How Sweet It Is! L.A.'s Top Dessert Spots
By Jenny Peters
Los Angeles Local Expert
When it comes to satisfying your sweet tooth, Los Angeles has countless restaurants, bakeries, ice cream shops and cafes that serve up tasty treats. So how is a dessert lover to choose? Like much of what happens in L.A., choices are often made by proximity. It's tough to drive for 20 miles in traffic for your favorite piece of pie, let's face it. But sometimes, the travel time is worth it, as proven by these top places for dessert and coffee that range all over our gigantic city. A number of the most delicious are found in downtown L.A., including Pitchoun! French Bakery Cafe, Bottega Louie and BierBeisel Imbiss, all places where customers can have a full meal before indulging in their epic desserts. Out by the beach in Santa Monica, Huckleberry reigns supreme, while in the San Fernando Valley, Porto's Bakery always draws a crowd. For classic treats all night long, Du-par's has been satisfying peoples' dessert cravings (especially for pie) since 1938, still in the Fairfax District right by The Original Farmer's Market where it began so long ago; and Fosselman's is the grandaddy of them all, making homemade ice cream since 1919 in Alhambra and drawing fans from every corner of the city. So no matter where you roam in the City of Angels, there's a place to indulge in a piece of pie, a chocolate fantasy, a churro, cobbler or mousse, an ice cream cone or gelato scoop. It's the beauty of living in a city this large.
Huckleberry Bakery & Cafe
Everything Huckleberry Bakery & Cafe serves is made on site, using top-quality ingredients, including organic flour, Vahlrona chocolate and farmers' market produce. As the menu explains, their offerings are "almost exclusively" organic and GMO free, sourced from local growers every day. There are plenty of sweet delights here, changing seasonally. Expect Blueberry Cornmeal Cake, eclairs, assorted cookies, doughnuts, fruit tarts and more, paired with specialty coffees from Caffe Luxxe Coffee Roasters or loose-leaf teas from the Art of Tea. Before indulging, have a full meal for lunch or an early dinner (they close by 8 p.m.) and top it off with one of the delectable desserts that have put this place on the map since 2009. (310-451-2311)
Republic of Pie
It's pretty easy to figure out what Republic of Pie does best -- this NoHo Arts District pie place and coffeehouse consistently offers up slices of warm pie that simply melt in your mouth. Classics including Strawberry Rhubarb, Pecan or Banana Cream are naturally found here, along with more exotic choices including Earl Grey Cream Pie, Marionberry or the Triple Threat Pie Cake. Coffee is taken to an art here as well, as baristas create beautiful designs in the perfect lattes and other specialty drinks they serve. There's an extensive menu of teas as well here; and like any good coffeehouse, savory offerings of quiche, pot pies and grilled cheese sandwiches are also available. (818-308-7990)
The 48 flavors of homemade ice cream that Fosselman's makes were born in Iowa in 1919 and brought to Alhambra in 1924 by three brothers dedicated to making the very best. It's obvious that they had the right idea, as the soda fountain continues to this day, still run by the Fosselman clan. Flavors range from classic Tahitian vanilla to Burgundy Cherry (with big chunks of Oregon bing cherries stirred in by hand) or Coffee & Cookies (Oreos, naturally), all the way to Green Tea, Lychee and even Taro. We only want Rocky Road! But now and then, the sorbets call our name; there's lowfat frozen yogurt, too, if there are some crazy days when counting calories are important. For regular days, make room for their milkshakes, sundaes, banana splits and smoothies. It's worth it! (626-282-6533)
Bottega Louie Restaurant, Gourmet Market and Patisserie
The lure of Bottega Louie is obvious from the moment you step through the doors. Suddenly, your senses are assaulted by the brilliant colors of a bakery case chock full of French Macaron cookies, gorgeously displayed. Keep walking and you'll see even more delectable desserts in the case; but we suggest that you wait until after a meal to indulge in those delights. For Bottega Louie is much more than just a lovely patisserie. It's a huge, noisy restaurant with 255 seats and a friendly staff ready to serve up tasty pizzas, pastas, salads and main courses. Dive into the Crab Beignets, served with a tangy Remoulade sauce. The Trenne pasta is like nothing you've ever had, hollow pan-seared pasta smothered in braised prime rib eye and kale. Don't miss dessert, of course, particularly the Chocolate Souffle, the Butterscotch Budino and those gorgeous Macarons. (213-802-1470)
