Street Seens: Padoca Bakery – Old School and Creative – What are the Odds?

Surprisingly, it turns out the odds are 100% that you can use the term “old school” accurately when applying it to the design elements like a ceiling-suspended swing serving as a restaurant seat at Padoca. But until Founder and Owner Maria Halpern translated the name of her “creative Bakery” at the Northwest corner of First Avenue and 68th as Portuguese for “Old School” I’d have rated the odds at zero.


I interrupted a walk north on First Avenue this winter, along a stretch that has become a tempting invitation to try multi-cultural food styles. I began that morning’s voyage of discovery by indulging my curiosity as to what a self-described “creative bakery” might look like from the inside. Having established a beachhead at a banquette across from the bright yellow swing suspended from the ceiling, I headed for the counter to put names on the “creative” options and secure a breakfast choice to partner with the coffee that had already gotten my vote by its aroma. I urged the group of customers who lined up behind me to go ahead of me as I considered dozens of “finalist” choices. One of those customers was a young man loading up on take away selections who volunteered that his wife “comes here every day.”

Scores of tempting options later I selected a breakfast sandwich to take back to my chosen table. Once there I happily discovered that the young woman at work on her laptop at the next table (and who interrupted her work to make certain that I was comfortably seated) was Brazilian-born Marina Halpern who is the founder and owner of Padoca.

Black and White

To give me a bit of background, she pulled out a New York Times clipping from the last week of June, in which Florence Fabricant, the NYT’s “Christopher Columbus” of food discoveries, had previewed the opening of the bright corner property. She described Padoca as Marina’s dream of evoking the warmth and good tastes of neighborhood bakeries in her native Sao Paulo (which she told me is the preferred Brazilian spelling of her home city’s name.) Reading that the goal was to put a “creative twist on New York standards,” let me be quick to say “Mission Accomplished.” Take a look at the stylish Black and White Brownie and you can guess where it measures on the “difference that makes a difference” scale of more and less predictable cookie versions that go by the same name.

cheese breadBrazilian Cheese Bread (aka the PDQ)

So follow your nose and your eyes to the corner and rediscover mildly familiar pastries like the Romeo and Juliet and venture further to make Brazilian cheese bread (paõ de queijo) a new standard. En route to a christening party last month I ordered 12 of these intriguing snowball lookalikes that Marina and her staff have dubbed the PDQ. And it has indeed been quick to move up the ranks as a favorite for Padoca loyalists. I chose the PDQs for the new mother and hostess because I knew her fondness for cheeses. Although chef Rachel Binder had the dozen on hand, she urged me to stop by as I left for Hoboken early the next morning so she could give me ones straight out of the oven. That’s how to look like a heroine to a discerning but over-busy new mother. And look like another breed of hero or heroine when you carry home Empadinhas in a surprising range of main ingredients from hearts of palm to chicken and mushroom.


Breakfast and “thereafter” can be ordered and enjoyed on premise and a catering menu featuring standard servings of 8-10 that will appeal to business groups in the neighborhood including the large daytime populations at the nearby hospitals and research facilities. All can order any parts of the menu online at

Padoca has recently introduced brunch options including a PDQ egg sandwich that I found amazing in its ability to combine the “nest” of PDQ with a fully recognizable egg that might have been dropped into place by some miracle that preserved its straight from the stove appearance and texture. Mine had bits of bacon incorporated in the bread. No surprise that it is an instant favorite for the brunch enthusiasts. Chef Binder’s childhood in Israel and some of the recipes she “borrows” from her mother, like the Shakshuka combining baked eggs and a tomato sauce prove that echoes of the Mediterranean and maternal culinary skills have traveled successfully to this UES urban village.

So now that you know a variety of ways to “get in the swing” at a bakery with a Brazilian pedigree and Portuguese flavor and find all too many reasons for making “Old School” a new favorite approach to bakery from breakfast through brunch and lunch.

Padoca NY Creative Bakery
329 East 68th Street
New York, NY 10065

Photos courtesy of Padoca NY Creative Bakery

About Annette Sara Cunningham (119 Articles)
Annette Sara Cunningham comes to Street Seens and Woman Around Town as a “villager” who migrated from Manhattan, Illinois to Manhattan 10065. She is currently the recovering ringmaster of a deliberately small three-ring enterprise privileged to partner with world-class brands to make some history as strategist and creative marketer. The “history” included the branding, positioning and stories of Swiss Army’s launch of watches; Waterford Crystal’s Millennium Collection and its Times Square Ball; the Orbis flying eye hospital’s global assault on preventable blindness; the green daring that in a matter of months, turned a Taiwan start up’s handheld wind and sun powered generator into a brand standing tall among the pioneers of green sustainability; travel to Finland’s Kings’ Road and Santa’s hometown near the Arctic Circle; the tourism and trade of Northern Ireland; and the elegant exports of France. She dreamed at age 12 of being a writer. But that dream was put on hold, while she became: successively, teacher of undergraduate philosophy, re-brander of Ireland from a seat at the table of the Irish Government’s Export Board; then entrepreneur, as founder and President of ASC International, Ltd. and author of Aunts: a Celebration of Those Special Women in our Lives (soon to be reborn as Aunts; the Best Supporting Actresses.) Now it’s time to tell the 12-year old that dreams sometimes come true.