Mike's is the mothership of bakeries. No matter where you go in Boston, you will see people carrying pastry boxes tied with blue twine, looking very much like cats with canary feathers sticking out of their mouths. That's because Mike's is the quintessential Italian bakery in the North End that everyone has to go to at least once while in Boston. It's more than just the jaw-dropping ocean of goodies. It's the tin-flowers that make up the walls, the 20 or so old-school women behind the biggest bakery counter I've ever seen, the hustle and jumble of hundreds of people lined up on a summer day just to get in the door...it is, for lack of a better word, an experience.
To start? Cream puffs the size of golden retrievers.
And then a jewelled nation of Italian bakery cookies gleaming up at you.
While you're stopping by cookie-land, be sure to grab some of the non-photgenic but highly addictive pistachio macaroons. Really, these sugar-almond bombs will knock you on your bottom.
But all of this is just a warm up to the main attraction: the cannolis. About twenty different varieties of these bad boys, lined up in heaping trays. Sprinkled with chocolate chips, infused with lemons or ammeretto...pretty much any cannoli you can image, Mike's has. What are the key components of a cannoli, you ask? Basically, you're getting a sweet crunchy cracker curled around a cup's worth of bakery cream that tastes thick on the tongue, indicating that there may be ricotta cheese or the likes mixed into all that other good stuff. In Mike's case, if you don't ask for the stronger flavors, you essentially get a very mild, creamy filling and a crunchy exterior. Not the thunder of the heavens flattening you with superb taste, but rather a very comforting creature that you might just like to inhale along with a strong cup of coffee, which Mike's handily serves.
Don't let the photos fool you. These cannolis are well over half a pound and will seriously put a dent in your appetite. At $3 each, you can try more than one, but figure a sane, grown person can down 1.5 max before going belly up and running for the rolaids. The inevitable conclusion? You are going to need more than one visit to Mike's to sample all of their goodies!