Few sights are as mesmerizing as that of bakers methodically rolling fresh croissants each morning in this glass-encased kitchen hidden in the lower level of Chelsea Market. As with the best Parisian bakeries, ALF releases fresh batches of pastries and breads throughout the day, meaning the kitchen team works near ceaselessly from before dawn until after the bakery closes at 6 p.m.
New York has no shortage of bakeries, but none are quite like this one. In a landscape dominated by brand-name bakers who churn out thousands of loaves, ALF Bakery—short for “Amadou Ly Fancy Bakery”—is a scrappy, independent operation whipping up absurdly high-level baked goods.
The mastermind behind it all is Amadou Ly, who originally hails from Senegal and Togo, journeyed to Barcelona to study chocolate, Paris to parse the finer points of French pastry, and tackled soulful sourdoughs during his five years at Arcade, one of the most celebrated—and missed—bakeries ever to grace New York City.
His apartment brims with an impressive collection of baking literature, including half-forgotten historical recipes too labor-intensive for most modern bakers to touch. You’ll find him personally removing bronzed trays of brioches from the oven here, or perhaps placing the finishing touches on a savory danish.
Ly is a firm believer in the concept of le pain vivant, the kind of “living bread” that demands long fermentation times, minimal interference, and an especially skillful touch. He’s also something of a sorcerer when it comes to laminated dough, the many-layered amalgamation of butter and flour that forms the backbone of classic viennoiserie.
His croissants, whether filled with a barely-sweet nugget of dark chocolate or a generous dollop of almond paste, are immaculate. But the real reason that customers start lining up before the bakery opens most mornings are his less conventional creations: the laminated baguettes and laminated brioches. The former, which come either showered with seeds or flaky sea salt, have the sturdy interior of a baguette with the buttery exterior of a croissant.
While certain staples, like the gorgeously lacquered apple chaussons, are always in the pastry case, Ly regularly rotates specials. If you’re lucky, there might be neatly arrayed slices of flan or bread pudding, or possibly a seasonal danish. Whatever you do, don’t sleep on the pillowy babka, which comes swirled with the most luxurious chocolate imaginable.
Know Before You Go
Swing by early in the morning to catch the first batch of laminated baguettes or come back in the later morning to grab savory sandwiches such as an open-faced Tunisian-inspired tuna tartine.