I got a tip on Tu-Lu's Bakery a few weeks ago while drinking a glass of spiked pomegranate punch at an incredibly fun party, so I'm frankly quite surprised that I remembered enough details to actually locate the place. After checking out the completely glowing reviews on the bakery's Yelp page, it was time to give it an earnest once-over. It's the only dedicated gluten-free food establishment in the city that I'm aware of, so that alone merited a trip. Sir Benjamin and I had some business on the Upper East in the morning, so we took advantage of the above-freezing temps and walked down to the East Village.
The storefront is small, located on East 11th Street between First and Second Aves. You know what else is on that block? None other than the legendary, epic Veniero's Pasticceria, my (formerly, when I could eat their products) favorite Italian bakery in Manhattan. So now I can take visitors to Veniero's and partake of my own delicious baked goods down the block.
As you can see from my paparraza-ed shots, it's a busy little place. This was about 3pm on a Tuesday afternoon, and there was a constant stream of customers and phone orders. Nearly every customer bought at least one dessert baked good and a half or whole loaf of sandwich bread, so I followed suit after perusing the goods a little.
The mini cupcakes, 6 available flavors, were an obvious draw - prices listed above in the picture. Flavors pleasantly went beyond the basic vanilla and chocolate that are usually offered.
There were about 6 or so cookie flavors available, half were vegan options. Mostly old favorites (choc chip, snickerdoodles) but interesting new nut-and-fruit combos too, as well as brownies and bars.
A good selection of mini-breads, coffee cake, and fancy muffins, and of course, plenty of fresh samples on the counter top.
My initial sticker shock subsided when I remembered how much it can cost for gluten free baking supplies, so even an $8 bag of granola is at a reasonable price point given the cost of certified g-f oats alone. I didn't try the panino, $9 for a healthy-sized panino with a side salad, but they looked fresh and filling. I decided on a large chocolate chip cookie, three mini cupcakes, and a half-loaf of the honey oat sandwich bread, everything totaling just over $11.
The chocolate chip (non-vegan) was $2 for about a 3" cookie. It was crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle, with an authentically homemade taste. The main flour used seemed to be rice, although the texture wasn't gritty and the taste was really classic. The chocolate was nothing special but did it's job. I would definitely order it again. Sir Benjamin gave it a thumbs up, but that shouldn't surprise anyone.
Mini cupcakes are $1.25 each, 3 for $3.50, or $14 per dozen. The green icing is pistachio buttercream on a chocolate cupcake, the white is red velvet, and the third is your standard vanilla cake with chocolate icing. The cupcakes are a 2-3 bite size, and I really liked the option of choosing a few different flavors over committing to one flavor (regular sized cupcakes are priced from $2.95 - $3.50). Icing and presentation were the strong points - the icings were all creamy and flavorful without being too sweet or chalky from 10x sugar. Red velvet is surprisingly easy to mess up, but the icing was a light, cream cheese flavor - one of the best I've tasted. The only slight misstep was the cake - flavorful and great texture, but just a tad on the dry side, as if they were baked maybe a minute or two too long. Still, overall, I'd order them again and would like to try the other options.
I didn't intend to buy the bread since I'm used to making my own, but after observing every single one of 5 customers before me purchase at least half a loaf, I was curious. Half a loaf of the honey oat sandwich bread was $5 for 9 healthy slices (considering g-f breads are frequently short brick-type shapes). I was most impressed by the crust - somehow the bread was tender on the inside, and had a pleasantly thick crust on the outside, likely a benefit of a commercial oven. The taste is light, nutty, and slightly sweet, and the bread is sturdy enough for a serious sandwich. I'm on Day 3 since the purchase, and even outside the fridge, it still hasn't become stale - without preservatives, this is pretty awesome. It's pricey, but having a non-frozen slice readily available is pretty convenient, not to mention the flavor - it reminds me of one of my favorite rustic-type wheat breads I used to buy at Whole Foods. Not something I'd buy regularly because of the price (in comparison to the <$1 a homemade loaf costs), but I'll definitely pick it up occasionally.
Overall, I'd highly recommend stopping by Tu-Lu's (or ordering - they ship to the US and PR) and sampling a few different items, whether you're gluten free or not. The prices are incredibly reasonable for a boutique bakery, and the service was quick and friendly, despite the 800 million questions the customers had. Keep them in mind for a special event, too - not only do they ship, but they also make gorgeous cakes.
Try them out, and let me know what you think!