In 1930, Ruth Graves Wakefield, owner of the Toll House Inn in Whitman, MA, ran out of baker’s chocolate and instead used chopped, semi-sweet chocolate in the cookies she baked for her guests. Yes, the chocolate cookie was an accident. Since its inception, the treat has become an integral member of the American food canon. Ms. Wakefield would be pleased to know that May 15 is National Chocolate Chip Day. In honor of this illustrious day, we sampled 20 chocolate chip cookies from around the city. After a first round of tasting, we decided on 10 that were just a bit more interesting, satisfying and tasty than the rest. While each of the final 10 are deliciously unique, we found that most bakeries deviate very little from the recipe used in the Toll House Inn many years ago. It may be an American classic, but, as always, Portlanders are keeping it fresh.
Two Tarts Bakery
Northwest District, Nob Hill
Two Tarts, located just off NW 23rd street, offers a small chocolate chip cookie that is topped with a pinch of translucent sea salt. Anyone turned off by the idea of using salt as a cookie garnish should give the bakery a try; it contrasts wonderfully with the light airiness of the dough. The chocolate, a high grade variety with 60% cocoa mass according to owner Elizabeth Beekley, appears as more of a wafer than separate chips. Beekley says that the true key to her cookies’ success is the use of high-quality, local ingredients. “There aren’t many ingredients in chocolate chip cookies,” she says. “But if you can put the best ones in, they turn out well.”
Two Tarts Bakery, 2309 NW Kearney, 503.312.9522
Sweetpea Baking Company
As a well-known haven for Portland’s many vegans, Sweetpea has the lofty responsibility of churning out a solid dairy-free chocolate cookie. Fortunately, the Southeast bakery/café delivers a perfectly suitable option. One of the largest of the bunch, Sweet Pea’s cookie features a very light-colored dough with an amount of chocolate chips that borders on too low. The sweetish dough, which uses a starch-based egg replacement according to Sweetpea employee Ryan Jones, makes up for the lack of chips and completes a cookie that’s almost as good as the real thing.
Sweetpea Baking Company, 1205 SE Stark Street, 503.477.5916
Jim & Patty’s Coffee
“The more chocolate chips the better,” says co-owner Patty Roberts. She’s not kidding —this cookie won the designation of most chocolate chips per square inch by a landslide. Give Jim & Patty’s credit for using a dough that doesn’t get overwhelmed by the chocolate. Roberts says that the right balance is achieved by using “extremely nice, European-style butter” and baking the cookies in a convection oven. The convection oven, she says, helps create the ideal chocolate chip cookie texture: crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. It’s the perfect formula for the perfect cookie, and the result is delicious.
Jim & Patty's Coffee, 4951 NE Fremont Street, 503.284.2121
Grand Central Bakery & Café
Boise, Hosford-Abernethy, Lloyd District, Multnomah, Northwest District, Sellwood-Moreland
At first glance, the chocolate chip cookie at Grand Central appears to be lacking in the chocolate chip department. Never fear; one quick bite, and we found that there are plenty of little chunks nestled within the dough. Grand Central distinguishes itself by including oatmeal in its cookie dough. There is enough oatmeal to be appreciated but not too much that it obscures the chocolate chip cookie motif. Perhaps bolstered by the hearty oatmeal, the Grand Central offering was one of the richest we tasted. Grab one next time you’re picking up a gourmet loaf of bread.
Grand Central Bakery, 714 N Fremont, 503.546.5311; 2230 SE Hawthorne Boulevard, 503.445.1600; 1444 NE Weidler Street, 503.288.1614; 3425 SW Multnomah Boulevard, 503.977.2024; 2249 NW York, 503.808.9860; 7987 SE 13th Avenue, 503.546.3036
Nuvrei Pâtisserie & Café
As opposed to many of the other bakeries reviewed here, Nuvrei is purely a pastry shop. Able to focus solely on providing delectable sweets for residents of the Pearl and beyond, Nuvrei bakes a chocolate chip cookie that delivers. What separates Nuvrei is the inclusion of two types of chocolate—a traditional chip and a lighter, toffee-like chocolate. The latter variety of chocolate looks and tastes almost like it was taken from a candy bar, which is, of course, not a bad thing. The dense cookie dough was a bit dry but not distracting.
Nuvrei Pâtisserie & Café, 404 NW 10th Avenue, 503.546.3032
A self-described “magazine store and espresso bar,” Oui Presse churns out a chocolate cookie that tastes like it was taken right off the cookie sheet in your childhood kitchen. “I just started out using a basic recipe that’s on the bag of chocolate chips,” says owner Shawna McKeown. McKeown now uses hand-chopped milk chocolate instead of the bagged chocolate chips, and the result is fantastic. With a perfect blend of crispiness on the outside and softness in the middle, Oui Presse’s cookies would make a great after-school snack. Just add a glass of milk.
Oui Presse, 1740 SE Hawthorne Boulevard, 503.384.2160
Fleur de Lis Bakery & Cafe
The chocolate chip cookie at Fleur de Lis was as soft as the café’s flower namesake. In fact, even though we ate it hours after it had been baked, it was arguably the softest of the bunch. The chewy gooeyness meshed delightfully with what baker Eric Tomassini called a “special chocolate chip that isn’t used in anything else.” Also, despite appearing to be slightly overcooked, there wasn’t a trace of burnt taste. Though Tomassini says that he adheres to a traditional recipe, we couldn’t help but detect the subtle flavor of banana while munching the cookie. Guess we’ll have to go back and make sure that we weren’t going crazy.
Fleur de Lis Bakery & Cafe, 3930 NE Hancock Street, 503.459.4887
The chocolate chip cookie from this west side staple was one of the most interesting cookies we tried. Perhaps not coincidentally, it was also one of the tastiest. Each bite included a bit of citrus flavor courtesy of orange zest that was spread evenly throughout the entire cookie. Rounding out the cookie’s unique flavor were little flecks of mystery nuts that were eventually identified as pecans by Pearl Bakery employee Amy Alvarez. She added that bakery patrons opt for the chocolate chip cookie not only because of the creative touches but also for the semi-sweet chocolate chunks that bring the whole treat together.
Pearl Bakery, 102 NW 9th Ave., 503.827.0910
Before heading east over the Broadway Bridge, make sure to pick up a scrumptious chocolate chip cookie from Lovejoy Bakers. The most visually pleasing of the bunch,
Lovejoy’s version features chocolate that seems to be swirled within the dough as opposed to dotted. Some of us complained that there was even too much chocolate, but that is a debate for another day. The thick cookie boasts a thick, chewy consistency but isn’t difficult to eat. What really makes Lovejoy a winner, however, is the inclusion of a dash of cinnamon that makes every bite just a wee bit better.
Lovejoy Bakers, 939 NW 10th Avenue, 503.208.3113
As a shop that excels in all things chocolate, Alma might be held to a higher standard when it comes to chocolate chip cookies. Fortunately, it lives up to the hype and then some. Alma’s chocolate, a 74% cocoa mass variety from Ecuador, according to baker Ruth Fox, was the best of all the cookies we tried. The cookie dough had a blissful smoothness that none of us could identify. Fox guesses that the mystery flavor may be the result of letting the dough age a couple days before baking, which lends the eventual product a slight caramel-like taste. Check out Alma for yourself and see if you can identify the mystery flavor. Even if you don’t, you will still be very glad you went.
Alma Chocolate, 140 NE 28th Avenue, 503.517.0262
Did we miss your fave chocolate chip cookie? Sound off below.