16 Awe-Inspiring Restaurant Desserts You Need To Try At Least Once

Five-star cuisine may come and go, but jaw-dropping dessert is forever. Well, okay, maybe it lasts until breakfast the next day at the latest. (Leftover chocolate cake straight from the fridge, plus a mug of piping hot coffee? Heaven.) Still, the only sweet treat that could possibly tie the bow on an unforgettable meal, is one with charm, charisma, and personality oozing from its salted caramel, molten lava core. A stunning amount of whipped cream, a flamboyant flutter of actual gold, far-away flavors, hot fudge nostalgia, breathtaking toasted meringue-scapes, and of course ... all of the rainbow sprinkles. 

We're doing dessert for dinner, saving nothing for a rainy day, and indulging our wildest sugar-spun fantasies every chance we can. And only the greatest, most innovative, genius confections will do. Reservations for us — plus our favorite people — at the perfect time, for one reason; to get our sweet tooth on like Donkey Kong.

We're jetting around the country for the crème de la crème, just the way the cookie crumbles, and the pastry that truly takes the cake. And, yeah, we're getting one of everything!

$1,000 Golden Opulence Sundae: Serendipity 3, New York City

If you're going to treat yourself, you gotta go for the gold, baby! And this former Guinness World Record holder for Most Expensive Dessert is just the way to do it. The Golden Opulence Sundae from Serendipity 3 racks up its $1,000 tab thanks to a baccarat crystal souvenir goblet — they also sip from these at The Vatican, no big deal — and Madagascar vanilla-infused Tahitian vanilla ice cream. It's like a double rainbow. Plus, edible 23-carat gold leaf, passion fruit caviar, and candies and fruit from fancy places.

While many Yelpers dream about one day winning the lottery and ordering this thing, others actually do it. One user wrote, "As a celebration, I pre-ordered the $1,000 Golden Opulence Sundae. One of the coolest food experiences I've ever had. Definitely something I recommend you do at least once in your life." Apparently, it's also served with a generous helping of undivided attention from everyone else in the shop. You'll feel like a beautiful unicorn drinking at a hot fudge pond.

In case you're wondering, lil goldie's reign was demolished by its own creator, Serendipity 3 creative chef Joe Calderon, with the Frrrozen Haute Chocolate — you keep the golden spoon this time — for a mere $25,000. But all of that is chump change compared to the restaurant's Valentine's Day limited release; the $250,000 Diamond Frrrozen Hot Chocolate, which comes with a keepsake Lorraine Schwartz diamond ring. Holy credit card limit, we hope she said, "Yes!"

Oops! I Dropped My Ice Cream: Barton G., Los Angeles, California

Maybe you've seen Barton G. on Instagram two or three ... million times. Everything here is a theatrical production — even a ho-hum caesar salad gets a glow-up. It's all part of the design when it comes to this completely outrageous restaurant with an endless passion for even crazier desserts. We're skipping past the s'mores-y Dolla Dolla Bills Y'all, and the cotton candy Marie Antoinette, and going all in on Oops! I Dropped My Ice Cream. Because if there's one thing that really tops off a multi-course meal, it's 22 pounds of dessert.

The $225 showstopper is dressed to impress with a 4-foot-tall cinnamon sugar cone, vanilla cake, strawberry ice cream, and chocolate crumble, plated face first like it just fell from the hands of an oversized baby and landed on your table. If no one were live-streaming us eating it, we might have to rename it Oops! I Ate The Whole Thing Myself.

One fan posted to Yelp, "It was the first time that an Ice Cream Cone was good enough to eat by itself. This dessert could have easily fed a dozen people. It was presented on a tray with Small Plastic Shovels and Buckets of Chocolate Sauce surrounded by Graham Cracker Crust 'Sand.'" This is one you don't want to miss.

Chow Nai Sundae: Bonnie's, Brooklyn, New York

Almost everything on the menu at the Cantonese American-inspired Bonnie's — a relatively new kid on the block in Williamsburg — is at once nostalgic and familiar, as well as thrilling and unexpected. That's the name of the game for chef Calvin Eng, who celebrates his mom's Cantonese home cooking, with a dose of global flair. Spoiler alert: He's kiiilling iiiiiiit.

