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Dessert
Photograph: Courtesy Evan Sung

The 22 best dessert in NYC

The best desserts in NYC include durian ice cream, gigantic cookies and a throwback baked Alaska

Edited by
Will Gleason
Written by
Rachel Pelz
&
Time Out New York contributors
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Planning your dessert destinations in NYC? We’ve eaten our way through New York’s best ice cream, doughnuts, cookies, and chocolates to bring you the cream-filled crème de la crème. Satisfy your sweet tooth with desserts to end an amazing meal at one of NYC’s best restaurants, or head to a bakery to eat dessert first. Our list includes some of New York’s most famous desserts – Levain cookies, anyone? – as well as hidden gems around the five boroughs, including nutty mung bean tortoises and the world’s best vegan carrot cake.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in NYC

Time Out Market New York
  • Restaurants
  • Ice cream parlors
  • Harlem
  • price 1 of 4

To celebrate the “sweet life,” husband-wife team Nick Larsen (Blue Hill, Telepan) and Petrushka Bazin Larsen opened a community-minded ice cream parlor in their neighborhood of Mount Morris Park District in Harlem. The duo purveys traditional homemade scoops—vanilla, chocolate—along with more creative flavors like soursop (Caribbean fruit), sweet-corn jalapeño and PB&J alongsode treats like apricot–passion-fruit push pops, honey-and-ginger beer floats and black-forest ice cream sandwiches.

Best desserts in NYC

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  • Restaurants
  • Patisseries
  • DUMBO

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 back 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. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Downtown Brooklyn

At Gage & Tollner, a reimagining of the classic downtown Brooklyn chophouse, the baked Alaska is an unlikely star. An ode to the restaurant’s history—which dates all the way back to 1879—this 19th century dessert has been brought into the future. Here, the baked Alaska is served for two, with layers of dark chocolate, mint and amarena cherry ice cream, then covered with a carefully-torched meringue. The result? Classic flavors that are more than modern enough to be Instagrammed. 

  • Restaurants
  • Ice cream parlors
  • Williamsburg

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. What's especially unique about Fortunato Brothers is their dedication to the craft of marzipan art: bananas, eggplants, ears of corn and more are sculpted with almond paste to look like the real deal.

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  • Restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • East Village
  • price 1 of 4

This is a bar unlike all others. Here, drinks aren't the focus. Stools are placed around the perimeter of pastry chef Chika Tillman so diners can get a voyeuristic thrill as she preps, pipes and plates her desserts in expert fashion. A multi-course “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.

  • Restaurants
  • Ice cream parlors
  • Lower East Side
  • price 1 of 4

Nicholas Morgenstern scoops inventive hard ice cream flavors (sesame caramel, salt and pepper pine nut, 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.

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  • Restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • East Village

After a successful series of pop-ups, this Southeast Asian dessert spot opened up a permanent location. Here, you’ll find red tortoise cakes, filled with mung bean; Japanese onde onde, a glutinous rice ball made with molten palm sugar and salted coconut; durian custard slow-cooked in broth; and the stunning serimuka, a Malaysian steamed pandan custard that’s luscious, herbaceous and extremely photographable. 

  • Restaurants
  • Eating

With an original location in San Juan, Chocobar’s South Bronx outpost brings the chocolate of Puerto Rico to NYC. With a menu that serves chocolate on almost everything (including a chocolate grilled cheese with sweet brioche, cheddar and chocolate butter), it’s hard to choose the best dessert. Go for the Rico chocolate cake, made with chocolate mousse and 80% dark chocolate cream, washed down with an Old Fashioned with a chocolate rim. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • Nolita
  • price 2 of 4

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. As a bonus, it’s served in reusable orange containers for carrying lunch to work the next day.  

  • Restaurants
  • Vegetarian
  • Flatiron
  • price 3 of 4

This elevated vegetarian wonderland is an 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. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Dominican
  • Lower East Side
  • price 1 of 4

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 know that in addition to the classic, there's a special guava tres leches version that's even better.

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  • Restaurants
  • Ice cream parlors
  • Carroll Gardens

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 including rose with cinnamon roasted almonds, sweet milk, star anise, ginger root and Turkish coffee. Look out for seasonal flavors like sweet roti and ghee; we love it served in a cone with toppings like cardamom shortbread and peanut chikki. 

  • Restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • Crown Heights
  • price 2 of 4

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. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Vegan
  • Upper West Side
  • price 1 of 4

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. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • Upper West Side
  • price 2 of 4

At this UWS nook, size matters. Seductively gooey on the inside and golden brown on the outside, this Holy Grail of cookies is big enough to feed your whole crew (or not, if you don’t like to share). 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 line out the door is the sinking feeling you’ll get when you’re left with no more bites.

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