You don't have to go far to satisfy your sweet tooth in this city. Chicago's top bakeries, ice cream shops and candy stores whip up seriously sugary treats. But some of the most inventive desserts around are hidden in plain sight at the best restaurants in Chicago. Local pastry chefs are going above and beyond with decadent chocolate cake, over-the-top sundaes and fancy twists on childhood favorites. From casual downtown Chicago restaurants to fine-dining heavyweights, these kitchens offer the best desserts in town. Just be sure to save room after dinner!
RECOMMENDED: Check out the best new restaurants in Chicago
Best desserts in Chicago
Chef Andrew Zimmerman’s menu at Proxi blends borders and pulls from every corner of the globe, so it's no surprise that pastry chef Sarah Mispagel's desserts follow suit. Try black raspberry kulfi (a play on an Indian dessert) or down spoonfuls of chocolate custard with Vietnamese coffee. But our favorite dessert of all is the tres leches cake, a cube of dense, milk-laden pastry showered in strawberries, shards of meringue and bits of caramelized goat’s milk.
Anna Posey's name is synonymous with whimsical, well-crafted desserts. At Elske, the restaurant she owns with her husband, David, Anna crafts mind-blowing confections that are truly special. Though the options change with the season, one of our old favorites (and an exemplary specimen) is the fried sourdough rosette with vanilla custard and hearth-roasted pear butter.
Seasonal flavors—what's available at the farmers market, really—dictate the menu at Marisol, located inside the Museum of Contemporary Art in Streeterville. Honey panna cotta gets a zing of citrus from fresh blood orange, the flourless chocolate cake is dressed with huckleberry creme fraiche ice cream, and the buckwheat cake gets a helping hand from preserved apples.
After he graduated from Kendall College, chef Ryan McCaskey took a gig as a pastry chef at an acclaimed Wisconsin restaurant. These days, he's the head honcho at two-Michelin–starred Acadia in the South Loop, where dessert is an important part of his 10-course tasting menu. Though the lineup of sweets is constantly changing, we were blown away by a bite that included roasted pineapple, zephyr caramel mousse and durian ice cream.
Inspired by California, Pacific Standard Time dessert menu is rife with fresh, summery flavors. Taste the bounty with dishes like the citrus pavlova, which is paired with lemongrass pudding, yuzu curd, grapefruit granita and mint. Or indulge with the sweet and savory chocolate budino with miso caramel, creme fraiche ice cream and candied sesame.
You didn't think this upscale French restaurant in the Gold Coast would skimp on desserts, did you? At Margeaux Brasserie, the last course is a show, with options like a giant chocolate macaron stuffed with fresh raspberries and milk chocolate crémeux or the banana tarte tatin with warm citrus caramel that's poured tableside.
The casual fine dining concept from Brian Fisher and Ty Fujimura offers a stellar lineup of painstakingly beautiful plates to share. Just be sure to save room for dessert. The offerings are always changing, but unique ingredients (finger lime, lemongrass, white port) and attention to detail make this section shine.
This Mexican eatery in Logan Square has a more robust dessert menu than you might expect. That's where Jennifer Jones Enyart shows off her wildly inventive talents with a coconut tres leches with mezcal meringue and an unforgettable mint chocolate chip sundae with hot fudge and toasted marshmallow. If it's your first time, order the aptly named "Best Piece of Chocolate Cake" with two layers of heavenly pastry glued together and sealed with rich chocolate frosting.
Like any good steakhouse, Maple & Ash boasts an indulgent dessert menu for those who need something sweet to cap off the night. The Sundae Service is perfect for a small group and comes with three flavors of ice cream, hot fudge, peanut butter sauce, toffee crunch, sprinkles, seasonal fruit and more. Or opt for something from the pastry section, with decadent choices like coconut cream pie with rum chantilly or an apple galette with earl gray ice cream.
A healthy-fare-meets-comfort-food concept informs the menus at this cheerful River North restaurant and, to be sure, many of the dessert offerings—like the chia pudding with coconut milk and pomegranate—cleave to this ethos. And then there’s the Oh My! Caramel Pie, a tall wedge of luxurious burnished caramel—less dense than dulce de leche, but not by much—atop a shortbread crust so buttery it shatters beneath your fork. It’s a devil-may-care-for-health kind of dessert, and it’s worth it. For a sweet fix to go, check out the coffee counter’s selection of enormous and excellent cookies.
James Beard Award–winning pastry chef Mindy Segal is something like the mama of the Chicago dessert scene, and her loft-like Bucktown restaurant/dessert bar is a longstanding favorite among locals and visitors who want to skip straight to the sweet course. Order from a menu of rich hot chocolates that vary in sweetness (sugar fiends will lap up the medium, while spice lovers will appreciate the subtly smoldering Mexican).