Tucked behind NYU’s Law School on Third Street is a cozy walk-up to one of the Village’s most endearing eateries: OatMeals. Walking in feels like walking into a friend’s apartment. Bright and inviting, you can sit at the bar and watch people pass, or cozy up on pillow-covered benches. The only thing that matches the welcoming environment is the friendliness of the staff, including the head baker and owner, Samantha Stephens, who you can find working at the shop 7 days a week. A former Wall Street Investment Banker, Samantha left her hometown in Virginia to attend Baruch College and majored in psychology. Like so many college kids who come to New York, she was at first overwhelmed by the abundance of delicious eats that New York City has to offer.
After gaining 35 pounds her freshman year, Samantha decided to make a change. When she began cleaning up her diet and cooking her own meals, she was inspired by the oat – a budget friendly culinary staple full of health benefits. So she started to get creative with the often underestimated super grain and made oatmeal her canvas for creativity. Before she knew it, Samantha was making all kinds of exciting dishes – sometimes eating oatmeal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Inspired by many of the specialty shops in New York City and her passion for oatmeal, Samantha knew her creations would appeal to a wide audience, and over 12 years ago, she conceptualized the idea for her now super successful oatmeal shop.
Before turning her idea into reality, Samantha spent her post-college years working as an investment banker. She kept her dream in mind and took classes in Small Business Budgeting and Food Writing at NYU’s School of Continuing education. She also began talking to other small business owners, listening to their stories and taking their advice. Her next decision was to enroll in culinary school – while still working on Wall Street – and earned a degree in classic French pastry from the French Culinary Institute. She wasn’t afraid to take advantage of the opportunities the city has to offer, and advises all New Yorkers pursuing any goal do the same.
Samantha truly took the time to carefully plan her business, and learn her craft, and you can taste her dedication in every bowl of oats. All of the oatmeal she sells is steel cut, meaning that the grains are whole grouts cut into pieces, providing a heartier, chewier, and more satisfying texture than standard quick-cooking oatmeal. Not always easy to cook, Samantha definitely has perfected the art of the steel-cut oat, making an already delicious base to her outrageous menu of toppings.
Samantha takes this beloved breakfast food to a new level. Take, for example, Samantha’s favorite, the Truffle RisOATo — oatmeal served with a bed of freshly shaved parmesan and a generous drizzle of truffle oil. This dish is incredibly balanced and satisfying. The crackled pepper adds a subtle element of excitement and interest, and after a few addicting bites, it’d be easy to mistake this oatmeal for an entree at a high-priced Italian restaurant. Also popular on the savory menu, the Canadian boasts cinnamon spiced apples, cheddar maple syrup, and of course, bacon. If traditional oatmeal is more your suit, OatMeals covers all the classics, like Peanut Butter Banana and Brown Sugar Cinnamon Raisin. Those with a sweet tooth will be overwhelmed with choices ranging from Almond Joy to S’mores. Plus, these dessert oatmeal renditions are a healthier alternative to your usual desserts. Fruit lovers will go crazy for the Pomegranate Pistachio or the Quatre Fruits Rouge, and the Pumpkin Pie oatmeal is another standout. Whole pecans brought a nice textural contrast to the pumpkin puree swirled throughout the bowl, which was spiced to truly echo the flavor of pumpkin pie. Like all of the desserts, this dish was sweet and satisfying while still feeling healthy.
OatMeals offers three sizes to satisfy any appetite – cleverly named “baby,” “mama,” and “papa” bear, the most expensive bowl on the menu cashing in at an extremely reasonable $6.75. Coffee drinks, baked goods, and sandwiches are also on the menu, making it the perfect spot to stop for a snack or meal when on campus.
Besides being a great place to eat, OatMeals is also a small reminder that with perseverance and hard work, any pursuit is possible. Just ask Samantha, who is just shy of a year in business, and is already the image of success. With plans to expand, and a recent offer from Quaker Oats, she’s proof that “doing your homework,” as she says, can really pay off. So next time you’re at Bobst and your stomach starts to rumble and your brain needs a break, get off Facebook, put down your bagel, and head to OatMeals. You’ll leave feeling happy, healthy, satisfied, and inspired.
Address: 120 W 3rd St (between MacDougal & Sixth Avenue)
Hours of Operation: Mon-Fri 7am-6 pm; Sat, Sun 8am-6pm