Sweets for the Sweet: NYC's 14 Sweetest Spots (Slideshow)
February 13, 2014
From sugar and spice to everything nice, here’s where to indulge
Sugar and Plumm
The bistro, macaron maker, chocolatier, ice cream parlour, bakery, and candy shop on the Upper West Side offers a little bit of this and a little bit of that. While Sugar and Plumm’s Chef Ben Dodaro serves comfort food like 72-hour pulled pork sandwiches between waffles and topped with pickled slaw, it’s the desserts like sweet crepes, waffles, sundaes, and handmade chocolates by Thierry Atlan that are the main event. Try the cajeta caramel crepe topped with goats’ milk caramel and dulce de leche ice cream or, for the indecisive, the Earthquake in a Fishbowl, a shareable dessert for the indecisive with chocolate caramel cake, key lime pie, Brooklyn blackout cake, New York cheesecake, butterscotch pudding, and vanilla, chocolate, and dulce de leche ice cream topped with whipped cream. An outpost in the West Village also offers a smaller menu of dessert delights.
What started out as a charitable, street-side bake sale for Daniel and Eli Russell has evolved into Treat House, a quaint shop on the Upper West Side that serves pops, marshmallows, ice cream bars, and, its namesake, Rice Krispie treats. Each three-bite, square treat is certified Kosher Dairy and most are gluten-free, dairy-free, and nut-free. There are 12 original flavors plus rotating seasonal flavors to choose from like chocolate pretzel (crisped rice, salty pretzel pieces, dark chocolate, and caramel topped with chocolate ganache, a hand-dipped pretzel and sugar crystals), bubble gum (bubble gum-flavored marshmallow with nonpareils topped with a piece of Dubble Bubble), and Oreo (chopped Oreo cookies topped with creamy vanilla marshmallow garnished with cocoa and a mini Oreo cookie). For those who can’t wait until lunchtime to indulge, the shop has breakfast bars, which have brown ice, oats, flax, dried fruits, and seeds. As if you need another excuse to indulge, for every treat sold, the proprietors donate 10 cents to the Food Bank of New York.
A trio of friends set up shop in the basement of a tenement building on East 58th Street in 1954 and what soon followed was serendipitous. Lines formed nightly for the coveted 16 seats and four tables. Today, Serendipity 3 is on East 60th Street where there are a few more tables set beneath a hodgepodge of dozens of colorful Tiffany lamps and the seemingly perennial line is part of the experience. Here, the food, like caviar and sour cream omelette and burgers like the Bi-Sensual Burger with cheddar, bacon, chili, and raw onions, is just as good as the oversized, ooey gooey desserts, and indulgent drinks. The marquee sweets are the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate and ice cream sundaes, which range from the ‘petit’ three-scoop, one-topping drug store sundaes to the extravagant $1,000 Golden Opulent Sundae. It's no wonder this was Andy Warhol's favorite sweet shop.
Dylan's Candy Bar
If there were a real Candy Land or Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory, Dylan’s Candy Bar would be it. Dylan Lauren’s whimsical sweet shop is lined with plastic bins of bulk, bag-yourself candies, hard-to-find childhood favorites, seldom seen foreign sweets, and a range of candy-inspired accessories like T-shirts, jumbo pillows, and novelty gifts. The bright, kaleidoscope-colored store also has The Candy Cafe serving over-the-top treats like jumbo Rice Krispie treats and cupcakes along with milkshakes and sundaes. Try the Candy Bar Blast sundae (ice cream nestled between full sized candy bars and toppings. If that weren't enough, there’s The Candy Bar for the grown ups serving candy-inspired cocktails like the Strawberry Nerd Mojito (strawberry Nerds soaked in rum and muddled with strawberries, limes, and mint with a soda top) and the Pop Rocks Explosion (citrus vodka, melon liqueur, lime juice, and orange juice poured over Pop Rocks). Cheers!
‘Mr. Chocolate’ Jacques Torres turns cocoa beans to chocolate bars at his DUMBO and Hudson Street Jacques Torres chocolate factories. Patrons can peer through the windows to see the chocolatier and his assistants handcrafting bon-bons, chocolate snacks, and chocolate bars in the workshop where every element including marzipan and marshmallows is made in-house. Each Jacques Torres location – there are five now in Manhattan and Brooklyn with the opening of the latest location on the Upper East Side plus an ice cream shop – includes the BonBon Counter and Chocolate Bar where guests can order hot chocolate, frozen hot chocolate, and Illy coffee and espresso. The shops, decorated in a palette of cocoa pod colors – deep brown, red, orange, yellow and green – stock cookies, chocolate bars, ice cream, and a range of chocolate-covered snacks including almonds, pretzels, marshmallows, espresso beans raisins, malt balls, and graham crackers to the more unique chocolate-covered Cheeries and cornflakes.
Max Brenner, Chocolate By the Bald Man
The fictitious Max Brenner crafts a very real chocolate wonderland and chocolate cultre at his cafes which started in Israel by a pair of businessmen, Max Fichtman and Oded Brenner who combined their names to name the restaurant chain. Max Brenner, Chocolate By the Bald Man is known for its playful full sensory presentations of chocolate concoctions where the presentation is just as delightful as the chocolate. Chocoholics can indulge in creative chocolate creations like the signature Italian hot chocolate in a ‘Hug Mug,’ Sukao (an intense shot of Spanish-style hot chocolate sipped through a metal straw), chocolate pizza with white and milk chocolate chunks and a choice of hazelnut bits, melted peanut butter, and roasted marshmallows, and Max I-Scream (vanilla ice cream bars which diner dip into pots of toppings like rich chocolate and mini crispy chocolate balls.
