Any time a customer orders three or four desserts at a restaurant—and nothing else—it pushes a server’s “Whazzup?” button. Such a situation almost never occurs, except in extreme cases of the munchies…or when SLM is researching its “Best Desserts” features, as was recently the case. One night, we had some fun with it. Midway into our bounty of sweets, we grinned shamelessly, gazed into nowhere, and muttered through a mouthful of sugar, “Wow, this is really good.” After perusing the feature, we hope your reaction will be the same.
Pastaria: Birthday Cake
The chewy collar of your pizza has been used to sop the last vestiges of olive oil from your dining partner’s plate of chitarra, and the kid in you—and your kids—are pondering dessert. Pastaria offers a roster of tempting confections, but pastry chef Anne Croy’s take on birthday cake—moist, almond-kissed layers sandwiched between a white-chocolate buttercream filling and the sprinkle-adorned icing—hits notes that are sweet, savory, and most important, fun. 7734 Forsyth, 314-862-6603, pastariastl.com.
The Tavern Kitchen & Bar: Half-Baked Chocolate-Chip Cookie
“Half-baked,” a term typically used to describe your brother-in-law, is a generous square of pastry genius (pictured left) that arrives, warm and welcome, after dinner at The Tavern. It’s baked—well, halfway, anyway—in an iron skillet, with the edges beautifully crisped. The center is moist and fudgy like a fresh brownie. Ground chocolate and chocolate chips add an extravagant richness to the dessert. The scoop of ice cream on top is unnecessary—but it deliciously melts into the chocolate. 2961 Dougherty Ferry, 636-825-0600, tavernstl.com.
Acero: Stuffed Figs
Besides several packs of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, the best $7 you can spend, sweetwise, is on adding Castello Banfi grappa to Acero’s marvelous figs. Plump, chewy fruits are crammed with crushed hazelnuts and almonds that alone qualify for a lovely dessert. It’s the addition of that swirl of grappa—tasting like summer’s last green apples, marinated in licorice—that sends this dolce into the unforgettably delightful range. 7266 Manchester, 314-644-1790, fialafood.com/acero.
Pi: Cookies for Everybody
The best part of both the Oreo and the Twinkie: that powerfully sweet stuff in the middle. What’s amazing about Pi’s dessert is that the supersweet fluff between the cookies is vegan and gluten-free, just like the cookies themselves. The “chocolate chips” in the cookies aren’t chocolate, either. So the dessert conforms to just about any dietary restrictions—and yet, like Lucky Charms, it’s magically delicious. Multiple locations, 314-727-6633, restaurantpi.com.
Sidney Street Cafe: “Snicker Bar”
Is it possible to improve the Snickers bar? Sidney Street Cafe has taken a run at it, deconstructing this iconic treat into its most basic flavors—chocolate, nougat, and peanuts—then adding amplified adornments like dulce de leche and a bourbon-infused chocolate sorbet. Those details make this dessert the required finisher for a meal at this Benton Park institution (and SLM’s 2013 Restaurant of the Year). 2000 Sidney, 314-771-5777, sidneystreetcafe.com.
Three Sixty: House Kit Kat Bar
Named by Wine Enthusiast as one of the nation’s top five rooftop wine bars, Three Sixty literally elevated the local restaurant-and-bar scene. It makes sense, then, to elevate a childhood treat to a grown-up indulgence. Enter Three Sixty’s house-made “Kit Kat,” a rich interpretation of the candy-aisle staple. Layers of rich chocolate ganache, hazelnut cream, and feather-light wafers form a dessert that’s familiar, astonishing in its ingenuity, and flat-out delicious. Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark, 1 S. Broadway, 314-241-8439, 360-stl.com.
Olio: Key Lime Pie in a Jar
Even if you’ve stuffed yourself with burrata, salumi, and egg-salad tartine, reach deep for inner reserves, because the Pie in a Jar should not be missed. The flavors—usually a few per night—offer a visual treat with layers of crust, whipped cream, and filling, served up in a cute little jar. The authentic tang of true Key limes will conjure Florida vacations of the casual yet sophisticated variety—more Boca Grande than Fort Lauderdale. 1634 Tower Grove, 314-932-1088, oliostl.com.
Farmhaus: Pecan Pie
The timing of this issue is perfect. Why? Because the amazing pecan pie at Farmhaus wouldn’t be available during warmer months. The restaurant’s menu continually changes as local product availabil-
ity shifts, and fall is the season to savor this Southern classic. A perfect pie crust envelops a filling of local pecans and maple syrup, brown-butter crumble, butterscotch sauce, and ice cream made in-house from Frostie root beer that’s imported from Excel Bottling Co. in Breese, Ill. 3257 Ivanhoe, 314-647-3800, farmhausrestaurant.com.
