This month, Sugartooth Tours announced the latest addition to their popular roster of saweeeeet and informative excursions around the city. After the success of their Hell’s Kitchen Dessert Tour, co-owners Sarah Rolleston and Allyson Tolbert discovered that their clientele were equally interested in the history of the theater district — shared over coffee, tea, touring and of course desserts — the two entrepreneurial actresses immediately realized that the spotlight was on a new business venture: Bright Lights & Broadway Bites.
The tour attracts locals and visitors alike with a sweet-tooth theatrical escapade that takes place about and around The Great White Way. (You’ll also learn how that moniker came into our lexicon.)
There are six stops along the 2 and ½ hour dessertapalooza. It’s a decadent day but don’t worry about large portions, it’s a tasting tour, however do wear comfortable shoes and plan to skip a meal — you’re in for a real NYC treat prior to a matinee or evening performance.
My tour started at the infamous Sardi’s Restaurant with a little history lesson but no dessert. You are welcome to come back for a cocktail, dinner and/or snack but the information about this actors’ venerable enclave is better than all the cheesecake in the city: Sardi’s still offers performers a place to have their caricature displayed, gather after a performance and preferential treatment for thespians with proper credentials (on Wednesdays).
“We combine culinary and cultural history with the best desserts in New York City. For example, Sardi’s is probably Broadway’s most famous watering hole and it opened in 1929 by Vincent Sardi. We discuss the purpose and heritage behind the character portraits as well as other stories associated with the historic landmark,” said Rolleston.
Your next stop might be Junior’s. Made popular from its origins in Brooklyn, this dessert hub and restaurant offers some of the most amazing cheesecakes in the city. While it’s mandatory to order the plain by Manhattanites, they do offer toppings and assorted flavors like strawberry, blueberry and others. Old-school New Yorkers, like myself, devour it with no frills. (Just the right portion to move on to the next stop but you might want to order take-out for later).
According to Rolleston, “We currently have 40 Broadway theaters and at one time there were over 80, but theater is currently doing quite well at the box office; attendance and ticket sales are way up.” She elaborated on a great story about Shubert Alley and led me into Junior’s café, the sweet smell of cakes and pies permeated the room. I had the epiphany that theater and dessert go together like Romeo and Juliet but with a sweeter ending.
Rolleston graciously handed me my cheesecake stating, “One interesting note about Junior’s is that it originated in the 1950’s in Flatbush, Brooklyn but in 1981 there was a fire. A crowd surrounded the burning building chanting, ‘Save the Cheesecake!’”
I learned that the family salvaged the recipe as we move on to the next place and she explained the history of several theaters. Of which two were named after lawyers while the rest are named after performers and artists.
You might visit Ben’s Deli, The Little Pie Company (above), Carnegie Deli, Amy’s Bread and Café Edison.
The latter is the most important as they announced on the day of my tour that the establishment is closing. This is a great loss to the city as their doors have been open for all performers, industry folks and tourists longer than “Abie’s Irish Rose”, “Cats” or “Phantom of The Opera”. It’s one of the last authentic NY haunts to get an egg cream (Google that term if you must). The guide will rush you to this New York City staple for the remaining weeks.
Your tour will continue with amazing lessons about Ziegfeld, The Nederlanders, backstage gossip and theater folklore as well as tidbits about the neighborhood that would make a chorus girl kick up her heels and a leading man fall into the orchestra pit.
The bottom line is this: If you love New York, are passionate about the performing arts and have a desire for history, this tour of NYC is the confectionary pinnacle of a masterclass — the desserts are just the cherry on top.
Book your tour here: http://www.sugartoothtours.com.
Café Edison: http://www.edisonhotelnyc.com/default.aspx?pg=cafe-edison
Ben’s Deli: http://www.bensdeli.net
Little Pie Company: http://www.littlepiecompany.com
Carnegie Deli: http://www.carnegiedeli.com/home.php
Photo Credits: Sugartooth