Where To Go For A Sit-Down Dessert
photo credit: Jordan Balderas
People go out for drinks, people go out for dinner, and occasionally, truly dedicated people go out just for dessert. So when all you really want is a nice piece of chocolate cake that someone else will hand to you on a real plate—whether or not you’ve just had dinner at a different restaurant—head to one of these 16 spots.
photo credit: Allison Gallese
The only thing better than taking in the 11th-floor view from Miru in Lakeview East is doing it with a spoonful of dessert. This luxurious Japanese restaurant has six great ones to choose from. From a smooth chocolate ganache tart with matcha ice cream and caramel drizzled tableside, to warm mochi cake complemented by charcoal-vanilla ice cream and salty black sesame praline, the desserts are one hit after another. And since most of the savory dishes fall flat, the best strategy is to just come for the view and sweets, anyway.
photo credit: Jordan Balderas
You go to the bar at Moody Tongue brewery in the South Loop for one dessert and one dessert only: The 12 layer German chocolate cake. This is a destination dessert. A towering $20 slice has thin layers of light chocolate sponge spackled with pecan and coconut caramel, fluffy chocolate buttercream, and airy espresso cheesecake, creating an ideal cake-to-icing ratio. It’s covered with a shiny glaze that’ll make you realize why some people are contestants on The Great British Baking Show, and you are sitting in a dark bar eating cake.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
This Indian restaurant in River North definitely falls into the fine dining category. Its large dining room is full of staff bustling around in crisp jackets, and the menu’s dishes are plated artistically. Right now Indienne offers a tasting menu and an a la carte menu, and the latter is where you can locate their excellent desserts. Most of the food has some kind of French twist, so you’ll find things like besan barfi, a pistachio financier with kumquat chutney and chocolate cremeux, or the bebinca with jaggery and coconut streusel. The restaurant is energetic and busy, and the South Asian EDM playlist won’t make you feel like you’re eating saffron ice cream in a library.
photo credit: Carolina Mariana Rodriguez
We love this multi-faceted low-key Scandinavian restaurant in the West Loop. Elske has a wonderful $125 nine-course tasting menu, but you can also order a la carte. The bright and airy space has a bar, and that’s our favorite place to get one of their incredible fancy desserts, like the deconstructed sunflower seed parfait, with semifreddo topped with sour honey, licorice, and bee pollen. Plus, they have an outdoor area with a fireplace that’s great for drinks before or after dinner.
photo credit: John Stoffer
Itoko is a Japanese restaurant in Lakeview from the team behind Momotaro, and you’ll find similar (sometimes the exact same) dishes on its menu. But Itoko is much quainter. The two-story restaurant is in what feels like a revamped house. It has a comfortable bar, and it's a perfect place to sit and order one of their fantastic not-too-sweet desserts, like the refreshing orange kakigori, or the mochi donuts with chocolate semifreddo.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
For someplace that’s popular and busy but not full of chaotic energy, check out Andros Taverna. This Greek restaurant in Logan Square is spacious, has good food, and you can usually get a seat at the bar. And that’s where you should order the baklava froyo. The frozen yogurt is topped with crispy phyllo pieces and a pistachio sauce and honey. It’s incredible.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
If you’re looking for a leisurely spot where you can commiserate about your former boss, or discuss important topics like the Bears relocation to Arlington Heights, book a table at Dear Margaret in Lincoln Park. This charming French Canadian restaurant has tasty desserts, including Nanaimo. This is a distinctly Canadian dessert (it’s named after the city of Nanaimo in British Columbia) and one we very much enjoy. It’s a layered bar with a graham cracker, coconut, and walnut base, custard icing center, chocolate ganache top, and whipped crème fraîche on the side.
photo credit: Jack Li
We usually like going to Virtue in Hyde Park with a group, but the dimly lit bar area here is great for eating alone. Unlike the bright, open dining room, it’s dark enough that you can order way too many of this place’s Southern-style desserts. Like the sweet potato pie (which is a nice balance of sweet and savory) or the banana pudding, which we would run through a wall for.
Monteverde is the best Italian restaurant in the city, so you might not know that it’s actually a low-key dessert utility player. It’s usually easy to get a seat at the bar (especially later at night), and that’s the best place to eat one of their fantastic desserts. Order the black forest cake, or the apple walnut sundae made with cardamom ice cream, toasted marshmallows, graham crackers, and blondies. Either of those are just as good as this place’s famous pasta. In other words, dessert is a perfect valid reason to be eating here.
You’re not at this busy Japanese spot looking for a quiet way to cap off your night in the West Loop. You come here when you’re not ready for the night to end. Have some cocktails, and order one of their massive kakigori sundaes—made with shaved iced, housemade ice cream, and condensed milk poured over the top. They have a few different kinds (like yuzu sesame, or gooey cinnamon butter cake) and each has something—like sesame brittle, puffed rice, or caramelized apples—that makes it extra interesting. While you’re at it, get one of their mochi donuts as a chaser.
photo credit: Gilt Bar
Gilt Bar is right next door to Bavette’s, and is from the same owners. It also has the same kind of dimly-lit speakeasy atmosphere. And on top of that, it has some of the same dishes —like an incredibly rich chocolate cream pie that’s one of our favorite desserts in all of Chicago. And while Bavette’s isn’t always a good bet for walk-ins, Gilt Bar is. So grab a seat in the downstairs library for a sit-down dessert date.
RPM Steak is sceney and expensive, and depending on your mood (and budget), a whole dinner here can feel more intense than what you’re normally up for on a Tuesday. But not if you just hit up the bar section for dessert. You can still get the best of what this place offers (like great service and giant leather booths), without the expense and time commitment of a full-blown meal. Order the delicious 14-karat gold-flaked chocolate cake that can easily feed two people, then go home and watch a documentary about bird migration.
photo credit: Beatrix
Beatrix has a pastry counter that’s full of tasty grab-and-go treats. But don’t let that distract you—sit down in the restaurant and order the caramel pie. It’s buttery and delicious, and has a shortbread crust that’s good enough to eat on its own. Plus, the casual, friendly atmosphere here will remind you of your friend’s kitchen. So it’s basically like being on Golden Girls, just with less cheesecake.
photo credit: Christina Slaton
You usually go to Maple & Ash when you want an over-the-top steakhouse experience, complete with chandeliers, velvet booths, and candelabras instead of portraits of B-list celebrities. But a lesser-known use for this spot is for dessert. The large lounge area is perfect for walk-ins, and works for couples or groups who want to eat an elaborate sundae and pretend they’re in a 1990s Meatloaf video.
photo credit: Swift & Sons
The West Loop has a lot of trendy restaurants. But after having dinner at one of those, make Swift & Sons your final stop before you head home. Despite the fact that it’s primarily a kind-of-formal steakhouse, it’s a perfectly valid destination just for dessert. For one thing, they have a little trolley rolling around that’s full of tasty little chocolate candies and baked goods. But what you really want to focus on here are dishes like the churro sundae, coconut creme brulee, or chocolate mud pie—which tastes like something you could potentially make at home if you had a lot more energy.
Gibsons is where you go for lie-down dessert. That’s because a nap is generally the best course of action after getting one of their (literally) six-pound pieces of cake. The flavors rotate, but you’ll always find carrot, along with the Macadamia turtle pie - which isn’t technically cake, but is still huge, and tasty enough that we’d understand if you skipped dinner for it. Bring a friend (or three), and probably a wheelbarrow for the leftovers.