The 100 best dishes and drinks in Los Angeles 2016: Desserts

This year has been one hell of a sugar rush. Dig into our favorite desserts of 2016, from baklava to bread pudding.
Craft Los Angeles grape pie
Photograph: Courtesy Craft Los Angeles
By Erin Kuschner and Time Out editors |
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For those of us who can't judge a restaurant until dessert has been ordered, you've come to the right place. We satisfied our sweet tooth in a myriad of ways this year, getting our fingers sticky with baklava, taking licks of inventive ice cream flavors and indulging in rich slices of pie. Drooling yet? Read on to find out which desserts we loved most this year.

RECOMMENDED: The best dishes and drinks in Los Angeles

L.A's best desserts of 2016

Bongo cioccolato at Spartina
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Restaurants, Italian

Bongo cioccolato at Spartina

icon-location-pin Melrose

Melrose’s dining scene has grown in fits and spurts over the past few years, and the arrival of Spartina was a welcome one. The Italian eatery excelled at a lot of things, but what stood out came toward the end of the meal: the bongo cioccolato, a sort-of Italian sandwich of puff pastry holding together rich chocolate gelato. A stream of chocolate sauce cascades down each teetering tower of bread and cream, and it takes some serious self control to not pop them all into your mouth at once. $10. - Erin Kuschner

Sweet cream with graham streusel at Magpies
Photograph: Rozette Rago
Restaurants, Ice cream parlors

Sweet cream with graham cracker streusel at Magpies Softserve

icon-location-pin Silver Lake

Filling a serious void in L.A.'s softserve market, Magpie's arrived in Silver Lake with some pretty inventive flavors and toppings. One of my favorites is the sweet cream softserve topped with graham cracker streusel, a delicious medley of smooth and crunchy texture that'll make you feel like a kid again. Starts at $3.95. - Erin Kuschner

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Crème Fraiche Panna Cotta at Gwen
Photograph: Courtesy Gwen
Restaurants, American

Creme fraiche panna cotta at Gwen

icon-location-pin Hollywood

Curtis Stone opened his highly anticipated sophomore project in L.A. after the success of his Beverly Hills restaurant, Maude. At Gwen, you're treated to a multi-course affair in the glitzy dining room, where you'll end with a stunning dessert that, depending on the season, might include something like this crème fraîche panna cotta. It blew us away with its shockingly light sorbet, its creamy panna cotta an overall, delightful airyness—necessary after Gwen's meat-centric main event. Part of a $95 prix-fixe meal. - Erin Kuschner

Baklava at Inotheke
Photograph: Courtesy Inotheke/Acuna-Hansen
Restaurants, Greek

Baklava at Inotheke

icon-location-pin Santa Monica

Though the number of Greek restaurants is growing in L.A., the number of good ones is still relatively minimal. Inotheke is an exception—and their baklava is up there as one of the best in the city. Dripping with honey and dusted with pistachios, the slice is big enough to feed two people (though you'll be fighting for the last bite). - Erin Kuschner

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71Above
Photograph: Rozette Rago
Restaurants, American

Pineapple & Passion at 71Above

icon-location-pin Downtown Financial District

As pastry chef at 71Above in the US Bank Tower, Gregory Baumgartner hones in on desserts that diners recognize and transforms them into spectacular dishes with a twist. The Pineapple & Passion is inspired by a treat his mother used to make—a Cool Whip-topped dessert bar made with pineapples and a cheesecake crust. Baumgartner has crafted it into a tropical beauty employing pineapple foam, passion fruit marshmallow and cake, tarragon moss, lime caviar, frozen cream and a brown butter crust. $14. - Erin Kuschner

Espresso Gelato Pie at AR Cucina
Photograph: Rozette Rago

Gelato pie at AR Cucina

I was incredibly bummed when Sambar closed in Culver City earlier this year, but AR Cucina, an Italian restaurant that exuded familiarity, replaced it quite nicely. The espresso gelato pie—drizzled in chocolate sauce and accompanied by a large dollop of whipped cream—is rich and creamy without weighing you down, and is the perfect end to a meal when served with a cappuccino. $8. - Erin Kuschner

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Dessert wontons at Horse's Mouth
Photograph: Erin Kuschner
Restaurants, Contemporary Asian

Dessert wontons at Horse's Mouth

icon-location-pin Koreatown

Horse's Mouth has an extensive tea selection, which you'd be wise to order from along with their fantastic dessert wontons. The wontons are filled with cookie dough and cream cheese, and dusted with sugar and an unexpected—but totally welcome—hit of five spice. $6. - Erin Kuschner

Bread Pudding at Maple
Photograph: Courtesy Maple/Ghost Media Inc
Attractions, Parks and gardens

Chocolate pretzel bread pudding at Maple

icon-location-pin La Cañada

Maple, the new Descanso Gardens restaurant, is known primarily for brunch, but if you're lucky enough to snag a spot here for dinner, you'd be wise to order the chocolate pretzel bread pudding for dessert. It's drenched in a bourbon caramel sauce and decorated with popcorn tuile and caramel popcorn, and is likely to be gone in 60 seconds. $9. - Erin Kuschner

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Craft Los Angeles grape pie
Photograph: Courtesy Craft Los Angeles
Restaurants, Contemporary American

