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Mini challenge: Plated desserts

We find restaurant desserts that don’t cost more than the appetizers.

Illustrations: Peter Bollinger
Cheap Eats Challenge

Somewhere along the way, restaurants decided it was okay to charge $9, $10, even $12 for a dessert. Our answer to such highway robbery: Skip out post-entrée and grab your sugar fix at one of these places for no more than $6.

Sundae at Anna Held Florist & Soda Fountain Cafe (5557 N Sheridan Rd, 773-561-1940) At this classic soda fountain, sundaes look the way they’re supposed to: One, two or three hefty scoops of vanilla ice cream rest in tall, old-school ice-cream glasses, topped with chocolate sauce, whipped cream, sprinkles (rainbow or chocolate; both make us equally giddy) and a cherry. $3–$6.

Ice cream at the Publican (837 W Fulton Mkt, 312-733-9555) The flavors rotate, but no matter what, pastry chef Samantha Radov takes a purist’s approach to her ice cream, adding nothing that isn’t absolutely necessary. Her ingredients are tops (in the chocolate: Valrhona Guanaja chocolate and Tahitian vanilla from Rare Tea Cellar), and the resulting ice cream is rich in both flavor and texture. Can you take down two big scoops, served unadorned in a bowl, after a meal of pork rinds and oysters? Probably not. But you’ll certainly try. $5.

Sandwich cookies at C-House (166 E Superior St, 312-523-0923) We know what you’re thinking: Cookies are not a restaurant dessert, they’re a snack you keep in your pantry. But you’re wrong. These sandwich cookies (lemon with raspberry filling, currently) are in a different league than Oreos. They’re more than twice the size, the cookies are more tender, the filling is lighter and creamier, and—best of all—two come with each order. $2.

Shortcake at Lillie’s Q (1856 W North Ave, 773-772-5500) Lillie’s Q chef Charlie McKenna knows better than to mess with Grandma’s baking recipes, so he sticks to her formula for this spectacular shortcake. Split and sandwiching fresh whipped cream and macerated fruit (currently peach, but it’s likely to rotate), it’s Southern tradition on a plate. $5.

Pie at Northdown Cafe and Taproom (3244 N Lincoln Ave, 773-697-7578) Wisconsin is serious about its pies, and it shows at this sister restaurant to two popular Milwaukee spots. Skip the fruit varieties in favor of the cream pies. Whether you choose almond, chocolate or coconut (those and more are in rotation), a towering slice is nearly a full quarter of a pie, topped with a layer of unsweetened whipped cream. $6.

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