Ya Ya’s Euro Bistro: Chocolate Ganache Burrito
Your Ya Ya (Greek grandma) may already have whipped up this classic dessert. But if not, head to Ya Ya’s Euro Bistro. The chocolate-ganache burrito resembles the beautiful love child of a burrito and baklava. Warm and fresh, its flaky, golden layers of phyllo are wrapped in a squarish tube around a filling of smooth, dense chocolate ganache that’s then drizzled with a syrupy chocolate sauce. A scoop of vanilla-bean ice cream only adds to the decadence. 15601 Olive, Chesterfield, 636-537-9991, yayasstl.com.
I Fratellini: Tiramisu
It’s hard to bestow a superlative on just one of the many tiramisus around town these days, but we opine that I Fratellini’s is the one to beat. How does it manage to be both light and rich at the same time? It’s only a bit alcoholic at most, cool and coffeeish. An Italian government official wants to create a sanctioned version of the dish because he’s offended by the variations that abuse the name; we’re sure that this one will pass muster. 7624 Wydown, 314-727-7901, ifratellini.com.
The Fountain on Locust’s: World’s Smallest Hot Fudge Sundae
The Fountain on Locust’s popular dessert offers all the fun and flavor of a big-boy sundae at a fraction of the cost—and size. 3037 Locust, 314-535-7800, fountainonlocust.com.
Bissinger’s: Sweet Spot
With its longtime history in St. Louis, Bissinger’s is like family to many. Chocolate-covered raspberries, as short-lived as spring peonies, and the synecdochical molasses lollipops have kept customers faithful to the brand for years. The Abel family (of Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate fame) recently opened a new location at the Saint Louis Galleria, taking the former space of Godiva Chocolatier. 1421 Saint Louis Galleria.
Black-Owned Bakeries & Pastry Shops
There’s a very good chance that Coco’s has the treat you’re craving. Try a white chocolate–dipped cranberry cookie, a decadent carrot cake, or a snickerdoodle. The most popular item is the Morning Glory, a vegan, savory-spiced muffin with carrots, walnuts, oatmeal, and spelt flour (an ancient whole grain). Halloween sugar cookies are also available. An 8-inch cake is $35.99, cupcakes are $21 per half-dozen, and cookies are $7.50 for an order of eight. 314-922-2505.
Combine your love of flowers, fall, and coffee with your choice of two seasonal lattes: maple cinnamon or caramel apple cider. And while you’re at the corner shop in Maplewood, admire the wall of beautiful flowers. (C. Oliver also recently added a second location, at the Saint Louis Galleria.) 4701 Hazel, Maplewood, 314-239-3156;
Sweater weather means getting to indulge in cupcake eutopia. Enjoy a variety of seasonal flavors including pumpkin spice, butterscotch, peach cobbler, and sweet potato for $3.25 each. 2286 McKelvey, Maryland Heights, 314-628-1036.
You can’t go wrong with a box of fresh doughnuts on a Sunday morning. Choose from cinnamon rolls, apple fritters, a crumb donut, or a classic sprinkle donut decorated in orange and black for Halloween. Prices range from 87 cents to $1.50. 4701 S. Kingshighway, 314-832-1200.
Harry Potter fanatics can geek out during the “Month of Magic” with a specialty box that includes a pumpkin pasty, chocolate frogs, fizzing whizbees, a chocolate snitch, potion candy bar, acceptance letter cookie, and macarons. Pre-order on Sunday for $50. Desserts are sold separately. Every Saturday of November, you can also enjoy the beloved Turducken Croissant, stuffed with turkey duck and chicken, cornbread stuffing, and cranberry dressing topped with gravy (limit two per person). Curbside only. 1626 Tower Grove, 314-932-7935.
This season, try the signature caramel cake, which is also offered year-round—a yellow cake smothered with an irresistible caramel glaze. A 8-inch cake is $30, and a 10-inch cake is $40. 448 Howdershell, Florissant, 314-398-3951.
Sip an English toffee latte, salted caramel latte, or butterscotch latte while soaking up the crisp fall weather on the spacious outdoor seating. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, try one or two of the delicious pumpkin scones. A medium latte is $6; scones are $4. 4251 Laclede, 314-371-4600.
Choose from a variety of cheesecake flavors, such as apple pie, caramel apple, cinnamon crumb, cinnamon roll, pumpkin, s’mores, or a sweet potato cheesecake pie. If you’re not feeling like something heavy, partake in a petite brown butter toffee chocolate chip cheesecake sandwich, which is also included on their cheesecake board (pictured above). Pre-order a week in advance; a 7-inch cheesecake is $29.50, a 9-inch cheesecake is $55.50, a dozen petites are $31.50, pies are $21.50, and half-sandwiches are $28.50 per half dozen. 67 Forum Shopping Center, Chesterfield, 314-541-6411.
Upon entering the café, it’s hard not to treat yourself to dessert first—and then a savory meal. Try from a seasonal selection of carrot, banana pudding, or gluten-free pumpkin chai. All cupcakes are vegan and $3.50 each. 2203 S. 39th, 314-771-4278.
