By Carly Petrone
Christina Tosi has a twinkle in her eye that can only be described as child-like. It’s this endearing quality as well as her curious nature that has helped build her Milk Bar bakery empire. This adorably sweet shop has been on the New York City scene for a while, yet it still feels fresh and new. This is whole-heartedly because of who Christina Tosi is as both a baker and a business owner. She’s not afraid to push the boundaries when it comes to tweaking a traditional rice krispie recipe or introducing the world to cereal milk (or it’s soft serve counterpart).
Allowing each Milk Bar store location to shine and have its own personality is essential to Tosi and her team.
“When I first opened Milk Bar, I was worried about opening too many stores because it’s so personal to me and so special to the team. It has personality and I’m afraid that growing it too fast will take away from that spirit. I’m very protective of that,” Tosi said.
So when it came to opening up a new location on the West Side (there’s currently a shop on the Upper West Side but nothing downtown), heading to Chelsea was a no-brainer. It’s Milk Bar’s first store located on a proper Avenue and it’s already seeing a lot of traffic since opening in April. This might be because this store has something the others don’t: a street-side service window. Now customers can order straight from the sidewalk, which is a big draw as the warm summer months approach. Being a child who grew up ordering from dairy bars and parlors in the Midwest, it was important to Tosi to recreate this experience.
“When you heard the window opening and closing, you knew your ice or milkshake was on its way. I wanted to capture that spirit in the city because everything is so city-like and I think, for me, this location brings a warmth and nostalgia to it,” Tosi said. “It’s super fun.”
The space itself is a bit different than her other five NYC-based locations. The team collaborated with award-winning architectural design studio LOT-EK to create a store that will take you back to your childhood days. Equipped with chalkboards, benches, counters to rest and lean on, a curated playlist, a splash of mint, and their signature neon pink sign, it’s a place you’ll feel like staying while. It’s hard not to notice the quirky storefront when you walk in – it’s made from an old milk truck! As Tosi explains, “It’s that time of year when if you don’t want to go inside you don’t have to but you still can. It’s fun and quirky and has personality to it. We think about that when we create food and the store and how you interact with it and experience it as a customer.”
Part of that interaction is making sure the menu has something for each and every customer to enjoy. Milk Bar recently teamed up with LACTAID to create two delicious lactose-free recipes. Milkshake lovers can sip on the Milk Bar Strawberry Popcorn Shake with LACTAID Ice Cream. This creamy treat is made with pickled strawberry jam, caramel corn, LACTAID Vanilla Ice cream, LACTAID whole milk, corn powder, as well as a secret ingredient: kosher salt. As Tosi reiterates, “It’s real ice cream just without the lactose. Same flavor, same creaminess, without the worry!”
And those who are familiar with the store’s popular “Compost Cookie” will be happy to know that there’s also a recipe for a Milk Bar Compost Cookie Granola Fudge Sundae made with LACTAID Ice Cream. The granola itself is essentially the same recipe as the cookie (yep, that means plenty of oats, pretzels, brown sugar, graham crackers, and coffee grounds), but it’s made without butter.
Now everyone can enjoy a gooey hot fudge sundae or a decadent strawberry milkshake without having to worry about the repercussions. Because after all, Milk Bar is all about brightening up someone’s day. “We’re in the business of making people happy. Our day to day is to make everyone and anyone’s life a little bit sweeter,” adds Tosi.
Milk Bar Chelsea
220 8th Ave.
Store Hours: 7 a.m. – 11 p.m.