But beyond the savory Cha Siu McRib, BLT Fried Rice, and Fuyu Cacio e Pepe Mein, there exists a dessert that is old school, yet packed with new flavors: the Chow Nai Sundae. It's basically the umami of frozen dessert in a cup; vanilla ice cream, topped with malted fried milk custard, buttered peanuts, and Ovaltine hot fudge, whipped cream, and a maraschino cherry. Add pork floss for the full effect.

Despite just having appeared on the scene, this dessert has already amassed a loyal following. One fan shared on Instagram, "This ice cream sundae ... was the most flavorsome dessert we've ever had ... Could not recommend this place more if you're looking to eat outside your comfort zone!!" And another posted to Yelp, "Save room for dessert, because the chow nai sundae ... will have you doing a happy dance." Now let's get dancin'.

Ultimate Coconut Cake: Peninsula Grill, Charleston, South Carolina

"If you like piña coladas ..." Well, if you like one of the ingredients in piña coladas — coconut — you're going to love, love, love the buttery, fully-stacked Ultimate Coconut Cake at the Planters Inn restaurant, brought to you by the iconic Peninsula Grill in Charleston, South Carolina. It even has its own Instagram. And a trademark. And probably a manager. Have your people call its people.

This 12-layer classic has been around since Valentine's Day back in 1997, when it was offered on the second night the grill was ever open. And unlike some twenty-somethings, it actually has its s*** together. Grab a generous slice of this vanilla and toasted coconut beauty at the restaurant, walk out with a whole one for $130, or ship it straight to your door without leaving the couch, via Goldbelly.

It's a runaway crowd-pleaser, especially for those of us who go cuckoo for coconut. As one Yelp reviewer noted, "Nothing beats their coconut cake — which I would claim is the best in the Carolinas and quite possibly the East Coast." And yet another got a little personal, posting, "They are famous for their Ultimate Coconut Cake, and it doesn't disappoint. Order it! If you pass up the opportunity to eat here, you will hate yourself for it!" Friends, here's to no regrets.

Bill-E's Chocolate Belly: Bill-E's, Fairhope, Alabama

Meet William Bill E Stitt. If he could, he'd probably put bacon on every dish in his restaurant. And that's not just because bacon is freakin' delicious, it's because he crafts his very own phenomenal small batch bacon. He even sings to it with other songwriter friends while it's smoking.

At Bill-E's in Fairhope, Alabama, Berkshire Red and Chantilly White pigs enjoy an 8-day curing process in pink salt, brown sugar, and real molasses, before a hickory cold-smoke. And you get to taste the fruits of all this labor in one of the outpost's sweet and savory dessert offerings: Bill-E's Chocolate Belly. Pork belly forms a mini checkerboard with salted caramel brownie bites, covered in a bourbon brown sugar glaze, with a smoked cherry, which is the only kind of cherry we're eating from now on. It's technically a dish that's portioned for two people, but with the right attitude, it's a single-serve situation.

One Instagram commenter pretty much summed up the dessert situation at this unpretentious, super casual outpost, writing, "This is THE BEST!!!" And with a few more exclamation marks and a couple fire emojis thrown in, we totally agree.

Baked Hawaii: Liholiho Yacht Club, San Francisco, California

FYI, Alaska is tired of all of us dumping loads of meringue on top of it and torching it. Time to spread the love with the Baked Hawaii at Liholiho Yacht Club in San Francisco, California. Having launched the brick-and-mortar iteration of what was once a very low-key Maui beach pop-up, owner chef Ravi Kapur is keeping the family legacy alive ... one perfectly crafted #NotBakedAlaska at a time.

Eschewing the usual layered ice cream filling, the Hawaii part is achieved through zingy coconut, passionfruit, orange, and guava (POG) sorbet, set atop an orange chiffon cake, wrapped up in a meringue spiral and, you guessed it, torched to toasty perfection. Add a sparkler for special occasions, or just because.

