There is no shortage of good restaurants or good meals in Columbia. Add a sweet finale and that good meal transcends to something truly memorable.
Desserts are interesting creations — often made from the simplest ingredients of sugar, butter, eggs and flour — with the power to take us down memory lane to Grandmother’s perfect pies or the chocolate cake we shared on birthdays. Desserts can be an expression of joy, the symbol of celebration, defining in every bite what sweetness and happiness are all about.
When we decided to search for Columbia’s best desserts (exempting your decadent homemade concoctions, which almost always take the cake), we asked the experts — our readers. Your recommendations led us to 12 sweet-tooth pleasers that bring a delightful closure to a wonderful meal.
Columbians are always open to new tastes and dining experiences, but some classics seem destined to live forever. Bananas Foster is an elegant tradition at Columbia’s very own supper club, Jack’s Gourmet Restaurant. Brought to life in a simple and exquisite fashion, this dessert begins with brown sugar added to simmering butter, followed by lemon and orange juice, then the liqueur (crème de banana and amaretto). Add bananas and top with cinnamon and brandy, and you have a dessert fit for royalty. According to Jim Cardoza, manager and server at Jack’s, the tableside creation of this dessert adds to its popularity and appeal.
Address: 1903 Business Loop 70 E.
Cupcakes from The Velvet Cupcake
There are cupcakes, and then there are cupcakes from the Velvet Cupcake. These sweet treats are baked fresh every day and combined with a seductive layer of icing to complement the cake below.
“Carrot cupcakes and red velvet cupcakes are topped with cream cheese-based icing, while the tiramisu is all about the mascarpone cheese,” says Jim Wohl, director of operations for The Tiger Hotel and The Velvet Cupcake. “Some other cupcakes are layered with buttercream icing as well.”
The Velvet Cupcake features six basic flavors — triple chocolate, wedding cake, tiramisu, red velvet, peanut butter and carrot cupcake — that are available every day; two other flavors are chosen on a rotating basis. The cupcake store features gluten-free cupcakes every Friday, and offers made-to-order cakes for special occasions.
Address: 23 S Eighth St.
Stout Brownie Sundae from Flat Branch Pub & Brewing
Flat Branch Pub and Brewing was among Columbia’s first microbreweries and set the standard for pairing great beer with excellent food. Over the past two decades, Flat Branch has experimented with different variations and hop levels in its beer, and has incorporated beer into bread and its popular dessert offering, Stout Brownie Sundae. The Stout Brownie Sundae is an amalgamation of rich chocolate brownie made with Flat Branch’s stout beer, topped with French vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate syrup.
“The Stout Brownie Sundae, along with the Chocolate Chip Sundae, have been on the menu even before I started working for Flat Branch about seven years back,” says Matt Arnall, chef and kitchen manager. The restaurant also serves ice-cream floats with their house-made root beer, as well as a variation where actual stout beer from Flat Branch is served with ice cream.
Address: 115 S. Fifth St.
The Pies at 63 Diner
Pies are simple, they are American and, at 63 Diner, they taste great. Steeped in the nostalgic décor of 1950s America, 63 Diner serves a variety of pies, such as chocolate peanut butter cream and coconut cream, which are made from scratch. What makes the diner unique is its long list of seasonal fruit pie offerings — including apple, blueberry, peach, strawberry and blackberry — which are made available on a rotational basis. Pie lovers may even order whole pies from 16 different pie options. Annie Cook, manager at 63 Diner, says that not only do customers have pie after their meal, they often come in to just relish a slice of pie and a hot cup of coffee.
Address: 5801 Highway 763
Frozen custard may not be considered a seasonal dessert for a cold, blustery Missouri winter, yet there are plenty of warm feelings for the Ozark Turtle Sundae at Randy’s Frozen Custard. According to Scott Byergo, the owner of Randy’s Frozen Custard in Columbia, the Ozark Turtle Sundae starts with frozen vanilla custard made fresh every day at the store, topped with hot fudge and hot caramel sauce, followed by a generous helping of pecans and a cherry on the crown. The store is known for its concretes, which according to Byergo are essentially like a blizzard with the ice cream replaced by frozen custard. The peppermint candy cane concrete is a favorite during the winter, along with the pumpkin pie concrete that returns to the menu each fall
Address: 3304 W. Broadway Business Park Court
Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce from Glenn’s Cafe
There are establishments, and then there are landmarks. Those who have spent considerable time in Columbia are familiar with what Glenn’s Cafe means to the city, particularly the excitement that heralded its return back to Columbia in 2013. Of course, what makes Glenn’s Cafe a favorite — much like its Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce — is the tradition of adapting classic recipes to contemporary taste. Chris Pender, the head chef at Glenn’s, says consistency is what brings people back to Glenn’s. The Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce has been part of the Glenn’s menu since the mid-’80s; the current recipe has been handed down by the previous ownership.
