401 Bleecker Street
New York, NY 10014
(212) 462-2572

184 9th Avenue
New York, NY, 10011
(212) 647-9956

The Magnolia concept of bakeryhood is to create a place that makes a cake so sweet, diabetics fall down ill just from being downwind. Cupcakes are the main weapon Magnolia has in its war on Atkins. They're made fluffy and with extra sugar. Extra extra sugar. Magnolia's three major varieties of this particular ordinance are chocolate, vanilla, and devil's food. Like Rosie the Riveter, an attractive female stands in the window hammering out as many as supplies allow, ensuring an ample supply of ammo. Magnolia's cupcakes are hit or miss, though in my opinion are better than their cakes. Sometimes they're perfect, but sometimes they're too dry. Either way, order a cup of passable coffee and you'll be fine.

Popular before long before the Narnia song, the lines at this no-seat little place snake around the corner and down the block. Since you’ll be on line for half an hour, pull up a brownstone stoop and have a seat. Magnolia might not have made it into my more-aggravating-than-it's-worth list if there was no wait, but there is. When you've finally gotten around to ordering, you can’t eat inside. Instead, you get to sit on the fabulous benches by the fabulous Bleecker Playground surrounded by fabulous garbage cans fabulously overflowing with Magnolia boxes, wrappers, and cups while being asked if you could spare your fabulous change.

I am very glad that the Magnolia people have been so successful. I love it when small shops create a product that becomes popular without flushing their principles down the toilet. But Magnolia's popularity and subsequent lines create a perception that the cupcakes I get should taste like an orgasm topped with sprinkles. And when they don't, I personally wonder why I wasted my time. Their stuff is pretty good, but is it worth spending half an hour on line for? I'm not kidding when I say that I have friends who have fallen asleep leaning on me while waiting.

And that’s where Billy’s Bakery comes in. Billy's is one of a handful of new MagnoliaClones that have cropped up like mushrooms across Manhattan in recent years. Each one has its own twist on the Magnolia brand and each one tastes good. So why single Billy's out? It's the closest to the F train stop where a friend of mine lives. Hence, I review.

Actually, plenty of others have sung the praises of the place, so I won’t bore you with too many details here. You can read everyone else's two-sentence blurbs for yourself later. I’m more about opinionated extrospection. And besides, how long-winded does a review about a cupcake store have to be?

The cupcakes are like Magnolia's, but better. Maybe it's because the owner used to work at Magnolia and he "borrowed" the style. Maybe it's because there’s hardly any line, so by the time I get to eat what I've ordered, I'm not in my pissed-off-puppy-shooting mood. Maybe it’s because they actually DO taste better. It doesn't really matter. Cupcakes aside, without a doubt, their regular cakes are better than Magnolia’s. Smoother, richer, not as dry. Sure, there’s no nearby park filled with the perks of litter and homeless people to eat in, but Billy’s does have a couple of tables. In the winter, this means you can pull up a seat and not freeze your nips off having dessert.

Actually, I tease Magnolia about the park. During the day it's fine. I just happen to always go around 10pm or so, the peak of crappitude. During the day, Magnolia's West Village neighborhood is very nice. Lots of shops, tree-lined streets, romantic. Billy's is in Chelsea. It's not that Chelsea's bad, but let's not kid ourselves. It ain't the West Village. Magnolia wins for atmosphere.

Some have complained that Billy's service is less than stellar. That the gay male staff wishes it were working at Armani Exchange instead. Perhaps, but I haven't had any problems and I'm far from a regular who gets VIP treatment. Everyone was very helpful and seemed nice. The slice of cake I ordered was the size of a small car and the coffee was fresh. So far so good. Better cakes, better coffee, better line. Billy's wins for food.

Anyway, the last thing I would want is to encourage people to go to Billy’s and re-create the line phenomenon I so abhor. So stay away. You’ll just get fat.

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