NEW YORK (MainStreet)—Montauk, the hipster paradise at the eastern tip of Long Island, had something else before it was cool: it's been selling the original cronut for over 30 years.
The Montauk Bake Shoppe, located in the heart of the hamlet's downtown, has quietly amassed a cult following for its jelly croissants. These delicious treats sell for $2.90, just over half the cronut's price. Covered with cinnamon sugar and filled with red jelly, the jelly croissant is tender, not too sweet, and, at about half the size of the behemoth cronut, perfect for a pre-beach breakfast.
"We started making jelly croissants in 1981," owner Alan Steil told me after I arrived at the bakery at 7:30 this past weekend, hoping to avoid its legendarily long (but fast-moving) lines. "My father-in-law developed them, and I was the official taster."
The cronut, as almost everyone knows, is the hip new pastry du jour. Available at Dominique Ansel Bakery in Soho, the cronut is a hybrid croissant and donut made of fried croissant dough rolled in sugar, filled with cream and glazed. Lines outside the bakery usually begin well before 6 am, two hours before it opens. Even with the two-hour wait, you're not guaranteed to get a cronut before they run out, despite the strict limit of two per customer.
Unlike jelly croissants, cronuts cannot be shipped or refrigerated due to the dough's fragility. Scalpers can flip one for up to an 800% markup. The cronut has come to epitomize the material excesses of a Sex and the City-style New York, the inevitable follow-up to the cupcake craze of the aughts, in a city plagued by Depression-era levels of homelessness and skyrocketing real estate prices.
Montauk has experienced similar tale-of-two-cities tensions. The formerly sleepy beachside hamlet served as a vacation spot for Andy Warhol and the Rolling Stones (their song "Memory Motel" commemorates a visit; local lore has it that the band members ended up at the eponymous motel while looking for a piano to fool around with), but in the past few years, tourism has exploded. The town is now a weekend haven for young, affluent New Yorkers. To the horror of some locals, the town now features nightclubs with $20 margaritas and high-profile musical guests. The proud "drinking village with a fishing problem" now features a tattoo artist, a psychic and several yoga studios.
Despite being a bastion of the old, decidedly un-hip Montauk, the Montauk Bake Shoppe has thrived against this backdrop of rising prices and fierce competition. Last Sunday, I saw four young men in fedoras and sunglasses hunched against a wall, clearly grappling with epic hangovers, remain undaunted after a sheepish employee told them that their egg and cheese sandwiches would take about twenty minutes. The jelly croissant, a local legend, is one reason for the Bake Shoppe's enduring popularity.
"It's exceedingly popular," said Steil of the jelly croissant. "We ship them all over the country, we sell them--they're very popular." He told me about one bold-faced name, whose identity he refused to disclose, who had his secretary come to the Bake Shoppe to place a bulk jelly croissant order. She told Steil that her boss vastly preferred jelly croissants to the ultra-hip cronut.
During my visit, a large tray of jelly croissants was balanced near the front door next to a display case. Unlike the cronut, there's no limit on how many jelly croissants a customer can buy. It's a closely guarded secret how many jelly croissants are sold every day, but Steil insists "it's more than the cronut, I can tell you that."
--Written by Laura Berman for MainStreet