I’m making a bold statement here: Cookies are the perfect treat. They’re not as fussy as cake. They don’t need to be kept at the perfect temperature like ice cream. You don’t even need utensils to eat them. Yes, cookies are probably the most convenient of baked goods, and there are so many different varieties that it’s hard to find someone who claims they don’t like cookies.
Cookies feel like home. No matter where you grew up, cookies can transport you back to childhood. “I grew up making alfajores de maizena with my mom for birthdays and family celebrations, from lining up the cookies like little soldiers, to adding the dulce de leche or rolling the coconut — this was a sweet tradition when growing up,” says Jezabel Careaga of Jezabel’s Café and Bakery.
For some, the perennial favorite is chocolate chip. “When someone says they want a cookie, they usually mean chocolate chip,” says Keshia Davis from Denise’s Delicacies. “For many — us included — a chocolate chip cookie is one of the first we ever love; that kind of connection is what puts it on the menu,” says Nima Etemadi of Cake Life Bake Shop.
But don’t be confused by their simplicity. “We put a lot of thought, time, and research into how it can reach its full potential,” says Etemadi. “[Our] cookies are inspired by our dreams as much as our traditions. … Everyone who shapes the menu has meaningful, foundational food memories that are the basis from which we think about what a cookie has the potential to be.”
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And Philly bakeries aren’t a go-to for just locals, but also for people who have moved away and still order a box when there’s a big holiday coming up. “It’s almost like every Christmas, they come home,” says Joe Termini of Termini Bros. “The reason why it’s so special here is because it’s authentic. Philly doesn’t try to be anyone else.”
For those moments that you want to enjoy the nostalgic goodness of a cookie without the effort, Philadelphia bakeries come through. “I love to bake with my daughter, but there are two cookies we always buy instead of making,” says Irene Levy Baker, author of Unique Eats and Eateries of Philadelphia. “My favorite cookies are the tehina chocolate chip cookies at K’Far, Michael Solomonov’s cafe on 19th in Rittenhouse. I’ve tried to make them myself and even bought the Soom tahini that he recommends, but they are just never as good. My other favorite cookie is Metropolitan Bakery’s chocolate chip and dried cherry cookies. Philadelphia magazine printed the recipe in October 2008. I still have it but I typically just go to Metropolitan Bakery to buy them because the dough has to be refrigerated overnight and that’s just too long for me to wait for them.”
Whether you’re craving chocolate chip or anise, dulce de leche, pine nuts, sesame, or something else, this city has a world of techniques and traditions, and modern twists on classics. There truly is a cookie for every taste. Here are the best places to go for cookies in the city.
Bredenbeck’s in Chestnut Hill has been a family-run Philadelphia tradition since 1889. Now run by the fourth generation of Boyds, the bakery has kept most of the recipes the same all of these years. They’re best known for traditional German cookies that are hard to find elsewhere in the area: pfeffernusse, springerle, filbert bars, and cinnamon stars. The springerle is a family favorite that’s made using their great-grandmother’s cookie press from the early 1900s. They require a lot of patience because they take two days to make and the flavor doesn’t fully develop for two weeks. The anise flavor along with the crunchy outside and chewy inside makes them worth the wait. You can visit the bakery in person, call, or place orders through the website. Bredenbeck’s ships nationwide. During the holiday season, Bredenbeck’s offers make-at-home gingerbread house kits with premade gingerbread and all the fixings.
Longtime friends and pastry chefs Lily Fischer and Nima Etemadi founded Cake Life Bake Shop in 2013. They were later joined by executive chef Becca Craig in 2016, who helped the team open their Fishtown bake shop later that year. Their chocolate chip walnut “jumbo jawn” is the most popular cookie on the menu, but their new line of “upcycled” jumbo jawns are the most unique, made from a blend of ground cake trimmings in place of flour. You definitely won’t get that at any grocery store. Their signature cookie is a honey shortbread, which is flecked with pistachio, rose petals, raspberries, and violet sugar for a look and flavor profile that really sets it apart. During the holidays, you can also purchase two different cookie boxes. Cake Life Bake Shop is proudly woman/trans-owned.
Crust is a Manayunk spot that describes itself as a vegan bakery with an emphasis on social justice. Owners Meagan Benz and Shannon Roche make it a point to purchase locally whenever possible to support other small businesses and give back to the community by donating food and funds to causes they’re passionate about. (No Kid Hungry, The Humane League, and Women’s Medical Fund are just a few.) In addition to classics like chocolate chip, they make unique flavors such as the compost cookie. Think sweet and salty — it has chocolate, coffee, potato chips, cake crumbs, kosher salt, and more. Benz’s personal fave is the chocolate hazelnut cookie, which is filled with a gooey chocolate hazelnut spread. Visit the store in person to pick from the many cookies available, or preorder cookie boxes during the holidays.