Still waffling between getting this, and letting your best life completely pass you by? One Yelper shared, "Must. Get. Baked. Hawaii ... Personally I have a huge sweet tooth and the Baked Hawaii was perfect. It's beautiful and delicious and I would definitely go back." After this, you won't even remember there even is an Alaska.

Avocado: Empellón, New York City

Would you pay $19 for half an avocado? Of course not. But also a thousand times yes. Because this isn't an ordinary avo. It's the Avocado dessert from Empellón, New York City. And it's what you might describe as a key lime flavored mousse, masquerading as a freshly sliced, perfectly ripe avocado.

"The Avocado totally messes with your mind, what you see is NOT what you get, it's better," one fan posted to Yelp. Another commented on Instagram, proclaiming the statement of the moment: "Still the only reason I want to go to NYC."

How does this magic trick work? It all starts with smooth-as-silk avocado purée, folded into whipped cream, piped into an aptly-shaped silicone mold, frozen, then airbrushed a la trompe l'oeil for that perfect avocado green, and plated on a silky bed of eucalyptus yogurt and fluffy lime "snow." Desserts like these don't go viral for nothing. The freshness of the lime brightens the creamy and sweet avocado purée, guaranteeing that you will never be able to trust that an avocado is real, ever again. You're welcome.

Il Maritozzo: Mother Wolf, Los Angeles, California

These are the bouncy buns of pastry chef Shannon Swindle. And we don't think he'd mind that you admire them. Il Maritozzo is a traditional dessert born in Rome — in this case featuring a sweet brioche bun, chantilly cream, bright red strawberry filling, and a generous dusting of powdered sugar — which can only be found at chef Evan Funke's Mother Wolf in Los Angeles, California. And everywhere in Italy.

The entire restaurant is much-hyped, with stellar pasta served al dente. But if you don't go full tilt on a main dish, you'll have plenty of room for dessert. One review gave the confection a rather poetic nod, saying, "The Maritozzo was a thing of beauty, an airy pastry filled with Harry's Berries strawberries and a tall heap of crema chantilly." Celebrities even ate them (or pretended to) at the Vanity Fair Oscars party in 2022. And if they're good enough for Nicole Richie to sit next to, they're good enough for us.

Il Maritozzo — which loosely means "hubby" in Italian, from ye olde history as a sort of carb-heavy ring box for marriage proposals — gets a makeover on occasion. For Fall 2022, it was given a Thanksgiving flourish as well as a chocolate and pistachio updo that read a little "baked potato," but still very cute. Trendy restaurants open and close, but Il Maritozzo = 4EVR.

Corn Husk Meringue: Cosme, New York City

You're about to discover how delicious zero-waste can taste. At the Mexican-contemporary favorite, Cosme, in New York City's Flatiron District, actual corn husk gets a valiant rescue from a trash can destiny, and is then up-cycled into a sculpturally stunning dessert.

As Australian outlet, SBS, noted, "Corn husk is celebrated: charred, ground to a fine powder, then swirled through a classic meringue, producing a deep, earthy flavour and ethereal shimmering colour." And what more would you expect from the highest ranked U.S. outpost on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list in 2019.

While the entire menu is worth tasting, the Corn Husk Meringue remains impossible to resist. One fan was all of us when they commented on Instagram, "Stop it! I'm getting my life together after weeks of Oreos and subs. I truly just dream [of] this dessert every night. Por quéeee!!!!" Inside the delicate structure of the meringue, chef Daniela Soto-Innes' scandalously rich and creamy mascarpone and corn-purée mousse is a total knockout just waiting for you to take your first bite.

The Doughnut: Stoke, Charlotte, North Carolina

Holy. Freakin'. Doughnuts. With a little hardcore journalistic investigation (okay, it's just doughnut eating) we've surmised that this great big 1 pound doughnut might actually be the godfather of several smaller doughnut holes that comprise a different dessert at Stoke in Charlotte, North Carolina. But for the record? We're not here for tiny doughnuts. Or even the regular-sized variety. We want a verified behemoth, its doughy girth approaching our table, thundering past other guests, and rippling through our drinks like that scene in Jurassic Park.

