If you have a meal without dessert, did the meal ever really happen? For some, dessert is the end all, be all to a successful dinner—and in L.A., there are plenty of restaurants and bakeries offering exceptional treats. Barring ice cream and doughnuts—because this list can't go on forever—we've named the best dessert options in the city for a guaranteed sugar rush.
Sink your teeth into L.A.'s best desserts
Don’t try to walk into Bestia without a reservation. As one of the most talked about (and as a result, packed) restaurants in L.A., securing a table at least a month in advance is a good idea. And if you're able to get in? Once you've made your way through the pastas, charcuterie and pizza, you can't go home without having their chocolate budino tart. Made with bittersweet chocolate, salted caramel, cacao crust, olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt, it's an addictive, rich, decadent ending to an already memorable meal.
A lemon-and-lime coconut tart and the after-dinner amaro selection represent the European side of the kitchen at Santa Monica's Cassia, but the real post-dinner winner is a Vietnamese coffee pudding. Looking remarkably like a freshly made cappuccino, the pudding’s lighter-than-a-feather consistency is a marvel, and two small coconut shortbread cookies that arrive with it are prime dunking tools.
From the ashes of Journeymen comes Hail Mary Pizza, now serving some of the best pizzas Atwater's ever seen. The crisp-bottomed crusts in this neighborhood spot are made from wild yeasts and organic grains, then topped with gourmet goods like raclette, but don't fill up just yet—the desserts, while limited, are not to be missed. Especially the Basque cake, a Journeymen holdover. Instead of filling the cake with fruit preserves—as is tradition—Hail Mary serves it on the side as house-made, seasonal curd with a dab of tart yogurt, balancing the dense, almond-like cake slices. What else would you expect from a Gjusta/Gjelina alumnus? Chef-owner David Wilcox knows a thing or two about great food, and it shows.
This made-for-two dessert is the technicolored take on a classic we never knew we needed—and now that it's here, we're pretty sure we could devour the whole thing solo. Theatrical as ever, this dessert gets set ablaze in front of you, singeing the outer layer of meringe whisps to a golden brown. Cut it open and find layers of dark and light pinks: a filling of bing cherry and mascarpone ice creams, with pistachio thrown in for good measure. Want to impress your date? Now's your time to shine.
Chef Ray Garcia introduced elevated tacos to Downtown's lunch and dinner crowd with B.S. Taqueria, where clams and lardo tacos made waves alongside more traditional options such as carne asada and carnitas. Once you've had your fill of tacos, though, make a beeline for the churros con chocolate. They are, quite possibly, the fluffiest churros we've ever tried. Lightly fried and dusted in sugar, the crisped dough arrives with a cold chile de arbol chocolate dipping sauce that's at once sweet and a little spicy.
Pizzeria Mozza's pastry chef Dahlia Narvaez knows how to craft a home-run dessert. The James Beard Award-winning chef put her famed butterscotch budino on the menu when Pizzeria Mozza first opened, and it's stayed there ever since. Made with chilled butterscotch pudding, caramel sauce, whipped cream and sea salt, the jar is paired with rosemary pine nut cookies for a somewhat savory accompaniment.
Tucked into a narrow space off Burbank Boulevard in Sherman Oaks—and with goods available in Eagle Rock's Found Coffee—Crème Caramel LA has made a name for themselves by offering creative, playful desserts, from flavored bread puddings to "unicorn poop." We're flat-out obsessed with everything here, but their classic ube upside down pie—sweet purple yam covered in a brûlée graham cracker crust—is heaven on earth. If you're unfamiliar with ube, it's the perfect introduction to the versatile root.
This modern Jewish deli does ample baking in-house—hello, bagels—but perhaps the best of all is the guava cheesecake. Each enormous wedge is what deli-dessert dreams are made of, a light, whipped cheesecake interior that's studded with vanilla bean. Atop, you may just get distracted by the gorgeous sheen of the house-made guava jelly that sits, glass-like, across the whole thing and adds a tartness that livens up what could have easily been an afterthought or too-rich dessert, as cheesecake so often unfortunately often can be.
While Valerie Gordon's pastry cases are filled with exceptional creations—and her chocolates studded with fun fillings and designs—there's one dessert that turns every day into a celebration. We love it at the holidays, for birthdays or, really, at any excuse for a party, but order it for whenever and make your own occassion. Its gold-dusted exterior makes it a true show-stopper, and inside, it's a party pleaser with layers of golden butter cake and champagne ganache all covered in a milk chocolate glaze. Show up to any party with one of these and it won't even matter that you weren't invited.
This Silverlake strip-mall spot now serves dinner, but most still come to Trois Familia for the brunch fare, with double-decker potato tacos and fluffy churro French toast you'll be salivating over days later. But make sure to save room for dessert, and specifically the tres leches birthday cake: worth ordering even when it's not your birthday, a thick slab of cake soaked in condensed milk and topped with frosting and sprinkles. Who knows—you might even get a candle on top.
Salt's Cure may change the menu often—it's super informed by L.A.'s seasonal produce, after all—but through the years, you can be sure that they've kept this beauty on the menu. We're die-hard fans of their grapefruit pie, which boasts the perfect balance of sweet and tart with a to-die-for graham cracker crust.
Remember having fluffernutters as a kid? Black Market Liquor Bar's version is bumped up a notch when they deep-fry the sandwich, creating a gluttonous dream involving peanut butter, marshmallow and banana spread between two pieces of bread, which all gets deep-fried and drizzled in chocolate. Is it too much to call it perfect? Nah, we'll go with it.
RiceBar opened in the heart of Downtown L.A., serving traditional Filipino rice bowls and all the longganisa your heart could desire. But what many lunchgoers don't know is that RiceBar's iced buko is one of the tiny eatery's standout menu items: a creamy coconut ice pop that you squeeze out of a plastic tube, one delicious bite at a time. It's perfect for a summer day, but it's also so incredibly satisfying that we'd gladly indulge in one of these on a winter afternoon.
Sweet Lady Jane has been around for more than 25 years, and now has locations in West Hollywood, Santa Monica and Encino. Customers flock here to choose from around 30 different cakes for birthdays, celebrations and ceremonies, but it's their triple berry shortcake that draws the most "oohs" and "aahs." Layers of white cake are interspersed with strawberries, blackberries and raspberries, along with mounds of cream between each layer, as well as surrounding the cake.
Cake Monkey has been supplying sweet treats to restaurants and shops around L.A. for years, but at their own storefront, those looking for a sugar rush can pick up a few decadent goods to take home (or eat during the car ride). Owner Elizabeth Belkind worked in some of the best pastry kitchens the city's ever seen (Campanile, Grace), and is known for her incredible pies, chocolate babkas and her famous El Rollos. The chocolate cake is rolled up with vanilla cream and coated with bittersweet chocolate—and yes, it'll definitely take you back to your childhood.