Petite Shell Tempts with Golden Rugelach

Petite Shell Tempts with Golden Rugelach

I heard the temptation before I inhaled it as I rounded the corner of 85th Street on Lexington Ave. in NYC.  Two young Moms clasped each other’s well cloaked arms on a freezing January day and gasped, “Do you smell the butter? We’ve got to get one!”

Indeed the alluring aromas of warm, sweet pastries and strong coffee waft onto the Upper East Side sidewalk outside of Petite Shell, a three week old rugelach, croissant and coffee bar, beckoning anyone who falls hard for flaky pastries filled with irresistible sweet and savory flavors.

And is there anyone who doesn’t??

the coffee

Shmilly Gruenstein, owner and a self labeled foodie from Brooklyn, consulted with top bakers in the NY area in order to get the pastry dough recipe just right. And then it took him three years from concept to brick and mortar to launch this sweet spot.

When I asked if any aspect of his immediate success surprised him, he grinned proudly. ” I just didn’t expect it to take off this quickly,” he said.

There was a steady stream of customers bustling in from the winter chill as we sat at a long, wooden communal table. Wall to ceiling windows wrap around this busy corner location, allowing plenty of light and the energy of the street into this enticing noshery. And when area schools dismiss around 3:15, chatty students and parents with little ones stand on line for croissant sandwiches and steaming cups of perfectly brewed coffee.

the sweet ones

The focus here is narrow, allowing Gruenstein to nail the concept with perfection. “Coffee and rugelach are naturally best friends,” he told me as a server placed a flight of flaky, laminated rugelah in front of me. “Don’t let your coffee get cold,” he implored, while I was hopelessly distracted by flavors like dolce de leche, farmers’ cheese and raspberry and white chocolate with Granny Smith apples.

There was a natural progression as I nibbled my way to the center of each golden, swirled pastry “shell”.  A pop of wetness rewards the nibbler who refrains from cutting her pastries and discovers deeply chocolatey nutella oozing from within.

manchego, salsa and avocado

A selection of savory rugelach presents bold and delicious choices like blue cheese and pear, tomato pecorino (tasted like pizza, in a good way), and cream cheese with jalepenos.

In addition, freshly baked croissants serve as sandwiches for 6 varieties of mostly savory fillings. Select pretzel, plain or multigrain croissant and then move on to chose your fillings.

Blue cheese, fig, arugula and salted pistachio on whole grain

Blue cheese, arugula, figs and salted pistachios grabbed me hard. The multi grain croissant made it feel a little less decadent (but only by a smidge).

#6 Mozarella pesto with tomato and kalamata olives on whole grain croissant

Other winning croissant sandwich choices included thick slabs of mozzarella, pesto, chunky tomatoes and kalamata olives.

Don’t even think about the calories or the mess.

chocolate Nutella rugellah

Crazy for nutella or know someone who is? Imagine a generous shmear melting into a warm, buttery croissant.

Coffee plays an equally important role at Petite Shell, and is the perfect and much needed balance to the rich pastries. Gruenstein searched long and hard for the finest, high quality coffee and landed on Forty Weight Coffee Roasters, a boutique coffee outfit in Ithaca, NY. Their artisanal roasting methods and uncompromising approach to quality and sourcing convinced Gruenstei that this coffee is worthy of some very sophisticated equipment installed at Petite Shell.

A Steampunk brewing machine extracts maximum aroma and flavor, while creating a conversation piece. My cappuccino was as perfect as any I’ve enjoyed in Italy.

Japanese slow drip results in super concentrated flavor

Japanese Cold Brew towers facilitate a super concentrated coffee that drips overnight. Expect powerful hits of caffeine and a show when nitrated coffees are brought to a dramatic foamy head (think Guinness) and served in chilled glasses when the heat of summer eventually descends on the sidewalks of Manhattan.


Petite Shell is located at 1269 Lexington Avenue at 85th St.

Hours: Sunday- Thursday: 7 AM- 10 PM; Friday and Saturday: 7 AM- 11 PM.

Petite Shell is certified Kosher and Dairy.

No website or Facebook page at this time.


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