Stick it, sprinkles. Meet The Doughnut. It's a deeply decadent, life-preserver of a brioche-like pastry, piled high with silky diplomat cream, and crumbly Heath bar bits and bobs. It's built to share with four to eight people, depending on who you ask, but no one's judging if you keep every last tasty morsel for yourself.

One Yelp review demanded, "The food was good but the true star of the evening was the doughnut. GET THE DOUGHNUT." And another posted, "Probably the best doughnut I've ever tasted by itself, then when you consider the cream and the Heath bar topping, it just can't be beat." On occasion, the pastry gets a theme, as it did for National Doughnut Day in 2019, when it was dressed up with a Milk Bar-inspired "trash" topping of potato chips, nuts, seeds, coconut, and chocolate. It's one dessert you doughnut want to miss. Buh-dum-CHHHHH. We're here all week!

Baked Alaska: Gage & Tollner, Brooklyn, New York

If you're gonna go for a dessert that was invented in 1867, better get it at a restaurant that launched in 1884. More than 100 years later, Gage & Tollner in Brooklyn, New York is innovating by gleaning inspiration from those classic recipes and timeless techniques. If they can crush a T-bone and a dirty martini, they can certainly whip up a killer meringue.

With a stellar after-dinner menu that features everything from Coconut Layer Cake to a Rhubarb Buttermilk Sundae and a Malted Milk and Dark Chocolate Torte, choosing just one might seem like a daunting task. But there is one clear superstar: the Baked Alaska for two. With an almost wind-swept, torched meringue, set atop fresh mint, chocolate, and cherry ice cream, all towering above a chocolate cookie crumble, it's almost as if it just rushed in from a blustery 1890s street to join you at your table, its cheeks still blushing from the cold.

As a friendly heads-up, Time Out noted, "If you've ever had a baked alaska, you might expect it to be set alight at your table. Gage & Tollner does not do that...But you won't miss the flames. When something is this lovely, there's no need to gild the lily." Yelp seems to agree, with one fan sharing, "As always the highlight of my meal was the dessert. If you order only one thing...get the Baked Alaska!"

Magic Mushroom: Huntress Steak House, San Diego, California

Okay, it's not that kind of magic mushroom! This is the Magic Mushroom from Huntress Steak House in sunny San Diego, California. And friends, just like you, it changes with the seasons.

This Gaslamp District 'shroom is the brainchild of executive pastry chef Melanie Stagnaro, and it arrives at your table, positively smokin'. But this Alice In Wonderland-esque dish is actually an imposter. Tucked inside its glossy cap, you might find a classic peanut butter and jelly, with huckleberry jam, peanut butter mousse, cassis sorbet, and dark chocolate crumb. It's almost too beautiful to eat. Almost!

An Easter Magic Mushroom featured a carrot cake sponge, pineapple compote, cream cheese mousse, spiced crumble, and a perfect quenelle of carrot cake rum ice cream. One Yelper noted of their experience, "The highlight overall was the Magic Mushroom desert which is an experience in itself — highly recommend." Still trying to figure out whether we died and went to heaven, or it's the mushroom magic floating in the air. Either way, please tell the white rabbit that just ran by that we'll be right there.

The Idaho Ice Cream Potato: Westside Drive-In, Boise, Idaho

Famous Idaho potatoes aren't just for fries. At Boise's iconic Westside Drive-In, they've been dishing up the sweetest variety of "potatoes" since 1994. And this time, it's a spud that's destined for dessert.

The potato-less Idaho Ice Cream Potato features vanilla ice cream shaped like a potato and dusted in cocoa powder, at which point it could probably fool just about anyone. It's then shallowly sliced, and topped off with whipped "sour" cream, cookie crumbles, nuts, and chocolate syrup to serve up the gravy vibes. The only thing that could trick it out any further might be a pat of yellow fondant as "butter." But, as they say, if it ain't broke ...

