The best desserts in Chicago

When cravings for chocolate, ice cream or other sweet treats strike, seek out Chicago's best desserts
Entente
Photograph: Matt Meschede Entente
By Cate Huguelet and Morgan Olsen |
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Chicago has its fair share of ice cream shops, donut spots and pie-slinging bakeries, but some of the city's most inventive desserts are hidden in plain sight at the bottom of restaurant menus. Pastry chefs are going above and beyond with loaded sundaes, addictive caramel pie and decadent bourbon caramel bombes—just to name a few. When you must satisfy your sweet tooth with a post-dinner treat, these are the restaurants to visit. 

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Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki
Restaurants, American creative

Entente

icon-location-pin Lake View

The "casual fine dining" concept from Ty Fujimura (Small Bar, Arami) and Brian Fisher (Schwa) 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 (green asparagus, sassafrass, sorghum) and attention to detail make this section shine. Current selections include tres leches with banana, Vietnamese coffee-infused tiramisu and profiterole with sour cherry. 

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Restaurants, Vegetarian

Bad Hunter

icon-location-pin West Loop

After you finish your veggies at this plant-forward restaurant in the West Loop, open your mind (and tummy) to pastry chef Emily Spurlin's seasonal dessert offerings. The menu is always changing, but guests can expect to spot unique bits like beet cheesecake, parmesan ice cream, zucchini herb cake and blueberry-lavender sherbet. Rest assured, it all works and tastes out-of-this-world delicious. 

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Dos Urban Cantina
Anjali Pinto
Restaurants, Mexican

Dos Urban Cantina

icon-location-pin Logan Square

This Mexican eatery in Logan Square has a more robust dessert menu than you might expect. That's where Jennifer Jones Enyart is showing off her wildly inventive talents with a banana leaf sundae, fruit-packed carrot flan and gooey coconut tres leches cake. 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. 

 

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Restaurants, Steakhouse

Maple & Ash

icon-location-pin Rush & Division

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 strawberry rhubarb puff, the bombe with bourbon caramel or the coconut cream pie with rum chantilly. 

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Photograph: John Khuu
Bars, Wine bars

Ampersand Wine Bar

icon-location-pin Lincoln Square

This wine-fueled restaurant in Lincoln Square has a few tricks up its sleeve when it comes to dessert. You can't go wrong with any of the super-seasonal offerings, like blackberry trifle with lime curd or angel food cake topped with fresh cherries. But the real star of the show is chef Darren McGraw's platter of cookies, candies and chocolates. Each serving is a treasure trove of sugar-filled happiness. 

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Bethany Fritz
Restaurants, American

El Che Bar

icon-location-pin West Loop

A custom-built open hearth is the focal point of chef John Manion’s Argentine-American restaurant, so it only makes sense that fire also plays a role on the dessert menu. In that vein, choose from the Smoking Affogato with praline ice cream and marsala caramel; the Fuego y Flores, a dark chocolate ganache cake with candied hibiscus and chamomile crema; or the Melting Maracuya, a passionfruit cake roll that's studded with chocolate crunch, pistachio and blackberry sorbet.

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Photograph: Anjali M. PInto
Restaurants, American

Beatrix

icon-location-pin River North

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—chia pudding, shortbread lemon tart and warm apple strudel—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.  

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Restaurants, Contemporary American

Mindy's HotChocolate

icon-location-pin Wicker Park

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. Perennially popular items include warm doughnuts served up with a side of thick fudge and 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). 

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Pat Bing Su dessert at Parachute.
Photograph: Martha Williams
Restaurants, Korean

Parachute

icon-location-pin Avondale

The dessert roster at this cool Korean-American newcomer changes often, making it difficult to define it with too much precision. But thus far a common thread runs through the offerings: Familiar sweets are tweaked just enough to make us consider them afresh. Who knew, for instance, that glutinous mochi, made earthy with rye butter, paired so comfortingly with tangy ricotta? Or how humble baked apple could be elevated with the addition of a more-savory-than-sugary burnt miso ice cream? No matter the current lineup, you’re in for a dessert that honors the creative spirit of the dishes that preceded it. 

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Restaurants, Mexican

XOCO

icon-location-pin River North

There are, rumor has it, a handful of cake-y things to be had at Rick Bayless’s ode to Mexican street food (passionfruit-lime cake and chocolate cherry bread pudding, to cite a couple of current examples), but for us, the dessert menu begins and ends with the churros. Fragrant, golden and fried to order, they possess that magical crisp-pillowy textural duality that’s all the more exquisite for its fleetingness. Our advice: Once you’ve finished your torta, order up a churro to go (plain, or with a nutty glaze if you’re so inclined); it’s the perfect handheld snack for a leisurely stroll through River North.

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