Sun City is pretty much the last place anyone would think to look when scouring the Phoenix area for good eats. The West Valley's local-food scene is pretty slow in general -- let's just say there's lots of opportunity for growth -- and, if that's not reason enough to overlook it, Sun City is the haven for the Valley's retirees. But don't forget that some of those old folks know a thing or two about how food was prepared back in the day. To recapture the sweet memories of the neighborhood bakery their parents treated them to when they were youngsters, they need only visit New York West Pastry & Bake Shop off Grand and 101st avenues.
If you don't know what kind of old-fashioned flavors we're talking about here -- and buying a muffin makes you think of the greasy versions at Starbucks or even Mimi's Café (yes, I know they're "good," but they're not good for you and are bland to boot) -- you'll be floored when you have a bite of the baked goods at New York West. No matter what you choose, it will taste like it's made from real ingredients like butter, cream, and sugar, but it won't feel like you're eating dessert for breakfast.
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Everything from handmade Danishes to layer cakes is executed with a finely tuned sense of balance. Take a bite, for example, of the simple raisin roll. Underneath a thick, crisp shell, it's tender and soft with a nice big crumb, similar to a scone but not nearly as dry. Throughout the delicate pastry there's a handful of plump, juicy raisins. The slightly sweet roll is flavorful despite seeming plain, and it satisfies in a way that processed baked goods can only pretend at. Basically, it's the next best thing to having a 1950s grandma bake breakfast from scratch for you.
This one little roll alone shows that the name is well-deserved. New York West Pastry & Bake Shop fits right in with the legions of family-owned bakeries back East, and that's no accident. Owners Hugh and Pat McGurgan owned a bakery in Chester, New York, for over a decade and moved to the border of Glendale and Sun City in 2000. And, to be frank, what you'll find here in Sun City beats the aprons off the average corner bakeries in the Big Apple, offering a taste of tradition without the long trip.