Address: 29 S. Eighth St.
Gooey Butter Cake from Murry’s
Gooey Butter Cake traces its origins to St. Louis in the 1930s, when a dedicated baker perhaps missed a step and created what may go down in history as the sweetest mistake of the last century. For Debbie Sheals, the co-owner and pastry coordinator at Murry’s, Gooey Butter Cake is what dreams are made of: lots of butter, sugar, cream cheese, eggs and, yes, of course, more butter. Gooey Butter Cake has been on the dessert menu of Murry’s for more than a decade and is featured at least four times a week on a rotating dessert menu that includes cakes, puddings, cheesecakes, homemade ice cream and other tempting treats.
Address: 3107 Green Meadows Way
Dutch Apple Pie from Peggy Jean’s Pies
It is hard to justify in mere words the experience one goes through when consuming a Dutch Apple Pie from Peggy Jean’s Pies. The true experience doesn’t lie solely in the fact that the pies are made from scratch, but in the conversation and stories that go into the baking process. The mother-daughter brigade of Jeanne Plumley and Rebecca Miller have perfected the art of the pie. Their Dutch Apple Pie begins with the basic apple pie filling of flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and apples, and is topped with a brown sugar and butter crumble. Plumley reveals the true secret of the recipe lies in butter … lots of butter.
Address: 3601 Buttonwood Drive, Suite E
Peanut Butter Pie from CoMo Smoke and Fire
You can find good barbecue, and you can find good desserts, but you rarely find them together on the same menu. CoMo Smoke and Fire is the delicious exception. Christy Hawkins, pastry chef and co-owner at CoMo Smoke and Fire explains that a series of baking experiments at home for her family created one of Columbia’s newest dessert favorites.
“Initially, I made chocolate peanut butter cake,” Hawkins says, “and then I made it into cupcakes. To serve it a little bit better since they were drying up, I came up with the peanut butter cream pie, which holds so much better and we stuck with it.”
Peanut butter and whipped cream cheese are the star ingredients. Hawkins also creates the chocolate graham cracker crust that holds the creamy concoction together.
Address: 4600 Paris Road, Suite 102
A waffle alone can be a tasty dessert, but make it Belgian style and top it with strawberries, bananas, Nutella, chocolate, caramel, syrup, homemade whipped cream, homemade cinnamon butter or even gelato, and a waffle can become the talk of the town. For Lydia Melton, the CEO and founder of Günter Hans, the inspiration for Liege Waffles came while studying in Belgium. Pair a delectable Liege Waffle from Günter Hans with a mimosa and it may just become your new weekend tradition.
Address: 7 Hitt St.
Southern Fried Pecan Pie from Ozark Mountain Biscuit Co.
The Ozark Mountain Biscuit Co. truck helped spark Columbia’s food truck revolution. Although the evolution of the traditional biscuit into a hearty biscuit sandwich may have been enough for the food truck to get the stamp of approval from CoMo foodies, Ozark Mountain Biscuit Co. also has elevated a traditional Southern dessert. Bryan Maness, head chef and owner of the Ozark Mountain Biscuit Co. truck explains that the pie filling is the first step in the process, followed by a pie crust cut into a circle and stuffed with the filling, then folded and fried. Maness promises more pie varieties in 2015, including a peach pie and other seasonal favorites.
For Helena Shih, the patisserie and entrepreneur behind U Knead Sweets, the chocolate mousse ganache cake at U Knead Sweets bakery was a happy accident. By bringing together the delectable elements of a moist chocolate cake, chocolate mousse and chocolate ganache, Shih created a chocolate wonderland loved by the locals. The desserts at U Knead Sweets are inspired not only from European tastes, but feature Asian influences as well, which makes the bakery unique in the Midwest. Shih says when people call and ask for specific desserts, even if the store may not have it at that time in the shop, she is willing to research and make it for them from scratch.
Address: 808 Cherry St.