Denise’s is a second-generation Black family-owned business in North Philadelphia. Denise Gause was a home baker who opened the bakery in 1991, close to where she grew up. It quickly gained a following because of the homestyle taste made with all-natural, high quality ingredients. Gause retired in 2018, and now the bakery is owned and run by her nieces, Keshia Davis and Cynthia Benton. Davis’ personal favorite is the butter cookie (actually her mom’s recipe) piped out of pastry bags. (They’re so rich in butter that they can only make them during cold weather.) Another popular favorite: the Oreo chunk. It’s a brown sugar dough with big chunks of chopped Oreo. While Davis and Benton have kept the recipes the same as their Aunt Denise, they’ve updated the technology: You can now get your cookies through Uber Eats or their new app, in addition to ordering in person.
Tova du Plessis opened Essen Bakery in South Philly in 2016 after having her daughter and quitting her job as a pastry chef at the Rittenhouse Hotel. With Essen, she decided to re-create the pastries she remembered from growing up in a Jewish household. “I was determined to make the best babka, challah, bagels, and other Jewish pastries, in Philadelphia,” she said. Her take on the black and white cookie is true to its New York origins, elevated with a bit of citrus in the cakey batter, real vanilla bean in the royal icing, and Valrhona dark chocolate ganache. They’re baked fresh daily. You can pick up a cookie at the window or place an order the day before on the website. Their six-pack assorted cookie box includes the black and white cookies as well as their classic chocolate chip topped with sea salt.
Fitz and Starts is a from-scratch bakery, cafe, and bar in Queen Village that prides itself on their commitment to sourcing from local farms and producers. They make classics including all-butter shortbread, chocolate chunk cookie with Askinosie bean-to-bar chocolate, and oatmeal cream pie. The shortbread is simple, delicious, and versatile, making it the perfect base for iced holiday cookies or paired with a cup of coffee or tea. The oatmeal cream cookie consists of two chewy oatmeal cookies filled with ermine frosting, an older style of frosting thickened with a flour and milk roux. It is light and fluffy and a bit less sweet than other buttercreams. Fun note: It was the original frosting used to ice red velvet cakes before cream cheese frosting became the standard.
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Chef Lila Jai Colello graduated from New York’s French Culinary Institute before going on to work for Wolfgang Puck and the Food Network. Then she was diagnosed with celiac disease. So she made it her dual mission to make baked goods that are undetectable as gluten-free and create items that are hard to find in the gluten-free world. “If it just tastes ‘good for a gluten-free product,’ I will throw it out.” At Flakely, Colello uses her own proprietary flour mixes and everything has both eggs and butter. “I feel that still creates the best texture and mouthfeel in a baked good.” Flakely’s cookie selection includes chocolate chunk cookies (she also sells them as a bake-at-home kit so you can get that warm from the oven, gooey vibe anytime). There’s also an oatmeal chai cookie and cornmeal lime zest cookie, her elevated take on cornbread, but in cookie form. You can find Flakely at pop-up shops (check the website for details), or preorder pickup from their Manayunk workshop. They also ship and deliver in the Philly area. Flakely donates 3% of every single sale to organizations that help feed our community or fight for racial and social justice, including The Color of Autism, Black Votes Matter, Philabundance, and Project HOME.
Haegele’s is a fourth-generation, family-owned, old-fashioned bakery in Mayfair specializing in German treats, handmade the same way they were 90 years ago. The raspberry swirl cookies are simply beautiful. And the holidays are their real time to shine with springerle, almond stars, and lebkuchen (a soft and nutty German gingerbread.) The smell alone is worth a visit to the bakery, but they do also offer shipping.
Hang Tran of HB Cuppycakes is known for her cupcakes with beautiful buttercream flowers, but everyone loves her chocolate chip cookies, too. Tran attributes her signature cookie to weeks of trial and error after deciding in December 2019 that she wanted to develop the perfect chocolate chip cookie. It’s crispy on the edges and chewy on the inside, topped with a dark chocolate chunk sprinkled with Maldon sea salt. Tran doesn’t have a storefront, but you can place orders through Instagram. Her cookies are so delicious that they were included in the Philly edition of Bakers Box, which spotlighted Asian American bakers and pastry chefs.
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Isgro is a family-owned bakery that’s been making traditional Italian cookies by hand since 1904. Here, you’ll find Italian favorites like butter cookies made with the butter sourced from J & L Poultry and pignoli, an almond paste cookie covered in pine nuts. But don’t miss their award-winning ricotta cookies. Gus Isgro came up with the recipe 20 years ago: The cookies are light with an almost sponge-like texture, and come in two flavors: plain with lemon glaze or chocolate chip with a chocolate drizzle. The torrone, which is only available at the holidays, is another standout. It’s a honey-based soft nougat with almonds and pistachios.
Jezabel Careaga opened her business in 2010 as a coffee shop. Over the years, it has grown into a full-blown Argentine bakery-restaurant and market, known for alfajores. The traditional alfajores de maizena is made with cornstarch and has a sandy texture, is filled with dulce de leche and rolled in coconut. (They’re also available with chocolate). To taste them yourself, you can stop into the bakery, or the cafe ships nationwide. You can also catch Jezabel’s at the Fitler Square Farmers Market, Sisterly Love Food Fairs, or Riverwards. Call ahead for big orders.
