With Easter just around the corner, I can't help but think of sweets. I don't know about you, but when I was little, my bright yellow basket (which is still sitting in my mom's closet) was overflowing with jelly bean-filled plastic eggs, fluffy yellow Peeps, malted milk chocolate Easter eggs in pretty pastels, and a large, hollow chocolate bunny with sugar-candy eyes. My brothers, sister, and I would indulge in sweet treats all morning long, and after the sugar wore off—usually a short time after the Easter egg hunt was over—we'd all be in dire need of a nap.
Though I certainly can't binge on sugar like I used to, I am one of those few who can't help but get dessert almost every time I go out to eat. For those who practice, Lent is nearly over! Why not reward yourself with dessert? There are plenty of restaurants out there at which dessert is an afterthought, and you end up with the boring brownie a la mode or yet another incarnation of bread pudding, but there are quite a few that are making that extra effort.
I have already visited the newly opened Costera on Prytania Street twice now, and it just keeps getting better. Located in the building that formerly housed La Thai, this neighborhood spot specializes in coastal Spanish cuisine served tapas-style, so be sure to get plenty of plates to share: dishes like beef shank and potato bomba or blistered shishito peppers with Arbequina and Maldon salt. But don't you dare skip out before trying dessert! I've already enjoyed a delightful caramel popcorn crème brûlée and was totally bowled over by their pistachio-crusted cheesecake. Each bite was filled with nutty, buttery, salty, and creamy bliss—I ate far more of that shared slice than I meant to!
Head Downtown to Poydras Street and enjoy a meal under hanging plants in the courtyard of Copper Vine Wine Pub. Watch springtime bloom all around you while sipping on wine and munching on dishes created by Executive Chef Mike Brewer, the former owner of the now-defunct restaurant The Sammich. Feast on jumbo lump crab deviled eggs, roasted beets with honey-whipped goat cheese, ratatouille, and crispy chicken fricassee with boudin rice. Though the Copper Vine offers other wonderful desserts, from affogato to goat cheese and lemon cake, there's one that calls to me in the middle of the night, dubbed the “Last Piece of the Pie.” Served in a pie pan, this creamy slice of buttermilk pie is served with Vietnamese coffee ice cream (cafe sua da), fresh berries, a berry coulis, and thyme.
In the Lower Garden District towards the end of Jackson Avenue lies Turkey and the Wolf, chef Mason Hereford's first and most famous restaurant, which has been making waves across the nation. In 2017, shortly after it opened, the hip eatery was nominated for the Best New Restaurant category and, in that same year, named the #1 Best New Restaurant in America by Bon Appétit magazine. Though Hereford's joint is known for its fried bologna with potato chips sandwich and collard green melt with Swiss and pickled cherry-pepper dressing, they also offer a simple dessert to satisfy the kid in all of us. Their nostalgia-laden, soft-serve vanilla ice cream can be topped with rainbow sprinkles, chocolate magic shell, and tater sticks; tahini and date molasses, or (my favorite) graham crackers and tangy key lime pie “crunk chunks.” Sweet simplicity in a $6 dessert!
This last dessert could likely seep into summertime sweets, as it reminds me of another childhood favorite: It's-It Ice Cream Treats. Created in San Francisco in 1928, It's-It has a scoop of ice cream (lots of different flavor options) sandwiched between two chewy oatmeal cookies and then dipped in chocolate. Though the quality of It's-It has gone downhill over the years, luckily, there are restaurants duplicating this feat, and I don't have to travel to the West Coast to find them. The first is Warbucks, a new diner-like restaurant that opened at the end of last year. Chef and co-owner Todd Pulsinelli is kicking out dishes like double-crunch chicken wings, crawfish étouffée dumplings, burgers with foie gras butter, and a Vietnamese-style fried chicken sandwich, but my heart yearns for their giant $7 ice cream sandwich made with crushed praline cookies and brown butter ice cream. For only one dollar more, you can cruise over to Susan Spicer's Rosedale Restaurant (somewhere you should visit on the regular, regardless) and enjoy not one—or two—but three assorted ice cream sandwiches made with Quintin's Natural Ice Cream and house-made cookies. How about gingersnap cookies filled with mango sorbet or chocolate chocolate chip stuffed with roasted strawberry Creole cream cheese ice cream?