Which Boston bakery is better -- Mike's Pastry or Modern Pastry?
Tour books are going to point you to Mike's. Locals will send you to Modern. I've sampled from both, and here are my very unscientific findings:
* Better customer service. There are always several people working the large counter. Service is quick and efficient, somewhat friendly. You feel rushed, and sometimes the employees make you feel like they're annoyed if you don't know exactly what you want. My questions got answered politely, but quickly.
* Big selection. Usually at least a dozen different cannoli flavors (when you mix and match shell, filling and garnish flavors) for you to choose from. Lots of other cookies and pastries, too.
* More people. There's always a line. And I've never been there when one of the little cafe tables was available.
* Premade cannoli. Although the cannoli are huge, they're premade. When you buy one, you don't know how long it's been sitting there. The cannoli I got from Mike's had a slightly chewy shell. (Cannoli photo courtesy of my friend Katie, who opted for Mike's on her first trip to Boston.)
* A local tells me some of the pastries aren't made on site, that they're imported from New York. Granted, when we're talking Boston, that's not that far away.
* Not so great customer service. They serve you when they're ready, at a pace that may not get you out of the shop as quickly as you'd like. I've been in there when one employee was waiting on a demanding customer, while three other employees weighed cookies just feet away from where the line of customers kept growing and growing.
* Small shop. Not much room for a line. But always a free cafe table.
* Made-to-order cannoli. To me, this is the biggest advantage Modern has. Three shell flavors -- plain, ends dipped in chocolate, whole thing dipped in chocolate -- and three filling flavors (traditional ricottia, vanilla creme or chocolate creme). Dusted with powdered sugar. Perfect to eat as you get back on the Freedom Trail (which you were following until you got sidetracked by cannoli).
* A nice selection of other pastries. It's a smaller selection than at the rival bakery, but the quality is excellent. The torrone (nougat made from honey, egg whites, vanilla and almonds) is worth trying. The red velvet cupcake I got there one day (and ate for breakfast) was absolutely divine.
* Recommended by the locals. To me, this is all I need to know.
My favorite? (Insert drumroll here, please.)
Modern Pastry. Despite the iffy customer service, you just can't beat the cannoli.
I will admit, however, that I will be ordering a cannoli kit from Mike's for my birthday this year. They send you 10 shells, your choice of cannoli cream and goodies to decorate with. Check it out on their website.
(This was the final post from my Boston trips. Don't know where I'm headed next, but I hope there are good places to eat!)