The name says it all at this saccharine shop that specializes in gigantic, life-size candy and sweets. Cereal-box size boxes of Nerds, one pound Snickers bars, and lollipops the size of Frisbees ensure you'll never run out of sweets. Opened in 2006 by Jeff Rubin IT;SUGAR has 70 locations around the world, including New York which has shops from Coney Island to Lincoln Center.
The Chocolate Room
Noticing a need for a dessert café in Park Slope, Jon Payson and Naomi Josepher founded The Chocolate Room in 2005. A second Brooklyn location soon followed. Both cafes serve chocolate layer cake, ice cream, milkshakes, floats, coffee, and dessert wines and beers. Signature treats include Chocolate Room Pudding (semi-sweet chocolate pudding with fresh whipped cream), Chocolate Fondue for Two (homemade marshmallow, peanut butter fudge, coconut macaroons, orange cheesecake, graham crackers, strawberries and bananas served with 61% Belgium chocolate), and Black Bottom Butterscotch (bittersweet chocolate base, butterscotch custard topped with coconut whipped cream and a chocolate wafer. The Park Slope location is in the process of moving into a bigger space across the street, but is operating out of a nearby popup shop for now.
“I too lived Brooklyn of ample hills was mine.” Walt Whitnan’s poetry, which was inspired by the streets of Brooklyn, is the inspiration behind the name of this Prospect Heights ice cream parlour. What started as a break from writing science fiction novels for founder Brian Smith who first sold his ice cream from a cart at summer concerts in Prospect Park has churned into the bustling Ample Hills Creamery that is expanding with additional locations in Brooklyn. Patrons can watch ice cream being made while waiting in line for inventive flavors like Maple Bacon, Stout ‘n’ Pretzels, Ooey Gooey Butter Cake, and Salted Crack Caramel served in cups or waffle, chocolate chip, or pretzel cones.
Spot Dessert Bar
Two Spot Dessert Bars in St. Marks and Korea Town crafts confections like cupcakes, cookies, and cakes with an Asian flair incorporating ingredients like kobacha and yuzu. Dessert ‘tapas’ include Yuzu Eskimo (frozen Japanese citrus cream bar, strawberries, and chocolate pearls), smoked coconut cheesecake (coconut cheesecake smoked with Thai aromatic candle and coconut ice cream with basil seeds), and the top seller Chocolate Green Tea Lava Cake (warm molten chocolate cake, green tea ganache, green tea ice cream, and walnut soil).
ChikaLicious Dessert Bar
This intimate eatery in St. Marks doesn’t take reservations and is only open Thursdays to Sundays. Patrons often wait for one of ChikaLicious Dessert Bar’s 20 seats positioned around the dining room’s open kitchen where desserts are made and plated. The dessert prix fixe menu include an amuse bouche, choice of dessert, and assorted petit fours. The often-changing options which the proprietors describe as “American desserts [with] French Presentation and Japanese tasting portions” include warm chocolate tart with pink peppercorn ice cream and red wine sauce; brown sugar panna cotta with pink grapefruit sorbet and toasted pistachio; and hot caramel custard soup with honey crisp apple sorbet and warm biscuit.
Former media maven Marlo Scott opened Sweet Revenge, a cupcake, beer and wine lounge serving up some of the most delicious palm-sized treats in town. Signature flavors include Sweet Revenge (peanut butter cake with a ganache center and peanut butter fudge frosting); Pure (Mexican vanilla cake topped with vanilla buttercream); Dirty (Valrhona cake with dark chocolate truffle frosting); and Crimson and Cream (raspberry red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting). There’s a cupcake, sangria, wine, and ‘brewhaha’ happy hour 4pm-8pm, Monday to Friday where those with a sweet tooth can try the signature flavors as well as an assortment of artisanal cupcakes like Armenian Flower (vanilla apricot cake with an apricot and ganache center topped with apricot cream); Black and Tan (Young’s Double Chocolate Stout Cake with Chocovine cream cheese frosting); and German Colada (Valrhona chocolate cake with caramelized pecan and shredded coconut filling topped with coconut cream cheese frosting).
Momofuku Milk Bar
With locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, it's easy to see why Momofulu Milk Bar has such a loyal following who come for the signature cake truffles, but there's more on offer from the David Chang whose food empire includes Noodle Bar, Ssan Bar, and Booker and Dax: the Cereal Milk-flavored soft serve ice cream sprinkled with house made cornflakes and Compost Cookie are also a delight as are the savory pork buns with a side of kimchee slaw.
Though the Hell’s Kitchen location has now closed, Kyotofu’s creative creations influenced by Japanese flavors yuzu, sesame, and miso and baked in Brooklyn are on sale at Dean & Deluca, Whole Foods, and even on All Nippon Airways. Options include Valrhona miso brownies, Matcha green tea and yuzu-vanilla cupcakes, genmai almond mini Financiers, and gluten free Japanese shortbread cookies in flavors like toasted brown rice, black sesame, and Matcha green tea imported from Osaka, Japan.