Bakery chains are a phenomenon that, while I understand them from a business standpoint, I abhor their tendency to forget the little things like flour covering every surface and icing smell that I believe make a great bakery.
Crumbs is a chain that manages to rise above the sterility with surroundings (and goodies) that make you think of your hometown baker instead of Sara Lee. Unfortunately, when you consider there are 21 Crumbs locations nationwide and their cupcakes are sold at half of the lunch places in midtown, it is a lot closer to Sara Lee than Mom's kitchen. Don't get me wrong, I am not completely against this mass marketing. I sometimes miss those long gone days where I stayed at the office until 11pm nightly and could order a salad from Tossed and a Crumbs cupcake off of seamless web to eat alone, at my desk, covering documents with bits of chocolate cake and frosting smudges. Good times.
I visited the UWS location of Crumbs - a tiny shop located at 75th and Amsterdam. While it isn't strictly a cupcake shop, it might as well be. Their other treats don't have the impact of a Billy's icebox cake or a Magnolia blueberry crumble. The cupcakes though - wow. These are not your basic vanilla-vanilla and they are HUGE. Devil Dog is chocolate cake frosted (and filled!) with vanilla buttercream. It is topped with chocolate crumbles and mini chips. This is just a starting point. There are Boston Cream cupcakes, Pistachio, even PB&Marshmallow - and while they might not have every flavor listed on the website at every location each day, they might actually have more exciting options. When I went a cute chalkboard announced the Cherry Cobbler cupcake of the day.
Fancy flavors mean nothing if instead of wanting to eat until you can't handle another bite, you just don't want another bite. Crumbs doesn't have this problem. While their spongecake is a tiny bit on the heavy side, the flavor of their concoctions delivers in that "wow, I feel sick, give me more" way. On my recent visit, I went with a basic vanilla-vanilla and a chocolate cupcake filled with peanut butter icing and topped with 1/2 chocolate, 1/2 peanut butter icing (and pb chips). Even though so many amazing flavors were enticing, I like to check out the mothership of cupcakes, the vanilla-vanilla, to make sure a place is worthy. No question about it. While, you can tell that Crumbs is a chain, everything is baked fresh each day and the people who work there are nice. There is a lot to be said for people smiling at you right before you eat 1,000 calories of cake. When they don't, you just feel bad about yourself. The sitting area is small but the constant rotation of people means you are never waiting long. They also don't rush you when you are pondering your choices and will even make a decent espresso if you so desire .
Unrelated to decor or cupcake quality, but interesting nonetheless is Crumbs' rocket speed move from local bakery to comglomerate that is trying to take over the tri-state area. I hope the standards will remain high as the company expands to midtown (1675 Broadway was supposed to open in January...I am still waiting) and, yes, New Jersey. One has to wonder why the company would open so many new locations considering the current state of people's pocketbooks. Yeah, cupcakes are "cheap" but 3 brand new locations in New Jersey in one month? Eight locations are opening in February or March...seven say "Now Open" on the website so I assume they opened in the last 3 months...total that means a jump from six locations to 21 in six months! This may explain the 1675 Broadway delay.
Overall, Crumbs is a treat and I want to try the S'mores cupcake. But my favorite part? I think they undercharged me. Perhaps another bad business move.