The chocolate chip cookie is about as American as it gets.
Surprisingly, the cookie as we know it today didn’t exist until the 1930s, when a happy accident led Ruth Wakefield to create the recipe as she was preparing homemade goods for her guests at the Toll House Inn — the legacy of which lives on on the back of the Nestlé Toll House Semi-Sweet Morsels package.
Nowadays, there are countless variations on the classic — and we all have our favorites. Mine happens to be from City Bakery in Manhattan, a sizable, share-able cookie with a wonderful mix of crunch and softness. “There’s no ‘secret’ ingredient, per se,” said baker and City Bakery founder Maury Robin. “The cookie is all about the balance of sugar to all of the other ingredients. That’s the place where the fate of crunch and soft is determined.”
I got the scoop from local luminaries around the U.S. on the must-eat cookies in their cities.
Here they are, 10 chocolate chip cookies worth traveling for:
New Orleans, Louisiana: Emeril’s Delmonico
“I’m a chocolate nut and Emeril [Lagasse, the owner of Delmonico] adds a little lagniappe by making a cookie that’s a blend of semi-sweet, milk, dark, and white chocolate chips baked golden brown. He also uses brown sugar, plenty of salt, and local walnuts to give them a sweet-and-salty nutty flavor that’s the best in the city. They’re not too chewy, not too crunchy, but just right.” – David Teich, General Manager, Windsor Court Hotel
Vail, Colorado: Vail Gourmet Cookie Co.
“Their chocolate chip cookie is called ‘The Summit’ and it’s more than a standard cookie. It’s made with brownies and all kinds of chocolate goodness. It’s a mountain take on the traditional favorite, truly an original. I love it because it’s a small family business and you can tell it’s made with good, quality ingredients.” – Chris Romer, President of Vail Valley Partnership (Cookies are custom order & available for delivery)
Los Angeles, California: Clementine
“For me, [Clementine makes] the perfect cookie, thin and crispy with just the right amount of chewiness to it.” – Stacey Sun, dineLA director of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board
New York, New York: Levain Bakery
“[Levain's] famed ‘Chocolate Chip Walnut’ cookie is bigger than my fist, with a crisp outside, and a chewy, almost brownie-like [consistency] inside. The chocolate chips are warm and gooey, and the walnuts add a satisfying crunch. I don’t even like walnuts! That’s how good this cookie is. The cookies are big enough to share, but I like to eat the whole thing myself, rationalizing that the hour-long walk home through Central Park cancels out a good deal of the calories.” – Courtney Sheinmel, author of the Stella Batts series for young readers
Chicago, Illinois: Specialty’s Cafe & Bakery
“The ‘Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chunk’ cookies at Specialty’s Cafe & Bakery in the Loop are my all-time favorite chocolate chip cookies. They are so big and rich that it’s almost hard to eat the whole thing. The best part? You can go to the bakery’s website and check their ‘Warm Cookie Radar’ to find out when the next batch of cookies will be ready. How great is that?” – Jen Schefft Waterman, former Bachelorette, PR specialist
Orlando, Florida: Blue Bird Bake Shop
“This adorable bakery in the Audubon Park neighborhood of Orlando specializes in cupcakes, but their chocolate chunk cookie is to die for. Everything in their bakery is baked from scratch daily and you can stay to enjoy your cookie with a cup of Seven Sisters Coffee, an Orlando-based fair-trade, organic coffee company. Call ahead, because the chocolate chunk cookie, which is soft and gooey in the middle, sometimes sells out.” – Kristin Harmel, best-selling author of Italian For Beginners and other novels
Phoenix, Arizona: Super Chunk
“Country Velador, the owner and baker of Super Chunk, makes these cookies with mesquite flour and a little nutmeg. The mesquite flour gives it a creamy, caramel flavor that accentuates the chocolate quite nicely. Nutmeg is faintly used providing the added nuance.” – Pavle Milic, co-owner of FnB Restaurant
Charleston, South Carolina: WildFlour Pastry
“Pop into Lauren Mitterer’s charmingly old-fashioned bakery, WildFlour Pastry, when you’re looking for Charleston’s best chocolate chip cookie. You can’t hold this four-inch beauty without chocolate melting on your fingers because it’s so loaded with Callebaut 66% chips. Buttery vanilla notes complement, but the finish is definitely haute dark. Slightly chewy with a whisper of caramel in its crispy edge, this is chocolate chip cookie heaven.” – Marion Sullivan, Food Editor, Charleston Magazine
Santa Fe, New Mexico: Harry’s Road House
“Harry’s Road House is a local landmark here in Santa Fe and they make all of their own pastries and baked goods — the best of which is their chocolate chip cookie. It’s the only place where I pay for chocolate chip cookies because they’re that good, otherwise I would just bake them. They are the perfect size and consistency — crispy on the outside and soft on the inside — and go great with a cup of coffee or a glass of milk!” – Gloria Castillo, Concierge, Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi
Burlington, Vermont: Cookie Love
“The best chocolate chip cookie in our area is done by a very creative local business called Cookie Love. When Paul Seyler and his wife, Suzanna Miller, moved to Vermont from New York City they decided to do something entrepreneurial. From their shared love of good food, they decided to make and sell cookies, using high quality ingredients, local where possible. That was 2007 and they began at the Shelburne Farmers Market that summer. They quickly added local stores, and over time have broadened their products and their ways of reaching eager cookie lovers.” – Rosalyn Graham, Director of Community Relations, Shelburne Farms
I’m always on the hunt for new leads. Where can your favorite cookies be found in the U.S. and beyond?