From hosting the James Beard Awards (and claiming a handful of wins) to its vast and ever-changing culinary landscape, Chicago has solidified its role as a bona fide gastronomic force. But given the sheer scope of the local dining scene, it’s not always easy to know where to look when you have a sugar craving that won’t subside and no average dessert will do. Here, a short and sweet (no pun intended) list of seven of the best desserts in Chicago right now:
Pastry chef Meg Galus’ penchant for highlighting the interplay between complementary flavors and textures is exactly what earned her a spot among the “Outstanding Pastry Chef” finalists at this year’s James Beard Awards, and few of her desserts better exemplify this than her Cracker Jack-inspired confection at this West Loop steakhouse giant. The dessert is a menu staple, and is comprised of peanut butter mousse, salted caramel, caramel corn, and popcorn sherbet. 1000 W. Fulton Market, 312-733-9420
This casual-chic sports lounge may be a West Loop newcomer, but it’s already cemented itself in local gastronomic history as home to the best skillet cookie in the city. Dubbed “The Skillet,” the piping hot chocolate chip and Heath bar-studded treat is made-to-order, and comes topped with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream for that perfect balance of hot and cold. 130 S. Green St., 312-226-6565
Suffice it to say, Cookie Love author and resident pastry queen Mindy Segal knows a thing or two about cookies—the assorted selection baked fresh daily at her Wicker Park eatery is all the proof you’ll need. For the full, cavity-inducing effect, order yours with a side of Segal’s signature hot chocolate for dunking. 1747 N. Damen Ave., 773-489-1747
Light, airy, and fried to crunchy perfection, the cinnamon and sugar-dusted delights at Rick Bayless’ most casual concept are the stuff that sugar addicts’ dreams are made of. Each bite is intensely sweet, melts in your mouth, and is made better only by a thorough dunk in chocolate dipping sauce. 449 N. Clark St., 312-661-1434; 1471 N. Milwaukee Ave.
This Chicago-born fast-casual chain may be best known for its Italian beef sandwiches and Chicago-style hot dogs, but no meal here is complete without a slice of the brand’s impossibly rich and moist chocolate cake. For a cake fix on the run, try the chocolate cake shake, which features bits of chocolate cake blended into a classic chocolate milkshake. 100 W. Ontario St., 312-587-8930
Painted in sweet, pastel hues and emblazoned with an Instagram-worthy quote that reads, “the best things in life are sweet,” this charming Lincoln Park bakery looks as if it was torn straight from the pages of a candy-coated fairytale. But forget Prince Charming—one of the shop’s award-winning, sprinkle-topped cupcakes is the true ticket to Happily Ever After. 1208 W. Webster Ave., 773-244-1174
For all of the flavors of a classic childhood favorite with none of the responsibility involved in building and tending a campfire, Bar Toma is here for us with its shareable (only if you want it to be, of course!), dessert-ready pizza. The sweet treat features the restaurant’s standard pizza crust slathered in a decadent layer of Nutella and topped with golden-toasted marshmallows and a drizzle of melted chocolate. 110 E. Pearson St., 312-266-3110