happy to say that I can stick to my guns on the Magnolia ban. The cupcake's cake was dry and the frosting was sickeningly sweet. The red velvet was unremarkable (but I'm admittedly spoiled by the insanely amazing version made by my friend, the cake mistress Suzanna), the coconut was OK, and the chocolate cake was similar to its cupcake cousin--dry and tooooo sweet. I didn't try the flourless chocolate cake (I couldn't take any more sugar), but the Magnolia virgin liked it, so at least it made him happy.
A good note, though: the guy behind the cash register was actually friendly. I guess they've finally tried to hire staff with people skills?
Today's overall impression is that Magnolia Bakery must own stock in a sugar cane plantation. Everything's too sweet. I'll continue to stick to Billy's, where they seem to maintain a better butter/sugar balance.
(A brief Grand Sichuan comment: The new 7th Avenue South location is, unfortunately, too restrained. It's menu is tiny compared to the ones at 24th and St. Mark's, and everything's dialed back flavor-wise. It's still better than a typical Chinese restaurant, but I'll be sticking to the 24th Street location.)