Note: First Looks give previews of new dishes, drinks, and menus we're curious about. Since they are arranged photo shoots and interviews with restaurants, we do not make critical evaluations or recommendations.
Leske's is a bakery with a history.
The original shop opened in 1961 in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, which at the time was a Scandinavian enclave in New York City. The bakery's German owners catered to the neighborhood's tastes by offering traditional Nordic-style pastries such as kringler, a sweet filled puff pastry often shaped into a pretzel, from which it takes its name; bear claws, the flat, flaky, almond-filled pastries popular in Denmark; and Swedish kanelbullar, which are sweet yeasted cinnamon rolls typically eaten with coffee.
Alongside these traditional desserts, Leske's also offered already-classic New York favorites such as jelly doughnuts, black and white cookies, and cherry-topped cheesecake. In 1987 the original owners sold, though the bakery lasted nearly another 15 years—finally closing in 2011, much to the devastation of the neighborhood.
Luckily, two Bay Ridge residents had an eye on the property. In May of 2012, Steven DeSimone and his brother-in-law Kenny Grande bought the bakery and reopened it in grand style, bringing several of the store's original bakers on staff and serving a variety of reworked and revived classic recipes.
Last week, the owners launched a second location on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope. Store manager Harry Hawk said he was excited to continue to serve Leske's popular mix of traditional and new flavors.
"This is New York—you don't find rigid purity here," he said. "We still offer the Swedish and Danish stuff, but we also make our own Twinkie and our own Hostess cupcake."
Hawk said the Park Slope location was an ideal opportunity to integrate seasonal ingredients into some of the recipes.
"We'll explore the use of more local ingredients, when they're affordable and in season," he said. He added that the new location will also produce some organic items for both stores.
But the bakery isn't looking to change things up too much.
"The core to our business model is to do things as Leske's did them," Hawk said.
Click through the slideshow for a look at Leske's pastries.