Where to Go When You Just Want Drinks & Dessert

Because there are few better combinations than a cocktail and a sweet.
Where to Go When You Just Want Drinks & Dessert image

photo credit: Anne Marler

There are two types of people in this world: Those who can eat a meal without dessert and those of us who would only eat dessert if we could. If you’re in the latter camp, we made this list for you. Sometimes all you need is a good drink and a sweet treat. Here are the best places for doing exactly that.


photo credit: Quentin Bacon


Penn Quarter

$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight DinnerBig Groups


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We still dream about the sticky toffee pudding at this American brasserie in Penn Quarter where tourists and a growing evening crowd of after-work powersuits eagerly unwind. The Smith is simultaneously always busy, yet always available for last-minute bookings and walk-ins where warm lighting accentuates decadent art deco designs and architecture. Instead of commiting to a sit down meal, ditch dinner for zesty drinks at the bar like their lychee gimlet and order the sticky toffee pudding (must be repeated) which can be shared, though you probably won’t want to.

What’s better than drinks and dessert? Drinks and dessert you can take to go. At Gemini, you can get a pint of ice cream, a bottle of some of their finest wine ($20-50) and walk over to Stead Park for the sweetest picnic. The ice cream at this carry-out only restaurant in Dupont Circle is some of the best ice cream we’ve ever had. It makes sense when you have flavors like coconut sorbet with passion fruit & chocolate. Though, you can’t go wrong with their simple, but forever classic vanilla fudge. Like an ooey-gooey cloud of goodness, you’ll want to dive into it headfirst.

For a group hangout where not everyone drinks, Yellow, a Palestinian Cafe in Georgetown, specializes in light bites, specialty coffees, and wine by the glass. It’s also a great space for those dining solo. Pops of saffron yellow (obvi) splash across the wall, line the windows looking out to the bustling crowds on M St., and even drape the espresso machine on the counter. Their baked goods, especially when served at the start of the day, are excellent. Get the orange blossom croissant or date and labne coffee cake and pair it with the coconut cardamom ice coffee, which is magnifique.

Why keep your drink and dessert separate? That’s what we assume the geniuses at Sticky Fingers Diner asked when they created their boozy vegan shakes. This woman-owned and operated restaurant and bakery on H Street is 100% plant-based and has a wide selection of baked goods and cocktails. Locals tend to take their cupcakes and almond croissants to-go, but there are diner-style wooden booths for those looking to dine-in or drink up during Happy Hour, where you can grab a $3 mocktail like the tumeric spritz.

After spending the day jostling your way through Union Market, refill at Pluma. The bakery feels like an oasis in an otherwise perpetually bustling part of town. There’s a wooden communal table that sits in the center of the room and blue Mediterranean tiles that gleam under lowlight. On the menu are an assortment of baked goods where you can expect the basics: muffins, croissants, and scones. But the subtle go-to option here are their juices like their coconut lemonade and their hibiscus tea. It’s a refreshing way to end a busy day.

If your favorite part of brunch is the dessert (yes, pancakes and waffles are desserts) Purple Patch has you covered. The American-Filipino restaurant in Mt. Pleasant has a great savory menu that truly comes alive through the sweet menu options. Their ube ice cream, which they use as a topping for their bread pudding, is out-of-this-world. It’s tangy, but sweet in a ‘do-you-sell-this-by-the-pint?’ kind of way (they don’t). Try the spiked iced coffee or the ube-lemon sprite, if you’re going spiritless.

The desserts at Ellē are mind blowing. They’re so good, they almost make you want to move to France, enroll in culinary school, and learn how to bake things like guava turnovers and mudslide walnut cookies. From 5:30-6:30pm the restaurant hosts Happy Hour where you can get manhattans for $7 and wine by the glass for $3. Before then, the neighborhood restaurant is the ultimate daytime cafe, with high top tables and secluded backroom seating amidst flowery wallpaper, exposed brick, and tiled floors. The vibe here is very much giving freelance poets hard at work while sipping on $6 lattes that are being written off as a critical expense.

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