By Paul Albani-Burgio
We’re more than 10 months into this pandemic and the daily temperatures are expected to be mostly mired in the 30s and low 40s for the foreseeable future. Then there’s the possibility of other stressful things happening in just a couple of days in reaction to an event that really shouldn’t be stressful at all.
Maybe you’re a little on edge right about now and could really use something sweet to pick you up. Thankfully, COVID-19 hasn’t stopped Denver’s restaurants from churning out all manner of great desserts (if anything, many have somehow upped their game). Better yet, most of those desserts are available to-go, meaning you can support local businesses while stuffing your face with sweet goodness and no one outside your bubble even needs to see you do it.
Ahead of what could be another tough week (as if 2021 hasn’t already had enough of those) we put together this handy list of our favorite places to take out some sweet relief. There’s a reason stressed is just desserts spelled backwards.
7506 E. 38th Ave.
This classic Mexican ice cream and dessert parlor specializes in fruit desserts, including magonadas and fresadas that are as portable as they are tasty. There is also a to-go banana split made with homemade strawberry and pineapple syrups.
5410 Colfax Ave.
Although Hank’s usually offers an assortment of desserts, these days it’s only selling one: the $5 banana pudding. Thankfully that pudding is the best one on the menu and more than enough reason to swing by this East Colfax shrine to smoked meat.
“We definitely do fresh bananas, vanilla wafers and we make our whipped cream as well from scratch,” said co-owner Katie Thompson. “And we actually put almond extract instead of vanilla so it tastes different than normal whipped cream.”
Thompson said the banana pudding always comes in a cup with a lid “making it nice and transportable.”
850 S. Monaco Parkway, Unit 9
This Turkish spot offers a variety of desserts, but most people come for the baklava. The traditional pistachio version is the most popular, but owner Ismet Yilmaz recommends the carrot baklava, which is so named because it’s larger and more buttery than traditional baklava.
Yilmaz said that while baklava is a popular dessert throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East, there is one quality that makes the Turkish kind distinct.
“The main difference is we don’t have any cardamom or cinnamon or honey,” he said. “The Turkish version is just made with a simple syrup without other spices.”
654 S. Colorado Blvd., Glendale
8261 E. Northfield Blvd.
Those looking for flan are hard pressed to find a better option than the flavorful and velvety smooth version served at this Cuban sandwich shop. However, we recommend the tres leches cake, which is sweet and airy and comes topped with fresh merengue and caramel candy. There is also a chocolate tres leches cake, and owner Kristy Bigelow said sweet tooths shouldn’t sleep on the Cuban coffees.
“They are as sweet and delicious as any dessert,” she said.
1350 S. Colorado Blvd. #121
The ice-heavy desserts from this Taiwanese sweets shop might not seem very portable, but Meet Fresh provides cooler bags and extra ice to keep them from melting. Taro (a slightly sweet and nutty fruit) is the star here. Popular items include Icy Taro Ball #4, which consists of red beans, taro and boba on a bed of shaved ice, and the mini taro ball tofu pudding.
Near Neiman Marcus inside Cherry Creek Mall
OK, so the Cherry Creek Mall doesn’t exactly scream — or even whisper — hot take-out dessert destination. But it really should now that this new counter is the only place we know of in the city specializing in scooping up safe-to-eat raw cookie dough.
Scooped serves up the classics, like chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin, but it would be a shame to go so basic given the availability of options like the Mexican Hot Chocolate (chocolate cookie dough made with a hint of cayenne and covered in marshmallows and chocolate sauce) and the compost (which includes crushed potato chips, graham crackers and pretzels). Although you can order by the scoop, this might be the week to grab a pint to eat in the tub, Ben and Jerry’s style.
1238 E. Colfax Ave.
How do you improve upon an ice cream sandwich? Try using pop tarts instead of cookies. That’s the thinking at this funky Philadelphia-themed ice cream emporium, where pop-tart ice cream sandwiches are just one of the creative takes on classic desserts.
There’s also the ice cream cannoli, which is just what it sounds like: a cannoli shell stuffed with ice cream. The massive shakes are also popular, but the bar manager we spoke to said the uninitiated should look no further than the sandwich made with two cookies-and-cream pop-tarts and the dirty cookies-and-cream ice cream (which is so named because chocolate ice cream is used as the base).
“That’s our absolute best seller for a reason,” she said. “It’s dangerously good.”
1201 E. Colfax Ave.
The undisputed star of this stylish Colfax bakery are the cupcakes, which come in 97 varieties. Most popular is the crème brulee cupcake (there is also a full-sized cake version) that consists of a vanilla bean cake with a Bavarian custard crème on the inside.
“We actually burn the top of it to make a crème brulee aspect on top of the cake so it actually cracks underneath your knife when you cut into it, which is kind of cool,” said senior cake designer Shadee Jergens.
494 E. 19th Ave.
There’s no way to list Denver dessert spots without including this 12-year-old temple of the sweet, which features a case stocked with cake slices, cookies and other take-out treats. But that’s especially true now that D Bar has debuted a menu of seasonal treats. Current offerings include hot chocolate bombs (chocolate shells filled with drinking chocolate and marshmallows) and a full Mardi Gras king cake.
1925 Blake St.
This LoDo truck combines two of the dessert world’s greatest joys: decadent waffles and eating things on sticks. The liege waffle-on-a-stick options lean toward the whimsical with toppings such as cinnamon toast crunch, fruity pebbles and cheesecake bites. Those looking to seriously indulge might want to pair a waffle with one of the shakes — the horchata shake comes topped with sugar whipped cream and churro sticks.
2129 Larimer St.
1011 Inverness St., Inverness
While Marco’s makes a mean chocolate chip cannoli, those looking to feed a group should opt for the gooey, decadent Nutella pizza, which is also available in a gluten-free version. Hardcore Nutella lovers may want to make the trip down I-25 to the Inverness location, which is the only Marco’s that serves the Nutella Nuggets. But fair warning: It may be hard to make it all the way home before sneaking a bit of these pillowy soft pieces of lightly fried dough that come drizzled in warm Nutella.
3900 Tennyson St.
Tucked in among the eyesore towers that continue to pop up on an increasingly-sterile Tennyson Street is this Mexican gem, which has become one of Denver’s best options for churros. What makes their version is the caramel filling — and at $6 for four, they’re also a decent deal.