Toward the end of his life, Henry David Thoreau became an ardent supporter of summer’s most perfect berries. “Strawberries,” he writes in Wild Fruits, “are manna found.” And right now, when New York’s berries are as juicy, red, and ripe as they’ll be all year, it’s hard to argue with that.
There is nothing wrong, of course, with grabbing a handful of fresh, fuzzy berries and eating them straight — at markets, look for big-shouldered organic New Jersey berries or the tiny, concentrated Tristar variety — but the city’s bakeries, restaurants, and ice cream shops also, of course, offer strawberries in hundreds of different iterations, which everyone should eat right now, before they disappear for the season. Here are 16 places to start.
Strawberry mille-feuille at Wildair ($14)
At this Lower East Side wine bar, chef and co-owner Fabián von Hauske Valtierra created the dessert to simply highlight summer’s brightest berry. To make it, he caramelizes sheets of puff pastry and layers them with strawberry mousse, strawberry-flavored chocolate, cream, fresh strawberries from Harry’s Berries in California (a chef favorite), and tarragon oil. The whole thing gets a dusting of strawberry powder and malic acid, which adds some surprising, but pleasant, tang.
Strawberry sorbet at La Newyorkina ($6)
At her West Village shop, chef-owner Fany Gerson only freezes strawberries into ice pops and sorbet when they’re in season, so now is the time to get a taste of her smooth, sweet seasonal sorbet. Gerson recommends a sprinkling of chile flakes or a squeeze of lime juice on top, and who can argue with that?
Coconut, strawberries, basil at Flora Bar ($13)
On the Upper East Side, Flora Bar’s coffee shop occasionally offers a strawberry galette, but you’ll also want to grab a seat in the dining room (or at the bar) and try chef Natasha Pickowicz’s chewy coconut macaroon that’s topped with strawberries four ways: fresh and macerated; freeze dried for crunch; dehydrated, candied, and dipped in sweet-and-sour sugar (imagine a very good Sour Patch Kid); and some potent strawberry syrup. Fresh basil and basil oil finish off the study in sweet, sour, creamy, and cold. (Should you find yourself downtown, at Cafe Altro Paradiso, you should also try Pickowicz’s riff on a pavlova, with mascarpone mousse and a hint of Amaretto.)
Strawberry dream pie at Petee’s Pie ($7)
Springtime at Petee’s Pie in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side means jammy slices of strawberry-rhubarb. But peak summer is berry cream pie season, and the strawberry dream pie is owner and pie master Petra Paredez’s personal favorite. For each one, the shop’s tender pie crust gets a layer of mascarpone cream, lemon curd, and heavily glazed strawberries. Served cold, it’s especially refreshing on summer’s hottest days.
Strawberry shaved snow at Grace Street ($6)
This K-town cafe is probably most famous for its rose-milk tea — and if you haven’t had it, get on that — but when strawberries are in season, the thing to get is the strawberry shaved snow. It’s garnished with the shop’s house-made rose syrup and slices of strawberries that are so thin they look like petals.
Strawberry danish at Der Pioneer ($3.75)
Baker Björn Böttcher changes the pastry menu daily at his Prospect Park South bakery, and there’s a strawberry danish on offer this month. For each one, buttery danish dough is twisted into a swirl and proofed before getting a dollop of vanilla pastry cream and smattering of sliced fresh strawberries.
Strawberry pink-peppercorn shortcake at Pâtisserie Fouet ($7.50)
A block away from Union Square, pastry chef Yoshie Shirakawa turns out an elegant, understated take on classic shortcake. Layers of vanilla sponge and light cream surround tall, red strawberries. A slick of strawberry jam helps hold it together while a sprinkling of pink peppercorn adds intrigue.
Strawberry milkshake doughnut at the Doughnut Project ($4.25)
Why not start your day with a melty, creamy, fruity strawberry milkshake doughnut? Get it for breakfast before your commute, if you can, when they are at their freshest.
“La Dolcezza D’estate” at Rezdôra ($12)
The poetic name of this dessert translates, roughly, to “the sweetness of summer.” At the new Flatiron Italian spot, that means a meringue nest filled vanilla bean-glazed New Jersey strawberries, milk mousse, and strawberry sorbet. Somehow, pastry chef Jessica Quinn’s creation manages to taste more like strawberries than actual berries, which is very sweet indeed.
Strawberry tonka bean paleta at Atla ($4)
There are a lot of ice pops in New York. All of them will keep you cool, but the ones at this NoHo cafe will also excite you: fuschia with pureed strawberries, they have an illicit, vanilla-like undertone from an infusion of tonka beans.
Strawberry ice at Gelateria Gentile ($6.50)
One of Williamsburg’s most popular gelaterias blends strawberries into a slushie-like ice. It’s simple, and perfect when all you want is pure, cold, summery sweetness.
Strawberry-almond croissant at Arcade Bakery ($5)
One of the city’s best French-style bakeries — located, as you probably know, inside a Tribeca office building — always serves a wide array of pastries, and a strawberry-almond croissant is new for the season. Baker Roger Gural slices open day-old croissants, dunks them in a vanilla syrup, fills them with almond cream, and then stuffs them full of fresh strawberries before baking them until they’re crisp on the outside and soft in the center.
Strawberry dango at Cha An BonBon ($4)
At this new East Village sweets shop, owner Sakura Yagi serves skewers of dango (sweet rice-flour mochi) tinted pink with red bean paste and strawberries. A few swoops of cream and fresh strawberries finish each one.
Strawberries for the table at Empellón Midtown ($8 per person)
Chef-owner Alex Stupak has served a seriously show-stopping seasonal, communal fruit dessert at his Midtown outpost since it opened in 2017. Because it is strawberry season again, the platter is currently filled with bite-size creations like a strawberry and borage raspado with mezcal and lime; strawberry-balsamic sorbet; poached strawberries with shiso foam; pickled green strawberries with red chile; coconut-strawberry cones with amaranth; strawberry gelee; and fresh strawberries, all on ice.
Strawberry-tomato gazpacho at Taïm ($3.75)
On offer at four locations across Manhattan, Taim’s strawberry-tomato gazpacho might be the easiest way to consume summer’s brightest berry. Saltier than it is sweet, the refreshing soup is made from ripe tomatoes and strawberries that get blended with a bit of lime, olive oil, and salt. It’s poured into a to-go cup, then topped with thin slices of jalapeno and bits of crispy pita bread.
Strawberry crostata at Lilia Caffé ($4.50)
This month at chef Missy Robbins’s Williamsburg café, you can find individual strawberry crostatas on the take-out menu. The flaky crust is like an edible bowl for strawberries that roast into a thick, deep-red jam in the oven.