Call us gluttonous, but we'd never pass on dessert. There's something special about capping off a scrumptious meal with a sweet treat—even when we're nearing food-coma territory. Chicago's best pastry chefs whipped up pies, cakes, brownies and tarts that delighted our senses in 2017. But these are a few of the most decadent bites we got our hands (and mouths) on this year.
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We may or may not have gasped audibly as a server at this Gold Coast gem cascaded citrus-scented caramel over a lacquered banana tart tatin, resulting in tiny golden rivers that mingled with the melting honey ice cream on top. It’s an occasion-worthy dessert that will take your breath away. $12.
Stay for another glass of wine and order chef-owner Darren McGraw’s otherworldly dessert platter. It’s a sampler of jellies, cookies, chocolates and candies—perfect for the indecisive sweet tooth. $8–$14.
This towering 12-layer confection starts with a sturdy crust made from graham cracker crumbs, pretzels and cereal. From there, alternating layers of decadent German chocolate cake and creamy espresso cheesecake are covered in chocolate buttercream and coated in a sleek chocolate mirror glaze. Each monstrous slice is designed to be shared (only if you want) and to be paired with the brewery’s culinary-focused beers (we recommend the Smoked Applewood Gold). $15.
It'd be foolish to skip the apple-based dessert at a restaurant that was named after an apple. This crisp, caramelized tart is topped with oat crumble and a scoop of Prairie Breeze cheddar cheese ice cream. We repeat: cheddar cheese ice cream. We are officially fangirling over everything that pastry chef Mari Katsumura creates. $10.
Mindy Segal is the mad scientist behind this stoner-approved treat that’s half doughy brownie, half cocoa rice brittle and 100 percent fucking awesome. $3.
Even if you’re dropping by this West Loop spot for a quick drink at the bar, you’d be remiss not to peep the dessert menu. The “alfajores” are not what you expect: A disk of creamy dulce de leche flan is garnished with crumbly cocoa shortbread, blackberries and delicate marigold blossoms. $9.
Chocolate Cremeux at the Press Room
This subterranean wine bar has a few tricks up its sleeve. Take this deceptively simple dessert, in which domes of velvety chocolate pudding are adorned with malt crumble, shards of sesame crisp, dots of buttermilk pudding and marigold petals. Think of it as a very sophisticated dirt pudding—sans gummy worms. It will take every ounce of your self-control not to lick the plate clean. $12.
Let’s be honest: We visit this Gold Coast café for the Instagrammable views, gorgeous furniture and straightforward wine program. On your next visit, add a stack of warm, sea-salt–dusted cookies to your order. They’re crisp on the outside, gooey on the inside and everything we need to appropriately take in this outrageous space. $9.
With its generously portioned bowls of gnocchi bolognese and plates of oil-dappled fried calamari, you’ll have to make an effort to save room for dessert at this River North eatery. But trust us: It’s worth showing some restraint for a slice of butterscotch pie, which boasts an addictively sweet and slightly smoky center topped with a cloud of house-made whipped cream. It’s the kind of dessert you’ll keep eating long after declaring, “This is my last bite.” $6.95.