D.C. Dessert Spots

DC has a love affair with all things sugary and sweet, especially for cupcakes or “cakecups” which often result in long standing queues outside the doors. No matter the neighborhood, gourmet doughnuts, frozen pudding, gelato, ice cream, and macarons highlight the talent and creativity of DC’s dessert scene and are within easy reach.

1308 G St. NW, Washington, DC 20005, USA
Astro is the brainchild of two childhood friends, Eliot Spaisman and Jeff Halpern, who grew up playing hockey together (one currently plays in the NHL) and would enjoy doughnuts as a post-game treat. An union of two iconic comfort foods, relish in the daily rotation of chef Jason Gehring’s doughnut flavors (Maple Bacon and Brooklyn Blackout are served every day), and of his grandma’s classic buttermilk fried chicken recipe (but you can kick it up with a spicy garlic blend or a Sriracha blend).
415 8th St SE, Washington, DC 20003, USA
I’ve been fascinated recently with this sweet-savory combination. Sorry cupcakes, the doughnut is back, and it has gotten quite the makeover! Before this craze hit D.C., chefs Kyle Bailey and Tiffany MacIssac of Birch and Barley/Churchkey have toyed around with both comfort foods. First came “the Luther,” a chicken sandwich placed between two donuts, and a series of off-menu weekend chicken specials consisting of a variety of chicken, biscuits, and sides. You can now get both at their most recent creation, GBD, which is located just south of Dupont Circle. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, one may choose from over a dozen varieties of donuts ranging from the classic vanilla-glaze to the bourbon, butterscotch, and bacon brioche and key lime. Afternoons and evenings will offer the buttermilk-brined birds and side items, which include the “tendie” lunchbox—four chicken tenders and buttermilk biscuit with your choice of side and dipping sauce (one is even dubbed General Satan). From Tuesdays to Fridays from 5 to 7 p.m., great deals on craft beers, specialty punches, and wines are offered.
1052 Thomas Jefferson St NW, Washington, DC 20007, USA
Located along the historic Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O Canal), this laid-back neighborhood bakery and coffeehouse is one of my favorite hangouts in D.C. Baked and Wired serves delicious food and drinks in a cozy atmosphere. The space is adorned with works done by local artists and photographers—as well as napkins scribbled with slogans, poetry, and pictures by visitors who wish to leave their mark. Owned by a husband and wife team, Tony and Teresa Velasquez, the shop has been whipping up handcrafted baked goods since 2001. To the delight of the young, the old, the college kids, hipsters, and the “power suit” crowd, the shop churns out a plethora of treats. You’ll find cupcakes (“cakecups”), brownies, cookies, pies, bars, muffins, cakes, quiches, breads, biscotti, and even “zilla bonez” (dog biscuits). They also serve the best coffees including Stumptown, Intelligentsia, Madcap, Barismo, and Ceremony. For tea, try the “Chaider"—a seasonal combo of chai and apple cider. Dine here like a local; upon entering, head to the left side for the baked goods (the “Baked” side) and then to the right for coffee (the “Wired” side). Signature baked goods include: — The Strawberry Cupcake: made from fresh strawberries mixed with vanilla cake batter topped with a swirl of pink buttercream (the local favorite). — Bee Stings: shortbread cookie topped with sliced almonds and honey. — OMG’s caramel s’mores: a layer of graham cracker crust followed by caramel, marshmallow, and chocolate.
225 7th St SE, Washington, DC 20003, USA
The Eastern Market, now a National Historic Landmark, opened in 1873 to serve the Capitol Hill neighborhood (an 1805 version, located down by the Navy Yard, was a casualty of the War of 1812). The brick market hall, packed with butchers, bakers, vegetable markets, cheese vendors, flower kiosks, and a lunch counter, is bright and charming. Under the shed roof outside, additional local produce is displayed and sold. On weekends, booths selling vintage goods and handmade jewelry, housewares, and clothing do a brisk business down the center of 7th Street. Crowds spill out of the cafés, taco joints, and bagel shops occupying the first floors of the row houses along the block, adding to the lively mix at the market.
2311 Calvert St NW, Washington, DC 20008, USA
Most visitors in D.C. are here in the summer when the temperatures and humidity can soar to uncomfortable levels. That’s the time when ice and ice cream are your best sources of relief. If you are anywhere near the National Zoo and need to chill down, head toward Woodley Park. It’s going to be hard to do, but pass all the restaurants and cafés that line Connecticut Avenue; you can go back to them another time. When you get to Calvert Street, hang left. Then look for Café Sorriso, a small eatery on your left. Although the main part of the café is underground, you can’t miss this tiny unassuming eatery—look for the small cluster of chairs and tables outside. The café serves classic Italian pretty much all day long as well as dinner. The real treat is the gelato, which is handmade by the owner, Stefano Polles, who spent time in Italy training to make this icy delight the “proper” way. There are only a few flavor options each day but chocolate is always on the menu. Creamy and flavorful, you can’t go wrong with a scoop—or two. My recommendation is to get one scoop of chocolate and one hazelnut and swirl one into the other—it’s like eating frozen Nutella. The pistachio gelato is pretty darn good as well! If you want to go a little over the top, get one of the small homemade cookies to accompany your gelato. So good, it will make you swoon and want to keep coming back! Metro stop: Woodley Park / Zoo Adams Morgan
1704 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009, USA
Dolcezza is an artisanal gelato company with several locations in the Washington, D.C. area. What makes Dolcezza unique in the world of gelaterias is that the gelato it serves up is made according to the Italian traditions in Argentina. I’m no expert in gelato to be able to tell you what the difference is between Italian and Argentine gelatos but I can tell you that what they serve at Dolcezza is truly scrumptious—creamy and smooth with intense flavor and not overly sweet. The ingredients are locally sourced and the flavors change frequently but there is something that will be sure to tantalize your palate—from the classic gainduia to grapefruit and even avocado and Thai coconut milk! Go for an affogato if you really want to treat yourself. Even if you’re not in the mood for gelato, you can pop into Dolcezza for a cup of coffee and a one of their unique Argentinian sweet treats sitting under the glass domes on the counter. Everything is baked in-house by a Dolcezza employee so it truly feels like you’re eating something home made. Some days you’ll find churros filled with dulce de leche. On my last visit, it was alfajors—dulce de leche sandwiched between two round biscuits made of corn flour and dipped into grated coconut. Yum!!
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