K’Far is Michael Solomonov and Steve Cook’s all-day Israeli cafe and restaurant. You really can’t talk about cookies in Philadelphia without mentioning their tehina chocolate chip cookies. The coaster-size cookies are a little nutty and savory but still sweet (like a chocolate chip cookie should be). While that gets the most love, pastry chef Katreena Kanney is excited about the new linzer cookie: an almond shortbread sandwich cookie filled with tart sumac-infused roasted raspberry jam and dusted with powdered sugar. Order the cookies online or stop by the cafe.
Lipkin’s has been making kosher treats in Philadelphia for almost 50 years. The bakery was run by three generations of bakers and was originally located in South Philly before moving to the Northeast. Steven Nawalany (a longtime customer and baker) purchased the bakery in 2016, but the bakers and most of the recipes remain the same. They offer a wide variety of cookies, including hamantaschen in both regular and mini sizes and even sugar-free varieties.
Madison Kaplan is a self-taught baker who started making intricately decorated cookies as a hobby before turning it into a business. She opened her own storefront in Northern Liberties in 2019, where she sells homemade cookies, cupcakes, cakes, chocolate, candy, and toys. In addition to decorated cookies, you can find classics like chocolate chip, birthday cake, snickerdoodle, and oatmeal raisin. Each month, Kaplan changes her menu of big cookies (such as apple pie with a caramel drizzle). And while Kaplan created most of her recipes on her own, she credits her mom for the store’s fan favorite: the giant chocolate chip cookie with sea salt. “I’ll be passing that recipe down to my kids one day for sure,” she says. Walk into the bakery or order online; give two weeks’ notice for custom orders.
Manakeesh gets its name from the traditional Lebanese sandwich — a flatbread made with crispy dough topped with spices and a variety of vegetarian or halal meat options. In addition to their menu of manakeesh, wraps, falafel, kebobs, and other savory items, the University City restaurant offers French and American pastries and authentic Lebanese-Arabic sweets. They’re famous for their delicious baklava, but if it’s a cookie you’re after, try the maamoul: a traditional Lebanese shortbread that’s stuffed with either dates, walnuts, or pistachios.
Metropolitan Bakery’s sour cherry chocolate chip cookies are so popular that they sell them year-round, daily at all four locations and ship nationwide. It’s a traditional chocolate chip with a slightly tart punch from chewy dried sour cherries balanced with a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt. It’s so popular that the bakery also sells an ice cream version of it. You can also get chocolate chip and walnut, oatmeal raisin and pecan, as well as other seasonal offerings.
Amy Edelman and her husband (and fellow chef), John Millard, are the baking duo and owners of Chestnut Hill’s Night Kitchen Bakery. (Their daughter Izzy claims the job as official taste tester.) Their cookie menu includes more than a dozen varieties. The 4-inch jumbo chocolate chip was the first on the menu and remains the most popular, as is the sugared shortbread, which is thick cut and available in different shapes for the holidays. If you love chocolate, the chocolate sea salt cookie is dark, dense, and incredibly rich and uses only a little bit of flour to hold the chocolate-forward cookie together, and has Maldon sea salt on top. Visit the bakery to pick up a cookie to take home, or eat it right there at the bakery. There’s a table inside and several outdoors.
Old City Coffee is known for its big-as-your-face cookies that make you feel like a kid again. They come in chocolate chip, vegan peanut butter, and oatmeal raisin and are made using traditional recipes and high-quality ingredients. The customer favorite is the chocolate chip, using the same recipe since they opened in 1985. The flavor is balanced, not too sweet, and, of course, chocolaty. The vegan peanut butter cookies are also popular.
Where else can you order a spicy pork sandwich, vegan meatballs, a side of crispy pig skin, and delicious cookies in one stop? Small Oven Pastry Shop is connected to Porco’s Porchetteria in Point Breeze/Graduate Hospital. While Porco’s is known for its 100% natural heritage pork, the pastry offerings are just as mouthwatering, like the nut-free and flourless brownie cookie or the dulce shortbread made with dulce de leche and a pinch of sea salt.
2021 marks 100 years of Termini Bros Bakery. “It’s even more special after these past few years,” says Joe Termini. All cookies are made by hand, from scratch, using the same tools and techniques handed down from original recipes brought over from Sicily. They use high-quality almond paste, house-made preserves made every summer, and crumbs from trimmed cakes to make their cookie doughs. Their techniques are steeped in tradition. Their most beloved cookie is the pignoli, a soft, chewy macaroon made with almond paste and imported Spanish pignoli (pine nuts). Other favorites: the Long John, made with almond paste and filled with raspberry jam; the chocolate banana, an amaretto cookie with French buttercream and raspberry jam and topped with a sliced banana and dark chocolate; and torrone, a nougat mixture with pistachios and almonds. Buy at the bakery, or order specialty tins 24 hours in advance. Termini also offers shipping and delivery.
Whipped Bakeshop was founded in 2009 by husband and wife Zoë and Brennen Lukas. They specialize in custom cakes, cookies, and cupcakes. Their most well-known cookies are their beautifully decorated sugar cookies, which come individually wrapped. (They’re popular wedding favors.) During the holidays, Whipped Bakeshop’s “ugly sweater” cookies are a favorite and were featured on the Today show in 2012.