Everything your sweet tooth could possibly desire is placed into the assortment Boxx, a package of pure indulgence including a mini chocolate rum cake topped with chocolate ganache and sprinkled pecans. Choose from a variety of fall colors and glitter for the ultimate presentation. Pre-order a week in advance for $55. 314-643-9999.
The Best Bread Pudding Around
A passel of our favorites, from the most delicate to the most dense
Cyrano’s: Nearly identical to Harvest’s classic (see p. 98), this bread pudding adds dried fruit. Harvest’s includes currants, while Cyrano’s has tart dried cherries. cyranos.com.
The Block: There are more flavors than Ellen DeGeneres has dance moves. Should you encounter the pumpkin version (pictured above), complete with pumpkin custard, take advantage. theblockrestaurant.com.
Eleven Eleven Mississippi: This big seller has a few secrets: white chocolate, pecans, a sticky crust, caramel sauce, and ice cream—call it a bread sundae. 1111-m.com.
Kakao’s sea-salt caramels are the most chocoliciously popular item. The buttery caramel and deep chocolate wrestle on the tongue like giggling toddlers, before the salt leaps atop both like a wild-eyed father joining the fun. 7272 Manchester, 314-645-4446; 2301 S. Jefferson, 314-771-2310; kakaochocolate.com.
The tried, the true, and—to many—the tops in town
- Chocolate Layer Cake Tony’s traditional cake is strongly chocolate-on-chocolate, moist and rich. It pairs perfectly with the house-made banana ice cream. 410 Market, 314-231-7007, tonysstlouis.com.
- Sticky Toffee Pudding Well, no, it isn’t actually a pudding—it’s a slab of rich cake, topped with caramel sauce and whipped cream. Schlafly’s kept it on its menu—at the Bottleworks and the Tap Room—since it opened. Laud the wife of one of the owners for this jewel. 2100 Locust, 7260 Southwest, 314-241-2337, schlafly.com.
- Apple Pie If you’re a pastry fiend, order Annie Gunn’s perfect apple pie with cinnamon ice cream on the side, so as not to interfere with this exquisite example of flour and fat. This dessert predates the Great Flood of 1993. 16806 Chesterfield Airport Rd., 636-532-7684, anniegunns.com.
- Chocolate Martini This dessert “martini” at Baileys’ Chocolate Bar has been the signature dessert since the bar’s inception in 2004. 1915 Park, 314-241-8100, baileyschocolatebar.com.
- Cleopatra Four scoops of French-vanilla ice cream are served with strawberries, bananas, and rum sauce. But the key ingredient to Cyrano’s classic dessert is Elmer’s Gold Brick sauce, chocolate that hardens when it hits the ice cream. (And like the Cleopatra, this Cherries Jubilee at Cyrano’s dates back to the early ’60s. The magic show begins tableside, inside a shiny sauté pan, with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, fat cherries, and several liqueurs that are set aflame independently. The alcohol burns off, but the intoxicating aroma lingers.) 603 E. Lockwood, 314-963-3232, cyranos.com.
Fame, Frosting & More
Named to myriad best lists, the James Beard Award–nominated bakery in Kirkwood fill its cases with light-as-air macarons, fruit and seasonal sweet croissants, cookies, and extraordinary cakes. Savories include breakfast and lunch sandwiches, quiche, and salads. There’s a reason that a line frequently stretches out the door (even pre-pandemic); consider ordering ahead for curbside pickup. 11243 Manchester, 314-858-1019.
The Cup offers two metro area locations, in Edwardsville and the Central West End. Stop in for seasonal cupcakes, such as the Pumpkin Harvest, as well as limited-edition options. Multiple locations.
Empty-stomach indecision can spiral into full-blown paralysis when you’re greeted with so many options. The brownie—a moist, fudgy square whose sweetness is cut by a bitter note of espresso—is required eating. And for a nonchocolate fix, there’s the oatmeal-stout cake. 3825 Watson, 314-645-7142.
A two-time champ of the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, flavor guru Casey Shiller of Jilly’s Cupcake Bar & Café is the go-to guy to learn about the future of the cupcake. He also teach at St. Louis Community College–Forest Park, imparting key culinary insights to students: “Regardless of what product you’re making, it’s imperative to know the chemical makeup. Without knowing the chemistry and science behind it, on either the cake or ice-cream side, you’re in trouble. And you have to know the math. A properly balanced sorbet, for instance, is all math and science.” So do students ever feel the kind of pressure that he felt competing on Cupcake Wars? “In our cake class, we do basic sponge cake and buttercreams,” Shiller says. “Our practical exam is in the style of Cupcake Wars—they’re timed, scrutinized, and you do feel the pressure.” 9509 Delmar, 314-993-5455.
The Best Frozen Desserts in St. Louis
Nathaniel Reid on the uncomplicated joys of pastry
Best Desserts Poll
Video: Making Cherries Jubilee at Cyrano’s