It doesn't matter what time of day or night you are hungry, Du-par's is open and ready to feed you. Since 1938, this homey diner has been satisfying just about any craving you could have, be it a hearty breakfast of fresh eggs, pancakes, French toast or one of their famous blue-plate specials. For lunch or dinner, Du-par's offers a wide range of sandwiches (BLT, Monte Cristo, French dip, Reuben, to name a few), salads, appetizers and entrees, but they have made their name because of their pies. There are more than 10 mouth-watering choices baked daily right on the premises (beyond the Original Farmer's Market restaurant, there are locations in Pasadena, Encino and Studio City), as well as seasonal specials like pumpkin, peach or apricot. (323-933-8446)
BierBeisl Imbiss, which opened in July 2015, marks the return of Austrian Chef Bernhard Mairinger, who wowed Los Angeles in 2012 with his original spot in Beverly Hills. Now he's downtown in the heart of the city, with a casual "Imbiss" (snack bar) that serves some of the best fruit strudel you've ever eaten. That, along with all the other house-made delights, including the wonderful breads, sausages, schnitzels and more, means BierBeisl Imbiss is already winning converts to its location, down the hall in the Spring Arcade building. Back to dessert; if strudel isn't enough, try the sachertorte to experience some of the densest dark chocolate cake on the planet. (213-935-8035)
Milk is all about dessert. Don't come to the Beverly or Silverlake locations looking for anything but luscious homemade ice cream, gooey cookies, cupcakes, whole cakes and more. Sure, there's all sorts of coffees, teas, juices and lemonades to go with your indulgence of choice, but don't expect any savories here. Sundaes are piled high with decadent things like brownies, hot fudge and the aforementioned house-made ice cream; and the milkshakes and malts are works of art, piled high with elements like crunchy cookie crumbles, chocolate chips and more. If there's a special occasion, order their famous Blue Velvet Cake to celebrate -- it's got white chocolate cream-cheese frosting, three layers of blueberry chiffon cake and fresh blueberries. Yum. (323-939-6455)
Porto's Bakery & Cafe
Rosa Porto emigrated to Los Angeles from Cuba in 1960 and brought with her the recipes that have sustained her famous bakery ever since. She's now retired, but her kids and her extended family still bake up her world-class delicacies at three locations (Burbank, Glendale and Downey) and fans still line up to get a taste. Be sure to try the Cheese Rolls (a cream-cheese filled flaky pastry) for only 75 cents each, along with the classic Refugiados (a guava and cream-cheese strudel), which will cost you 80 cents. Porto's Tres Leches Cake is a yellow sponge cake soaked in a three-milk sauce and topped with meringue icing, a steal for $15.50. Don't miss the savory delights found here, too, from the infamous Potato Ball (a mashed-potato ball filled with seasoned ground beef and fried up) for $1 to the empanadas and chorizo pies that melt in your mouth. (818-956-5996)
Sweet Lady Jane
It was over 25 years ago that Jane Lockhart brought her passion for cakes to Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood; nowadays Sweet Lady Jane has three more locations, in Santa Monica, Encino and Newport Beach. Her custom cakes are constantly sought after by everyone from Jennifer Lopez to Stevie Wonder; and the ones for sale every day match the quality of those special creations. The triple berry cake is legendary, or try the lemon tart, chocolate fudge blackout cake or one of the many delectable cheesecakes, cookies, brownies or pastries. Visitors can settle in for dessert and coffee or tea, or have a full lunch and stay for the cake afterward. (323-653-7145)
Pitchoun! French Bakery Cafe
At Pitchoun! French Bakery Cafe, Frederic and Fabienne Soulies prepare everything from scratch using their family's traditional recipes. The couple migrated from France to Downtown Los Angeles in order to bring those unique French boulangerie tastes to Southern California. So you'll find crusty baguettes, of course, along with croissants, brioches and other baked goods. But it's the desserts that will make you swoon, all made with eggs from free-range and pasture-raised chickens, and the highest quality pressed extra virgin olive oil or canola oils (no hydrogenated oils). Think Macarons, Madeleines, Tart Tatin, Creme Brulee and more. All are so good you'll be hard pressed to choose just one. Pitchoun! also offers cold and hot sandwiches, tartines, salads and soups in the cafe, so you can have a full meal here, topped off with a lovely dessert and a cappuccino. (213-689-3240)
About Jenny Peters
Jenny Peters – aka Jet Set Jen – is a Los Angeles-based freelance journalist, editor and party columnist specializing in travel, entertainment, film, food, wine, fashion and the other good things in life. She is a founding/voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, who present the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards every January. Her favorite places to be are on the beach in Southern California playing volleyball, scuba diving with the sharks in warm tropical waters or strolling the streets and soaking in the atmosphere of one of the world's great cities (New Orleans and Florence are her favorites).
Read more about Jenny Peters here.