The next time you dine out, when the server asks if you would like to see the dessert menu, say, “Yes!” without hesitation. The First Coast has many uniquely delicious dining choices, and many of our favorite establishments are known for their signature desserts. Instead of filling up on boring things like meat and vegetables, save room for dessert, and try one of these local specialties.
At Biscotti’s in Riverside, you won’t be offered a mere dessert menu, you’ll be offered a dessert tour, which is required because they have a dizzying array of desserts to make you drool. You can’t go wrong here, but a tall slice of German chocolate cake or Biscotti’s signature bread pudding are always good bets.
The dessert case is equally impressive at BB’s on the Southbank of downtown. They make a bread pudding out of croissants that will melt in your mouth. If you are a fan of fruit-flavored desserts, their mixed berry cake also has a loyal following.
It’s not only fine dining establishments that offer delectable desserts. M Shack, the casual burger joint from Chef Matthew Medure, offers milkshakes with dessert-inspired flavors including bananas Foster, marshmallow brulee and pecan pie.
Dessert at lunch? Why not! Foodies in-the-know have already spent time waiting in the line at The French Pantry. As early as 11 a.m., people are queuing out the door — and there’s a reason. In addition to mouth-watering sandwiches, they offer desserts that are worth blowing your diet. Try a slice of wedding cake. They serve it every day, but you have to get there early, because they often run out before closing time at 2 p.m.
Naturally, TacoLu is best known for tacos and tequila, but they also offer delectable desserts. Try their version of sopapilla, a lightly fried puff pastry drizzled with agave nectar and cinnamon sugar, topped with a scoop of ice cream.
Venture down to St. Augustine and discover more desserts with Spanish flair. At Michael’s Tasting Room, the tres leches (Spanish for three milks) is worth an extra hour on the treadmill. This traditional Spanish dessert is made from sponge or butter cake soaked in a combination of evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream.
Forget about milk at Collage in St. Augustine. They soak their buttery cake in rum. The butter rum cake is topped with sweet rum glaze and whipped cream.They also serve a unique dish called “The Bougainvilla Dessert” made with strawberries sauteed in butter and black pepper, served in in a phyllo cup, topped with a cabernet vanilla sauce. You won’t find that anywhere else.
To the north of Jacksonville, Amelia Island is home to one of only three five-diamond restaurants in all of Florida. Salt, the restaurant at the Ritz Carlton, is a fine dining destination. The dessert menu at Salt features a dark chocolate souffle with salted caramel ice cream, topped with white chocolate creme anglaise.
Far more casual, but equally unique, is Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen. Before opening his restaurant in Fernandina Beach, Chef Kenny Gilbert appeared on, “Top Chef.” Now, he cooks seasonal deep Southern cuisine including items like hoppin john, curried okra and gator ribs. In addition to Southern staples like sweet potato pie and pecan pie, they also serve a regional treat called honey cake. Chef Kenny’s version is flavored with benne seeds, an 18th century historic grain with a distinctive nutty flavor that was used in antebellum cooking.
These suggestions are merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to local dessert delights. From chocolate decadence to fruit-flavored abundance, there is something for everyone here. Take a culinary tour of North Florida — and always save room for dessert.