In the summer, the city can be a lot to take. The heat. The sweaty bodies. The smells. Oh, the smells. It’s with good reason that so many people vacate their overcrowded, under-air conditioned apartments in the months of June, July, and August and head to the Hamptons, Fire Island, or anyplace that is cooler, cleaner, and has some proximity to a beach.
Thanks to a slew of parties and appointments (and the financial peaks of high season rentals), I was one of those sad folks stuck trying to make the best of a New York summer. And you know what? It wasn’t so bad. Especially when I made use of your unlimited MetroCard to go on some local day trips.
My boyfriend, N., recently had the idea of exploring an area of the city that, until then, I had only equated with my grandmother’s assisted living home: Riverdale.
Riverdale, for those of you who do not have a Bronx-bred family, is a residential area in the western part of the Bronx known for abutting the expansive Van Cortlandt Park and for being home to elite New York City private schools like Horace Mann and Fieldston (and the aforementioned senior living accommodations), as well as a sizeable Jewish population. Suburbia-lite is a good way to think of the neighborhood.
When we got off the 1 train at 242nd Street, the end of the line, I was looking forward to some beautiful architecture, some nice cold cuts, and not much else. But then, walking up Broadway, I caught a glimpse of something unexpected: a dancing carrot.
When you see a dancing carrot, a few things might run through your mind. Maybe you have heatstroke, you might think. Maybe an eccentric opened a juice bar. But it was better than a medical condition or juice with a sense of humor. It was the beacon for Lloyd’s Carrot Cake, a Bronx institution that we were lucky enough to stumble upon.
So what if the sign has some misused quotations mark? You can tell that this humble storefront, with its slices of various cakes tantalizingly visible from the street, means business.
Inside, Lloyd’s Carrot Cake is a minimally womanned business, with one saleswoman working the register (perhaps Betty Adams-Campbell, the widow of former owner Lloyd Adams) and another in the back, handling the numerous full cake orders.
The woman who gave me my bargain-priced $2.75 slice of cake with nuts and raisins told us that the store goes through 700 lbs of carrots per week, and once you dig into your slice, you can easily believe it. This is real-deal carrot cake, verging on carrot loaf, with its dense, moist crumb and subtle nutmeg spice. The carrots are visible, but finely grated, so every forkful is smooth, restrained carrot flavor, studded with a walnut or raisin here and there. The cream cheese frosting completes what is essentially a faithful, solid rendition of the classic carrot cake.
My personal preferences for carrot cake lean towards a more robust carrot flavor, a heavier hand with the nuts, and a more generous application of frosting. (Seriously though – what is carrot cake, or red velvet for that matter, without the cream cheese frosting? Any cake that goes rogue with a buttercream gets an automatic disqualification in my book.) But that’s just me. I can definitely imagine Lloyd’s version fitting someone’s Platonic ideal of Carrot Cake.
The only problem with picking up a slice at Lloyd’s is the lack of seating. You can take it over to the park, or you can make like we did and sneak it into another bakery, Palombo, to grab some lattes to wash down the carroty goodness. Yeah, yeah, yeah, bad citizens, whatever, but I am justifying the indiscretion with the pledge to come back for the overfilled cannoli. Stay tuned for that post.
*Psst, there’s also a newer Manhattan location on the Upper East Side that you can explore if the idea of going up to the Bronx really gives you the heebie-jeebies. But it shouldn’t. The Bronx is nice, I swear. My grandma is there.