This edition of Where to Eat has a sweet tooth, spotlighting a selection of desserts that are a pleasant surprise — either in locations that are off the beaten path or at restaurants where you'd least expect them.
Here are some sweet surprises to try:
Dessert shop specializes in authentic Syrian sweets, with ice cream and unusual pastries. If you feel that there are never enough pistachios in the world, this is your place. Their signature is Arabic-style ice cream, which has a dense, ultra-creamy texture and subtle floral flavor. They sell it by the scoop, topped with copious amounts of pistachio; or else in a Swiss-style roll, crusted, yes, with pistachios. Their baklava is fluffy-crisp, and comes dusted with pistachios. There are also date cookies and pistachio cookies — a great thing to pick up for a party. Shop is off the beaten path in a semi-industrial area ner Richardson's Chinatown at 717 Lingco Dr.
Downtown Dallas restaurant from the Headington companies is half bakery, so it's not such a surprise to find desserts here. But their selection — lined up in rows in a bakery case with such obsessive precision that you're almost afraid to disturb it — is not the usual stuff. There's horchata gelato, a dark chocolate-peanut butter mousse bar, a fig eclair, and a guava puff pastry. The prettiest of all is a "candied apple" — a trompe l'oeil sphere with a mirrored glossy shell, filled with cinnamon mousse.
Dallas Fish Market
Downtown seafood restaurant has always taken an elegant approach to its food, with simple presentations on the plate, sort of like a mini Le Bernardin. Its desserts dive into serious foodie territory — such as the beet ice cream with citrus butter cream and chocolate crumbles currently on the menu. The beet ice cream is a revelation: sweet but beety at the same time, and the citrus cream is an engaging counterpoint. The crumbles include hazelnuts, almonds, and peanuts, and the dish follows the "rubble on a plate" mode, with edible flowers casually strewn.
Dot's Hop House
Deep Ellum bar is best known for its expansive open-air courtyard and its selection of craft beer. But its stick-to-your-ribs bar food hits the spot, with funky dishes like the chicken tenders in a peanut butter and jelly glaze, and tater tots made with sweet potato. They do a fun dessert called monkey knuckles, which is like a combination of hush puppies and beignets — crunchy balls of cornmeal-infused dough, crusted with sugar and cinnamon with a side of cream cheese frosting.
Coffeehouse on ground floor of a new East Dallas apartment building has Australian-born owners and an Australian seriousness about coffee to match. The espresso drinks are a little stronger, more in the European style, and the pastries have an appealing heft. There's banana bread, which you can get toasted; nubby oatmeal raisin pecan cookies; and a cool "lemon slice," with a lemony filling baked onto a nice pastry crust.
Maggiano's Little Italy
Italian restaurant chain with locations at NorthPark Center and the Shops at Willow Bend in Plano has a welcoming spirit and lots of pastas but their dessert menu is extensive, with plenty of satisfying choices including New York-style cheesecake, tiramisu, and a cute plate of lemon cookies for $3.25. But the pick is their spumoni, the Italian-American ice cream combining chocolate, cherry, and pistachio ice cream. Not many places around Dallas offer it, and Maggiano's does a great version, a big dish of it for $4.50.
Canadian-born concept debuted in Uptown Dallas in 2016, to be followed up by a second DFW location coming to to Plano in 2018. The dessert menu is surprisingly robust, and offers smaller portions of each dessert if all you need is a bite. There's a salted caramel cheesecake; white chocolate brownie; and sticky toffee pudding. The winner is the white chocolate brownie, served with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce, but if you can't decide, they offer a sampler of all three.
Plano Kitchen & Bar
East Plano comfort food restaurant Angela's at the Crosswalk changed hands in 2017 when Angela Murphy sold the restaurant to Chris Stroup, an ex-Brinker exec. For pie fans, the good news is that he's still baking Murphy's coconut cream and chocolate cream pies with excellent flaky crusts. In better news, Murphy will return in April to bake part-time, adding her sticky buns, cookies, and her trademark "monkey pudding," with banana, pineapple, nuts, and cherries.
Greenville Avenue restaurant is a destination for great ramen and izakaya dishes such as crunchy corn fritters, andfried chicken with cubes of fresh watermelon. They have two desserts, both distinctive and not too sweet. One is a rich black sesame creme brulee with a blackened top; it's a little intense. But the other is a refreshing diversion. It's a parfait with tapioca pudding, a scoop of red bean ice cream, and a sprinkling of fresh berries.
Downtown Dallas bar and restaurant does a consistently good job on food and drink, with fine renditions of dishes such as chicken and waffles and a great avocado toast. It has a few desserts including a statuesque creme brulee served in a tall sundae glass, and its signature dessert, the fried pound cake topped with ice cream. But the winner is the beignets — eight crunchy orbs with a sugary coating, served with three sauces, raspberry, chocolate, and lemon.