What: Long associated with New York bakeries and delis — and made famous by the Seinfeld episode in which Jerry "looks to the cookie" as a metaphor for harmony among races (before he pukes it up, anyway) — the classic black-and-white cookie tastes more like a cake, soft and supple and spread with half vanilla icing and half chocolate icing. Within New York State there are different varieties of this cake-cookie — for example, the "half-moons" of central New York, reportedly born in Utica, are smaller in size and usually spread with buttercream frosting, not icing — but we’re talking about the ubiquitous city treat here.
Where: We didn’t think we even liked the black-and-white — granted, there are a lot of truly bad, cardboard-y, plastic-wrapped ones out there — until we had the cookie at Junior’s (multiple locations, including the original at 386 Flatbush Ave.) in downtown Brooklyn. Now, everyone and their mother likes to moan about how the food’s gone terribly downhill there, but we think if you stick to cheesecake and black-and-whites, you’ll be just fine.
When: Sunday to Thursday, 6:30 a.m. to midnight; Friday and Saturday, 6:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Order: A black-and-white cookie ($1.85). Its soft, yellow, cake-y insides swell slightly in the center so that it’s nearly an inch thick in the middle; the icing is sweet and soft — and you can actually taste the vanilla versus the chocolate (as Jerry advised, the best bites are indeed those that include a little bit of both). You should probably try the famous cheesecake here, too.
Alternatively: On Manhattan’s Upper East Side, William Greenberg Desserts has excellent, if pricey, black-and-white cookies ($1.50 for small, $3.50 for the usual large size); it’s a great place to buy boxes of them to bring home. In Brooklyn, a good spot is the old-school Leske’s Bakery in Bay Ridge.
Good to know: If you’re curious about half-moons, some NYC bakeries produce a more half-moony version of black-and-whites, like Joyce Bakeshop in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.