The restaurant got the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives treatment when Guy Fieri visited during Season 6 of the show. But he's not the only one digging the menu. As one spud fan commented on Instagram, "Ice cream potatoes are the BEST kind of potatoes!!!" Another posted to Yelp, "The end result is one of the tastiest and gluttonous desserts you'll ever eat!" We can't help but wonder if anyone has ever ordered a baked potato as the main meal and then an Ice Cream Potato for dessert. If double potato is wrong, we don't want to be right.

Birthday Cake: Big Pink, Miami, Florida

This is one over-the-top Birthday Cake you'll be craving all year. It even comes with its own little matching cupcake perched on top, and a mound of whipped cream with a serious sprinkles problem. It's gigantic, it's fun, and it's perfection in every bite.

The statement-sized, and very pink, Big Pink restaurant in Miami, Florida does funfetti like it's going out of style with their homemade, 12-layer, rainbow-sprinkled, sky-high, monster-sliced, gumball-topped party for your mouth. The bottom two layers take the celebration to the next level with the addition of cookie dough instead of icing. Of course, it's easy-baked for Instagram.

One fan commented, "I don't even eat sweets but damn. I just want a piece." Another wrote, "YUUUMMMMMMMM! Please get in my belly!" You can also order a whole cake to go if you're taking this party on the road. Either way, one smart cookie said it best when she posted, "I foresee a day trip in my future." You go on and celebrate that birthday any day of the week.

Homemade Cheesecake: Vestry, SOHO, New York City

This may be the only Michelin-starred rodent you'll ever eat. And for the record, it's also the best tasting one ... presumably. It's chef Shaun Hergatt's delicate, honeycrisp apple chutney mouse — with hazelnut ears and an egg noodle tail — that accompanies the appropriately-shaped, saffron Homemade Cheesecake "cheese wedge," at SOHO's Vestry, in New York City. It is, indeed, as whimsical as it is delicious.

Time Out New York noted, "While they could have crafted any traditional cheese accoutrements—whole fruit, compote, cured meat or even more cheese—they went bolder, weirder and ... squeakier. They put a mouse on it!" Nothing to fear, though, if you're not exactly a fan of pest-themed cuisine; the mouse disappears almost as fast as the perfectly smooth and decadent cheesecake. Attempt the perfect bite with a bit of cheese wedge, and the tiniest bit of (hand to heart) ... mouse.

One Instagram fan lauded, "Best dessert I've ever had. The date on the other hand..." with another warning, "Do not be fooled by how clever and pretty this is. It is utterly delicious." Over on Yelp, one reviewer thought the dish was delicious but lacking, adding, "I needed like 5 mice." And we can only assume actual fist fights broke out on Spring Street after this comment: "Their cheesecake was so cute, [crafted] like a piece of cheese and it was way better than Junior's cheesecake. Trust." We just want both teams to have fun.

20-Layer Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake: Lavo, Las Vegas, Nevada

Forget the slots, the strip, and whatever happened in the jacuzzi last night, Las Vegas is all about the food. Especially when it's at the Insta-friendly Italian joint, LAVO, and super-especially when it involves peanut butter and chocolate in no less than 20 sinful alternating layers of creamy, springy debauchery. Brace yourself for the 20-Layer Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake of your nutty cocoa-holic fantasies. We're in love with a slice of cake and we don't care who knows it.

Quick refresher; it's Las Vegas, so you know you're not getting some dinky excuse for dessert. This is one show-stopping tower of pure, unadulterated pleasure. Is it the chocolate devil's food cake? Or the ridiculously creamy and salty peanut butter mascarpone? Or is it the perfect topping of peanut brittle chips? Is it love? If you really want to embrace that #ChocolatePB life, you can order a whole, giant version that feeds you and 19 of your closest friends. You pick the friends. (Hot tip: grab one that lifts, bro, because this thing weighs 12 pounds.)

One Yelper posted, "The 20 layer peanut butter chocolate cake was TO DIE FOR," and yet another chimed in, "They don't mess around, it's 20 layers people!! You can see it coming from the kitchen." Instagram lit up with its share of fire emojis, drooly faces, and cake models, but for the real fans in the house, one dessert fiend wrote, "Omg this was the best cake we ever had." We'll have what she's having!