Grape pie at Craft Los Angeles

icon-location-pin Century City
A big part of Craft's continued success in Century City lies in pastry chef Shannon Swindle, whose desserts are as vital to the restaurant as the rest of the menu. Swindle's pies change seasonally, with a grape streusel pie standing out this year, oozing fresh fruit and flanked by scoops of complementary sorbet. Topped with a crumble that includes chopped peanuts, the pie is like an elevated peanut butter and jelly. $12. - Erin Kuschner
Chocolate creme brulee at Masa of Echo Park
Photograph: Rozette Rago
Restaurants, Pizza

Chocolate crème brûlée at Masa of Echo Park

icon-location-pin Echo Park

Depending on how much you love chocolate, this dessert could be good enough for one or two people. Fans of Masa typically go for the monkey bread right away, but don’t make the mistake of ignoring the rich decadence of their chocolate silk crème brûlée. Smooth and creamy underneath a perfectly crystallized layer of sugar, it goes perfectly with a cup of coffee after a deep dish pizza dinner. $6.95. - Rozette Rago

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Creamy Bun with Horchata Ice Cream at Bengees
Photograph: Rozette Rago

Creamy bun with horchata ice cream at Bengees

An ice cream sandwich war erupted in Pasadena mid-year when Bengees and Afters opened up blocks from each other. My allegiance lies with Bengees, specifically between two halves of a warm glazed cronut, chilled in the center with a scoop of horchata ice cream made all the better with graham crumbles and caramel. $5.50. - Michael Juliano

Charcoal Ice Cream with Vegetable Sprinkles at Scratch Bar and K
Photograph: Rozette Rago
Restaurants, American

Charcoal ice cream with veggie sprinkels at Scratch|Bar & Kitchen

icon-location-pin Encino

Pastry chef Margarita Kallas-Lee has made a name for herself with sweets that border on remedies. Case in point: her charcoal ice cream cone with veggie sprinkles, a dessert inspired by her grandmother’s habit of giving Margarita activated charcoal whenever she was sick. Both the ice cream and cone feature activated charcoal, while the sprinkles are made from curative ingredients like turmeric, matcha and spirulina. Part of a $95 prix-fixe meal. - Erin Kuschner

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Rodini Park
Photograph: Courtesy Rodini Park
Restaurants, Greek

Baklava cheesecake at Rodini Park

icon-location-pin North Hollywood

Rodini Park is doing Greek food a little differently, offering a customizable experience with some of the best Mediterranean pastries in the city. Perhaps their most exciting offering is their baklava cheesecake, a decadent slice of traditional cheesecake topped with Greek baklava oozing with honey. Prices vary depending on slice. - Erin Kuschner

Nicole Rucker pies
Photograph: Erin Kuschner
Restaurants, Coffee shops

Bee Sting Pie at Rucker's Pies

icon-location-pin Fairfax District

Nicole Rucker is a dominant force in L.A.'s dessert scene, selling donuts at Cofax and pastries at Dinosaur Coffee. This past year, she was slinging a selection of her pies at Smorgasburg, the best one being a Bee Sting Pie. It comes topped with a giant chunk of honeycomb and tastes like summer. - Erin Kuschner

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Ginger Gelato at Gelateria Uli
Photograph: Rozette Rago
Attractions, Historic buildings and sites

Ginger gelato at Gelateria Uli

icon-location-pin Downtown Historic Core

The simplicity of this creamy scoop is what makes it so crave-worthy. Ginger fans will appreciate the sweetness and subtle heat, and a candied ginger topper provides the perfect amount of chewy, sugary texture. $2.50. - Kate Wertheimer

Whoopie Pie at Cape Seafood and Provisions
Photograph: Rozette Rago
Restaurants, Delis

Whoopie pie at Cape Seafood & Provisions

icon-location-pin Fairfax District

Michael Cimarusti's market and takeout deli offers sustainable, fresh catches of the day—halibut, cod, mackerel—alongside tubs of both chunky New England and Manhattan chowder. Most people might not think to go here for the whoopie pie, but you'd be missing out if you passed by the palm-sized dessert. The moist chocolate cake holds together a thick spread of cream—you can't finish it in one sitting, but you can certainly try. - Erin Kuschner

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Mango Royale
Photograph: Rozette Rago
Restaurants, Filipino

Mango Royale at Unit 120 by Isa Fabro

icon-location-pin Chinatown

Last year, Isa Fabro somehow managed to popularize Filipino-inspired desserts in a way that L.A. has never really experienced. The pastry chef introduced imaginative mash-ups to Unit 120, like her Mango Royale, a classic Filipino icebox cake that begins with a graham cracker crust followed by layers of sweet mangoes and condensed milk cream. The cake can either be frozen overnight or kept in the fridge until it’s ready to be eaten....which is, like, right now. Prices vary. - Erin Kuschner

Myrtille at Spring
Photograph: Rozette Rago
Restaurants, French

Myrtille at Spring

icon-location-pin Downtown Historic Core

Michelin starred chef Tony Esnault (Church & State) has transformed a Downtown courtyard into an incredible French restaurant, one where an open kitchen looks out onto a bubbling fountain surrounded by wide-eyed diners. There's plenty of classic French cuisine to be had here, but the Myrtille dessert is a standout, with mint panna cotta, fresh blueberry, blueberry sorbet and páte sucre. $9. - Erin Kuschner

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