Best desserts in NYC
By now, you probably know about Superiority Burger, a hole-in-wall making the best veggie burgers we've ever had. But the lesser-known star is their daily dessert specials. Here, owner Brooks Headley puts his James Beard-award-winning pastry skills to the test, without the fussy sit-down environment. The desserts are, dare we say, punk? Headley and his team don't give a flying f**ck about consistency, putting together a roster of experimental flavor combinations that change totally on a whim. A recent offering we hope they'll bring back was a griddled rye cake baked with caraway sugar, with rhubarb compote and vegan creamsicle gelato.
You could walk by Burrow three times and miss it (and we have). Located inside the lobby of a run-of-the-mill glass building eyesore in Dumbo, there's no street-facing storefront giving you a glimpse at the magic inside. While others wait for the elevator, head to the black to find the patisserie version of a speakeasy. Burrow has quiet confidence. There's no over-the-top decorations or crazy flavor combinations, but what they create is nothing short of excellent. The pistachio cake is absolutely worth burrowing for with its pistachio mousse, praline and crunchy feuillantine layers.
If you're searching for proof that New Yorkers have been yearning for simpler times, look no further than this old-timey soda fountain. At the antique-filled apothecary—rehabbed by siblings Peter "Petey" Freeman and Gia Giasullo, with the help of reality TV show Construction Intervention—nostalgists can transport themselves to a Main Street America where people would hit up their local farmacy for root beer floats and lime rickeys. There's an emphasis on seasonal, local ingredients—just like in the old days. The Mr. Potato Head sundae has caramel, peanut butter, potato chips and fresh whipped cream. Unfortunately no glasses or mustaches are included in the set.
While Enrique Olvera’s single-corn tortillas pop up frequently, it’s his husk meringue, with its fine, ash-dusted hull giving way to a velvety, supercharged corn mousse, that cements Olvera’s status as the corn whisperer of New York dining.
Since 1976, Fortunato Brothers has been serving Italian pastries in Williamsburg. Known for their affogatos, cannolis, and sensational gelato, here you'll find old-school New York charm. Customers wear Yankee hats and talk in a Brooklyn accent that's slowly fading. What's especially unique about Fortunato Brothers is their dedication to the craft of marzipan art. Bananas, eggplants, ears of corn, all sculpted with almond paste to look like the real deal. And during Christmas Eve, what's referred to as "Feast of the Seven Fishes," they have marzipan fish.
This is a bar unlike all others. Here, drinks aren't the focus. Stools are placed around the perimeter of Pastry Chef Chika Tillman, where diners get a voyeuristic thrill as she preps, pipes and plates her desserts in expert fashion. A multicourse “meal” may include an amuse-bouche such as coconut sorbet in a little pool of chocolate-infused tea gelée. The main course might be a warm chocolate tart with pink-peppercorn ice cream, a mocha-and-hazelnut trifle or a delicious fromage blanc cheesecake. It all ends with darling petit fours. As if you needed them.
This Prospect Heights eatery pays homage to fading diner culture in New York. There's blue plate specials, chocolate leather banquettes, art made by a grandparent, oh, and complementary cheese puffs. Finish it all off with this decadent Sno Ball cake that's as much a joy to look at as it is to eat.
Nicholas Morgenstern scoops inventive hard ice cream flavors (sesame-caramel, salt-and-pepper pinenut, green tea pistachio) and sorbets (lychee-raspberry, guava-strawberry) at this scoop shop. Some say that durian is one of the smelliest fruits in the world, but if you can get beyond that, it's one of the most complex, interesting ice cream flavors available around town.
Sometimes we can't believe Rice to Riches still exists. Rice to Riches feels like what the '90s imagined The Future would look like. The space-age looking spot serves up flavors of rice pudding like Stubborn Banana, Black Cherry Birthday Suit and Coconut Coma. Think of like fancy gruel, served in reusable orange containers, we love carrying our lunch leftovers in. Oh, how sweet it is.
This elevated vegetarian wonderland is the latest expansion of Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Paulette Cole’s ABC restaurant empire (ABC Kitchen, ABC Cocina) inside Flatiron’s ABC Carpet & Home complex. One of their best dishes comes at the end: a refreshing grapefruit granita, which you can think of as a deconstructed fancy slushie.
After first, restauranteur Gabriel Stulman (Fedora, Fairfax, Joseph Leonard's) didn't think he needed a head baker at his Freehand Hotel projects. Then he met Zoe Kanan (who'd been at at Milk Bar and Four and Twenty Blackbirds). Now the James Beard-nominated baker creates one of the most celebrated pastry programs in NYC at Studio at the Freehand and the Freehand's first floor restaurant, Simon & The Whale. One of the newer additions to the menu is the Napolean. Think of it kind of like a citrus-y Mallomar: lemon marmalade souffle, olive oil, whole wheat puff pastry and Sorrento lemons, garnished with wild fennel and served frozen.
So many fruit tarts are so sugar-y you can't even tell that there's really fruit in them. Head pastry chef Natasha Pickowicz makes her desserts sing, with tarts that aren't highly conceptual or show off-y. They're simple, but with extraordinary flavors that change based on the season.
Yeah, this is no 16Handles swirl. Here, handmade fro-yo comes with honey and lavender, and the first time fro-yo may have ever been eaten in a fancy dinner environment, rather than a Washington Square Park bench.
