Selecting Riverfront Times' Best of St. Louis 2011 was no picnic. Choosing the winner meant several worthy candidates would go unmentioned -- until now. In this Gut Check series, we are chewing our way through notable runners up in a number of categories. To see hundreds more winners and finalists and download the Riverfront Times Best of St. Louis mobile app, visit our Best of St. Louis homepage.
St. Louis has a treat for every sweet tooth, whether you prefer a local specialty like frozen custard, a universal favorite like cupcakes or milkshakes or even something new and funky (hipster ice cream cakes, anyone?).
Page through to see the finalists and the winner for "Best Desserts"...
Ted Drewes Frozen Custard (6726 Chippewa Street; 314-481-2652)
Ted Drewes really is good. And when you're at Ted Drewes on Chippewa Street, you can order a sundae or a shake or a float or even an orange slushy, but if you really want to get some Ted Drewes, you've got to walk away from that counter with an upside-down cup of of frozen custard -- the silky smooth, rich and creamy concrete. Whether you put together your own sweet, scrumptious concoction or choose from any of the familiar specialties, a concrete is the perfect way to end an evening out or to celebrate a Cardinals victory or just to enjoy a warm day. Few St. Louis traditions are as sweet as standing along the old Route 66 savoring spoonfuls from a yellow cup, enjoying one of Ted's delightful desserts, including an All Shook Up, with peanut-butter cups and bananas, or a Dottie, with mint, chocolate and macadamia nuts.
Cravings Gourmet Desserts (8149 Big Bend Boulevard, Webster Groves; 314-961-3534)
Eating a meal at Cravings in Webster Groves is an exercise in patience and control. From the moment you set in foot in the inviting, gourmet restaurant to the last bite of your entrée, the sights and smells of the most decadent, creative and delicious desserts in the metropolitan area test diners to skip their meal and go straight for dessert. The restaurant's food, as amazing as it is, becomes little more than a series of hurdles on your race to sweet, tasty bliss. Whether your weakness is chocolatey bites, creamy caramel, rich ice cream or the sweet and tart tastes of fruit, Cravings has an award-winning dessert that is sure to please. Chose the apple galette and enjoy a warm, rustic apple pie with fresh whipped cream. But to do so would be to pass on the "bombe," a white-chocolate brownie with lime cream and fresh blueberries. Ahh, but that means you can't have hazelnut zucotto, strips of hazelnut and chocolate cake layered with cappuccino cream and white-chocolate mousse. Forget it, just skip your meal and order a five courses of dessert but make sure to leave room for turtle cheesecake brownies.
Baileys' Chocolate Bar (1915 Park Avenue; 314-241-8100)
Dave Bailey's restaurant empire started with Lafayette Square hot spot Baileys' Chocolate Bar. Besides providing the perfect setting for romance, Baileys' serves up some of the tastiest desserts to help make the night even sweeter. The dessert menu features classic selections such as crème brûlée and a chocolate sundae alongside whimsical takes on favorites, including a banana-bread split. Baileys' Chocolate Bar raises the standards for chocolate-lovers with a haute truffle menu featuring such combos as bittersweet and bacon, chipotle and pepita, and chocolate and hazelnut. Too many delicious choices? Might we suggest going for the restaurant's eponymous dessert, chocolate cake with Bailey's buttercream and chocolate ganache. Paired with one of the many chocolate martinis, this dessert will satisfy any sweet tooth.
Sarah's Cake Stop and Catering Co. (10 Clarkson Wilson Center, Chesterfield; 636-728-1140)
As St. Louis continues to embrace the food-truck trend, one must remember the importance of sugary-sweet treats on the go. Who among us has not wished at one time or another that we could walk downstairs in our office building and find a delicious array of desserts awaiting us? Lucky for us, Chesterfield-based bakery Sarah's Cake Shop heeded this call with Sarah's Cake Stop, a cupcake truck. On each excursion, the truck carries some of the daily flavors, such as red velvet and carrot cake, as well as specialties based on the bakers' whims, with examples including Pearl vodka lemon drops and caramel mudslides. For food-truck novices, fans must follow Sarah's on Facebook or Twitter in order to know where the truck will be stopping next.
Cyrano's (603 East Lockwood Avenue, Webster Groves; 314-963-3232)
Since reopening in Webster Groves in 2003, Cyrano's Café has been dishing out some of the best traditional and creative desserts and destroying even the most earnest of diets with a touch of decadent elegance. The time-tested Cleopatra, luscious French vanilla ice cream with bananas, strawberries, rum sauce and chocolate topped with whipped cream, highlights the dessert menu that includes different ice creams and sorbets, pastries and cakes, and a trio of flambés for two, including cherries jubilee and strawberries Cyrano. The seasonal pastry menu includes a fresh ginger cake with a tangy lemon curd and a caramel brioche bread pudding with a rich cherry bourbon sauce. Cyrano's also offers a cakes, pies and other sweet little treats in its retail side, including a chocolate layer cake, macaroons, a variety of cupcakes and, if you are so inclined, crispy applewood-smoked bacon covered in dark chocolate.
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