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 10 spots.
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. Gilt Bar also has a few things you won’t find at its sister spot, though, like a sticky toffee pudding that will make you believe you’re a judge on the Great British Bake-Off (for at least a few seconds). Most importantly, 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.
The Publican is known for pork and beer, and it does both of those things very well. But another thing it does well is dessert. The long, always-changing menu includes things like cranberry creamsicle ice cream, malted chocolate layer cake, and “Erica’s cookie jar” - a bunch of different cookies that come in, yes, an old-school cookie jar. So come here and pretend you’re having an after-school snack (back in the day before parents started reading about the dangers of sugar).
While we like the pastas at Nico Osteria, our low-key favorite reason for coming here is the desserts. For example, cheesecake semifreddo with apple cake and salt and pepper almonds, and a tiramisu made with mezcal and smoked chocolate sauce. Sit at the chef’s counter and order as many things as you can fit in front of you.
After you leave a boring work function, you need to go somewhere fun to make up for the two hours and 48 minutes of your life you won’t be getting back. Drinks are an obvious solution, and while you should definitely have some, get a tasty dessert to make up for the stale cake with neon icing you almost ate, too. Pacific Standard Time is a loud and busy River North restaurant with an upbeat bar section where you can sit, order a cocktail, and eat something sweet - like banoffee pie, banana halva fudge ice cream, or huckleberry cake.
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.
Any place that accepts “dessert only” reservations obviously takes the concept of sit-down dessert pretty seriously. The menu at this comfort food spot changes monthly, but you’ll find a wide variety of cakes, from a flourless chocolate one to a strawberry port red velvet cake - and you might as well get some hot chocolate while you’re here, too (there are seven kinds to choose from, and they’re all fantastic).
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.
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 citrus pavlova, chocolate creme brulee, or deep-dish cookie - 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.