Although there’s an endless number of desserts to try in New York, not all sweets are created equal. Some of them are worthy of a special trip, and some even define a restaurant. This here is a list of NYC’s top show-stopping desserts, including Palestinian knafeh, classic banana pudding, and more than one sundae.Read More
13 Show-Stealing Desserts in NYC
Simple to fancy restaurant options
Morir soñando at 188 Bakery Cuchifritos
Jose Coto’s 188 Cuchifritos is a palace of pork, a lunch counter that purveys a tail-to-snout array of succulent products like soft ears, meaty stomach, bouncy morcilla, garlicky pernil, and golden chicharrones. The appropriate foil for all these fatty, salty wonders is a drinkable Dominican dessert: the regal morir soñando. Staffers pulverize fresh oranges into juice, then mix the pulpy beverage over ice with vanilla-laced condensed milk. The sugary, creamsicle-like creation cleanses your palate of all the rampant salts and jolts your body out of a pork-induced torpor.
Banana pudding at Charles Pan-Fried Chicken
Charles Pan-Fried Chicken is a high temple of barbecued ribs, pulled pork, and of course, thighs and drumsticks that are fried to order in massive cast iron skillets. The chicken is some of the city’s best, but too much fried skin is liable to knock you without a sweet finish. Try the banana pudding: a small plastic cup with slices of banana floating throughout and wafer cookies perched on top. There’s peach cobbler, sweet potato pie, and red velvet cake, too.
Banana cream pie at Joe Allen
Joe Allen’s is famous as a post-theater hangout, a place for Broadway spectators and working actors to grab an ice-cold martini and a juicy, medium-rare hamburger in a packed room. But it also serves an unexpectedly excellent dessert: a fat slice of banana cream pie, a layer of slow-cooked tropical fruit underneath layers of custard and schlag. It is both rich and cooling, making it the perfect foil for another martini.
Soufflé at Le Rock
The luxury of a dessert souffle is on full display at this Rockefeller Center dazzler. Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr, the team behind Frenchette, have brought in Mariah Neston and Michelle Palazzo for pastry. Currently, a raspberry-flavored soufflé, the eggy concoction dissolves on the tongue like a cloud, while the requisite creme anglaise (poured tableside) helps bring down the temperature and add a dose of richness.
Sticky bun pie at Mischa
As a former pastry chef, no Stupak restaurant is complete without desserts. Here, at Alex Stupak’s foray into New American cuisine, the one to get from pastry chef Justin Binnie is the sticky bun pie, the restaurant’s version of the most classic of American desserts. The bottom is a streusel crust, with confit apples for filling, and a collection of micro sticky buns for the top crust, with fennel, turmeric, and cardamom in the mix.
Baked Lübeck marzipan at Koloman
Pastry chef Emiko Chisholm makes marzipan that’s a reminder of why people should love it. Packed with the flavors of almond and honey, it’s wrapped in a flaky pastry laced with a bit of chocolate and a dash of sea salt: An underdog of a dessert that steals the show.
Husk meringue at Cosme
Cosme’s husk meringue is Manhattan dessert royalty, one of the most written-about (and Instagrammed) dishes on the menu at Enrique Olvera’s groundbreaking Mexican restaurant in Flatiron. The slightly savory corn mousse is topped with a sugary husk meringue that gives the dessert a perfect balance of flavors and textures.
Fried tangyuan at Wenwen
Wenwen, the Taiwanese American party restaurant, serves many memorable dishes — most sought after is its limited-order “BDSM” fried chicken. But none stand out like its somewhat controversial dessert. For fans like us, the super savory dish (black sesame tangyuan with cilantro, dehydrated peanut butter, and condensed milk, plus ice cream) is a really special finish to the meal, especially for those who don’t love sweets.
Ice cream sundae at Caleta
Jesse Merchant Zuñiga and Javier Zuñiga started their ice cream brand, Bad Habit, during the pandemic, known for flavors like its olive oil or burnt cheesecake. Earlier this year, they debuted a permanent home that also doubles as a wine bar with small plates like beef tartare. Ice cream sundaes change frequently; currently, find the “crazy good vanilla” with orange marmalade and an olive oil crumble. Bar stool seating makes it especially friendly for solo diners.
Nancy’s orange flower funnel cake at Superiority Burger
Pastry chef Darcy Spence’s desserts are terrific at this East Village reboot, and how could they not be with pastry maven Brooks Headley at the helm? They switch up often, but if they’re on the menu, consider the date milkshake or Nancy’s orange flower funnel cake. It’s named for Nancy Silverton.
Chow nai sundae at Bonnie's
You’ll be tempted to order one of everything at Bonnie’s — from its stunner of a stuffed rainbow trout to its wonderfully al dente cacio e pepe mein — but trust us: You’re going to want to leave room for dessert. Cantonese meals commonly end with slices of fresh fruit, available here as a platter, but there’s also an excellent composed dessert, an ice cream sundae. The creation has cubes of deep fried milk custard hidden throughout, and on top, buttered peanuts and hot fudge ratchet up the indulgence factor even higher. It all makes for a finale best shared among a small group.
Tiramisu at Macosa Trattoria
Bed-Stuy’s Macosa Trattoria is the kind of place that makes you feel like a regular on first visit, with reasonable prices and heavy-handed wine pours. After polishing off Italian dishes like chicken liver crostini and oxtail ragu, ask for the tiramisu, which may well be the best version of the dessert you’ve never tried. It’s as airy as they come, more mascarpone than anything else, and covered in a mound of chocolate shavings.
Also featured in:
Knafeh at Tanoreen
Rawia Bishara’s Palestinian restaurant in Bay Ridge offers a variety of fine Middle Eastern sweets, including piney sahlab custard, dense semolina-coconut harissa cake, and anise-y macaroni cookies. But if you’re here for dessert, chances are, you’re here for the knafeh, a giant slab of baked sweet cheese covered in filo and soaked in aromatic orange flower water. Half the fun is watching a server slice it tableside and stretch out the cheese like a pizzaiolo. A small order feeds two to three people; a large order feeds four to six.