Where To Go For A Sit-Down Dessert

12 places to eat something that’s not a bad $12 lava cake.
Where To Go For A Sit-Down Dessert image

photo credit: Mary Lagier

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 12 spots.


photo credit: Erin Ng



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The order: Soft serve

The soft serve from Ernest in the Mission is less of a dessert and more of an out-of-body experience. The swirl of hazelnut and vanilla will land in front of you, like a gift from the pearly gates, covered in a gooey layer of hazelnut praline sauce that’s crunchy and nutty. If that doesn’t convince you to get here, the chocolate magic shell that’s poured over it tableside for a dramatic finish will. It’s outstanding and must be on your table.

The order: Dark chocolate mousse

At this French-Californian restaurant in Lower Pacific Heights, you're blown away by a humble chicken liver mousse, a meatless version of steak au poivre, and duck leg confit that pulls off the bone with approximately zero effort. And since this place is co-owned by the B. Patisserie people, the desserts will also have your jaw on the floor, too. Specifically, the dark chocolate mousse. The creamy, rich stunner is topped with chantilly cream and a delicate, crunchy coffee crumble. Go ahead, lick the bowl clean. 

The order: Mochi bar

We could eat the mochi pandan bar from Bodega SF plain and be completely content. But the fact that the fragrant dessert is also topped with a hefty scoop of ultra-creamy coconut, lychee, or some other gelato flavor from Marco Polo (one of the city’s best ice cream spots) launches it into the realm of dessert royalty. Along with caviar-crowned bánh khọt and the bun cha of your dreams, it’s one of the many hits you’ll devour at this fancy-ish Vietnamese restaurant near Union Square—don’t be surprised when you wake up in the middle of the night with an intense craving for it. 

The order: Baked Hawaii

The San Francisco bucket list includes a walk across the bridge, a trip to that fire hose thing we call Coit Tower, and eating the baked Hawaii from Liholiho Yacht Club. This honeycomb lookalike is torched meringue that’s swirled around a mound of coconut sorbet and fluffy orange chiffon cake. It’s tart and sweet, and one of the many reasons to look forward to a meal at the Nob Hill spot. 

photo credit: Melissa Zink



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The order: Ice cream sandwich

A meal at State Bird Provisions is phenomenal on all fronts, end of story. Fantastic small plates are paraded around the dining room on dim sum-style carts and trays, and the colorful space is packed each night with people “mmm-ing” and “ahh-ing” over plump corn mochi and pork belly-heavy salad. So no surprise here: this Fillmore spot knows how to deliver a damn good dessert. Their frequently changing ice cream sandwiches take gold—think cocoa macarons packed with strawberry ice cream, or coffee ice cream and plum jam between a cinnamon macaron. They’re not too sweet, and hold their shape perfectly—you’ll be thinking about it for a long, long time. 

The order: "Dreaming Of Lod Chong"

Nari, and their spectacularly fiery Thai food, will send you to another dimension. As will their spin on a classic lod chong.  The best way to describe it is a dense block of frozen-y pandan cream, on top of a crushed iced and coconut cream bed. It’s salty, sweet, smooth, and crunchy all at once, and another reason to book a table at this standout spot immediately.

The order: Bunelos aga banana donuts 

Even after an absolutely knockout Guamanian meal of fried chicken wings, comforting tinaktak, and juicy BBQ at Prubechu in the Mission, make sure no one decides the table is “too full” for dessert. Their banana donuts are the Keanu of sweets—a.k.a. perfection. The fluffy, steamy, cloud-like bites are dusted with powdered sugar and come with a side of ridiculously smooth roasted banana whipped cream.

The order: Medovik

Cinderella Bakery & Cafe is a counter-service Russian spot in the Richmond that’s always bustling with families and bikers grabbing hand-held piroshkis after a triple-digit ride. They serve a range of dishes, like housemade breads, salads, borsch, and standout pelmeni, but you’re also here for a slice of medovik. The honey cake, stacked high with thin, fluffy layers, gets just the right amount of sweetness from condensed milk. It’s perfect every time. 

photo credit: Carly Hackbarth



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The order: Smoked young coconut ice cream

The smoked young coconut ice cream at Prik Hom is the only good smoke and mirrors show we know. A server will bring a gorgeous coupe glass to your table and gently remove the lid to instantly release a plume of trapped smoke. Floral aromatics from the imported Thai candle will flood your nose. The sensory overload continues once you (quickly) dig into the creamy coconut ice cream from Mitchell’s—it's topped with pandan-infused puffed rice and palm sugar jelly for delightful textural contrasts.

The order: Any sundae  

We can’t think of a better way to end a delicious pizza-filled meal than with a scoop of ice cream. Oh wait, yes we can: the luscious, creamy sundae from Angie’s in the Mission. Each of the two sundaes on the menu, which rotate frequently, is topped with farm-fresh fruit compote, sauce, or jam. And each mouthful tastes like something straight out of Alice Waters' personal garden. If it’s on the menu, the best option is the sundae with a shortcake crumble, covered with strawberry compote that’s so good you’ll see it in your dreams every night.

The order: Soft serve

An evening at Flour + Water Pizzeria in North Beach feels like a fifth-grade end-of-year pizza party but for grown-ups. Instead of half-melted Otter Pops, the sweet treat that awaits is a bowl of SF’s best soft serve. They have fior di latte and salted caramel, but get the two swirled and covered in fancier-than-average toppings—we love the stone fruit jam (it nails the sweet-tangy thing), the brown butter cereal crunch, and the more savory olive oil and sea salt.  

The order: Flourless chocolate cake

We wouldn’t be surprised if actual sorcery was involved in the making of Pizzetta 211’s flourless chocolate cake. The dense slice at this cozy Richmond spot is impossibly chocolatey, has a subtle touch of almond flavor, and the dollop of whipped cream ties every bite together. It’s the perfect cap to a night that should also involve multiple thin-crust pizzas topped with things like farm eggs and corn, and lots of wine.

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Suggested Reading

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