The bakery competition on 1st Ave between 114th St and 119th St is getting fierce. Originally home to only one bakery, this five block stretch has become home base for two additional bakeries over the past 2 years. Since Evelyn’s Kitchen is a block from my apartment, I have been keeping an eye on the storefront for about two years. Originally set up as a wholesale and catering workspace, almost a year ago the EK team transformed the tiny shop on 1st Ave into a retail storefront with an amazing assortment of baked goods, lunch/dinner specials, and a special order chef’s tasting table tailored to your every dinner desire. The thing is, Evelyn’s Kitchen sees the bakery game and raises everyone a luxurious and indulgent lunch and dinner carry out menu.
On my first visit I dropped in looking for a sweet treat and found a smorgasbord of beautifully crafted, appetizing, and lovely packaged sweet and savory bakery items. Perfect for client meetings, parties, bridal/baby showers, or any other special occasion that needs you to bring a little sweetness, Evelyn’s Kitchen has got you covered.
When you walk into Evelyn’s Kitchen, though it is a small space bustling with activity, you feel an immediate sense of comfort and calm. While the social media team pounds away on their keyboards tweeting photos of their latest bakery creations, the ladies behind the counter cheerfully take your order, their colleagues meticulously prepare gift boxes, and Ayala (EK’s Owner) pops her head out from the back to check in with everyone. Between their gift boxes, catering, and their almost too-beautiful-to-eat baked goods, I could tell that this team never lets any detail go overlooked. In fact, it seems like they have built their business and differentiated themselves by mastering all of the details.
I (went a little overboard) and got EK’s famous Toffee Blondie, a Rosemary Peppercorn Parmesan Scone, and a Salted Dulce de Leche Alfajor. Because Blondies are what put Ayala on the baking map I had to try them. After one bite of this moist and wonderfully chewy Blondie bar I knew why the front door has a warning about the “dangerously delicious” treats inside. It’s true: the Blondies are lethal, and the Alfajor was a cookie sandwich masterpiece. Thick (but not sticky) and creamy dulce de leche is smushed between two crumbly and barely sweetened cookies and sprinkled with salt specks. Perfectly balanced, with just enough salt to emphasize the rich sweetness of the dulce de leche, these cookies have become my new addiction.
I had the Rosemary Peppercorn Parmesan Scone for breakfast the next day, and it was great. Unlike most scones, this savory triangle of flaky buttery goodness was moist and delicious even the day after it was baked. Each of the flavor components were prominent, but not over bearing, and the texture was lovely.
Since my first visits to EK were all about the baked goods, I recently returned to check out their carry out dinner. Offering a menu that juxtaposes extremely indulgent options (braised beef short ribs and marinated skirt steak) or healthy salad and sandwich options (grilled lemon chicken sandwich and seared salmon salad), you can satisfy any craving you’ve got. For every dinner option you choose one a main dish, two sides, and a dessert. When I stopped by I picked up Jerk Shrimp with spiced roasted broccoli, seared garlic green beans, and an amazing slice ginger spice cake.
It’s a rare occasion when I find a place serving jerk dishes that are as well balanced as at Evelyn’s Kitchen. All too often you get one extreme or the other, and when I finish dining I either feel as if the scotch bonnet peppers perpetrated a crime on my tongue or like those same peppers never got invited to my plate. Expect so much more from the Jerk Shrimp at Evelyn’s Kitchen. Perfectly tender and juicy, not one of these shrimp was even slightly overcooked, and had perfect amounts spice and a slow smoldering burn that I love about Jerk seasoned food.
Spiced Roasted Broccoli: Simultaneously sweet and spicy, this broccoli had me guessing from the first crunchy bite. Though I couldn’t tell exactly what was giving the broccoli its sweetness, red pepper specked it beautifully and gave the roasted carmelized vegetables beautiful color.
Garlic Seared Green Beans: The green beans were fresh and crunchy and had all of the flavor notes one would find in a fancy garlic bread, but without the white flour or carbs. Their mellow buttery sweetness was the perfect reprieve from the punchy spiciness of the shrimp and broccoli.
PLEASE NOTE: a similar version of this restaurant review was recently published on the CheapEats Blog. Don’t worry–I wrote them both!