The name of this family-run restaurant in Bedford-Stuyvesant comes from Ernest Hemingway’s boat, Pilar, which he used for fishing trips in Cuba. One peek at the menu reveals this eatery stays true to its Cuban roots. For years, Pilar has become a staple for the neighborhood. Recently, Pilar expanded next door with their very own bakery serving empanadas, a cuban sandwich breakfast pudding and a tropical layer cake. The cake is made with mango, pineapple, and passion-fruit buttercream ushering in summer.
Since 1894, this East Village Italian bakery has been doling out biscotti, pastries, cannoli and, yes, deliciously creamy deep-dish cheesecake, enrichened with fresh ricotta and whole eggs. Our favorite is the Sicilian ricotta and candied fruit cake known as cassata, which really looks a lot like a boob.
At this diminutive flagship—filled with stone tables and Venetian wood chairs—you'll find the café's signature 20-layer crêpe cakes. Our go-to is the green tea mille, which makes us green with envy that we'll probably never been able to make it ourselves.
This Dominican diner is one of the remaining relics of old New York. While we love the mofongo, we stay for the tres leches. True fans of El Castillo no that in addition to the classic, there's sometimes a guava tres leches verision that's even better.
Any Lima lover could tell you that there’s more to Peruvian food than citrusy ceviche and crisp-skinned rotisserie chicken, though both are dutifully on offer at Llama Inn, a lively terrarium of a restaurant disjointedly set beneath the BQE. Its chef is first-generation Peruvian-American Erik Ramirez. But a graduate course on Peru’s vast cuisine—a dizzying blend of Spanish, Japanese, Chinese and Andean influences—this isn’t. Rather, this is New Peruvian 101: At dessert, this is demonstrated wit algorrobina, smoked banana, chocolate terrine and walnut sorbet.
Supermoon Bakehouse feels comically made from Instagram: there's millennial pink and terrazzo decor as well as metallic to-go boxes that seem like they'd hold Jimmy Choos, not croissants. But owner Ry Stephens can back it up with flaky, buttery baked goods and unusual flavor combos. The standout morsel is the blueberry and rosemary croissant.
One of our favorite store-bought ice cream brands finally opened up a brick and mortar in Cobble Hill. Founded by Pooja Bavishi, Malai serves up flavors from around the world. There's "rose with cinnamon roasted almonds," "sweet milk," "star anise," "ginger root" and Turkish coffee. Look out for the seasonal flavors, like the "sweet roti and ghee." Eat the ice cream served in a cone and with a variety of toppings like cardamom shortbread and peanut chikki.
You might know of Magnolia's for their cupcakes, but their banana pudding is a tried-and-true gooey gift from god.
Butter & Scotch is the feminist bakeshop and bar of our dreams. With staff t-shirts that read "Count Orgasms, Not Calories" and "Smash the Patriarchy" in piped icing, many items on the menu give proceeds to related causes like Planned Parenthood. And while their activist mission is enough to make us interested in stopping by, the s'mores pie makes it clear the desserts can back it up, too.
Loaf legend Uri Scheft—the brains behind Tel Aviv's Lehamim Bakery—brings his dough-kneading talents to Union Square with this 9,000-square-foot bakeshop. Grab one of 25 seats for Scheft's stunning babka, made in two varieties: A cinnamon-raisin number that would easily silence Seinfeld and co. and the gorgeously gooey chocolate version, with sweet yeasty dough braided around Nutella and Belgian dark-chocolate chips.
Missy Robbins' second restaurant, Misi has caused controversy amongst critics. Robbins is known for her al dente, sumptuous pasta at her Williamsburg restaurant Lillia. But at her follow-up in Domino Park, some were dissapointed. It's true. The paired down menu only offers one option: gelato. This simple-yet-rich olive oil flavor won't make you wish there were others to choose from.
Salt, not sugar, is the star of this fan-favorite treat at the famed Brooklyn pie shop. Encased in a crunchy, buttery crust, the chess pie–like base—with honey baked right into the custard—gets a savory finish of fine, large sea-salt flakes on top.
Pastry whiz Pichet Ong makes his return as the consulting chef at this East Village dessert bar. Ong melds Asian and Western traditions in this miso cake with a miso butterscotch drizzle and mascarpone cream, served with condensed milk ice cream.
Peacefood has the feeling of an old-school vegan gem largely untouched by time in the way that Souen was. The fonts on the menu are hideous, the plating doesn't focus on what's Instagrammable and the interior design is understated. But they don't need to hide behind any of it. Beyond the delicious savory sandwiches on the menu, the real star is their carrot cake. Which is not just the best vegan carrot we've ever had, but one of the best carrot cakes, full stop.
At this cheery, kitschy Upper East Side family spot, sandwiches, salads and burgers merely set you up for the main course: dessert. The trademarked Frrrozen Hot Chocolate—a brain-freezing chocolate slushie—deserves its reputation; the massive beast should be shared. Given the size of the Coward’s Portion of the Outrageous Banana Split, we’re guessing the full-size version comes in a trough.
At this UWS nook, size matters. Seductively gooey on the inside and golden brown on the outside, this Holy Grail of cookies is the size of your head and big enough to feed your whole crew (or not). Semisweet chocolate morsels and chunks of walnuts mix and mingle, making each buttery bite better than the next. The only thing worse than waiting on the long line out the door is the sinking feeling you’ll get when you’re left with no more bites.