While Philly is most well-known for cheesesteaks, soft pretzels, and authentic pizza, you can find pretty much any food under the sun here including fabulous desserts. From award winning bakeries which serve homemade treats, to coffee shops specializing in handmade pastries, to super popular vegan milkshakes that are so good that tourists line up for them, Philly has you covered with endless tantalizing dessert options.
While we often skip the dessert menu because these sweet treats are typically loaded with sugar and calories, not to mention quite pricey, vacation is definitely the time to splurge! Below are a few awesome treats not to be missed during your time in Philly.
Matcha green tea cheesecake
Where: A La Mousse
Locations: Chinatown, Rittenhouse Square, Narberth (Main Line suburb)
A La Mousse is an incredible Asian/European fusion dessert cafe with several locations in Philly. The original opened in Chinatown, however, they have since opened cafes in Rittenhouse Square and the Main Line. They serve the most decadent and unusual treats in the city. If you love green tea, then this is definitely your place. The green tea matcha cheesecake and matcha latte pictured above are simply amazing.
Their super popular Matcha Milles Crepe Cake, featuring 20 layers of handmade crepes, is often sold out. Other fabulous choice for green tea lovers include Matcha Chocolate Terrine and Matcha Mousse Cake. But the fun doesn’t stop at matcha. How about a Coffee Cream Cake, a Hazelnut Chocolate Cake, or the A La Mousse featuring layers of flourless dark chocolate cake, and raspberry and chocolate mousse? Drinks include a selection of iced matcha, refreshing milkshakes, as well as milk foam teas and a full espresso menu.
The presentation is exquisite – everything in the display case looks beyond tempting. In fact, most of the desserts look too pretty to eat (almost!). So many choices – so little room for more than one dessert! Overall, A La Mousse is the best place in the city (hands down) for dessert lovers! A perfect date destination!
Where: The Victor Cafe
Location: South Philly
Philly’s best Italian restaurant, The Victor Cafe, opened way back in 1918. This makes it one of the oldest restaurants in the city. It’s also one of the best restaurants in the city. The authentic homemade cuisine, rich history, and gorgeous ambiance definitely should place it near the top of any visiting food lover’s bucket list.
Not only is the food here terrific (The Eggplant Parmesan is one of the best Italian dishes I’ve ever tasted), but the atmosphere is beyond charming -so classic and elegant. This is old-world Italian dining at its’ best! What’s more – you even get to be entertained by live opera performances while you dine. Take a look around – the setting may seem familiar. That’s because it was used as Adrian’s restaurant in Rocky Balboa.
Do not leave without trying the tiramisu – it’s one of the best desserts in the entire city. The classic “ladyfingers soaked in espresso and layered with mascarpone cheese & cream” Italian treat can be found at many notable establishments throughout Philly, however, no one offers a better version than the Victor Cafe.
Location: Center City
This 100% vegan Israeli cafe offers the best pita and falafel in the city. Goldie is fast food taken to a new level – vegan, healthy, & totally delicious! Pita aside, this trendy cafe is talked about more for its’ delicious tehina shakes. These naturally dairy-free shakes are made using almond or soy milk, tehini (ground sesame), sweetener, and an optional Turkish coffee or mint flavoring. They are totally amazing, whether or not you prefer to avoid dairy.
Tourists and locals alike often line up to get one of these coveted shakes. Many copycat recipes abound online, however, it’s near impossible to completely duplicate the exact texture and earthy flavor of Philly’s best milkshake. Do not leave without treating yourself to a tehnia shake – you are unlikely to ever find one this tasty anywhere else. And while you are here, do treat yourself to a falafel pita and french fries! Make it a combo for just 15 bucks.
Lavender Honey macaron
Where: ICI Macaron
Location: Old City
This little known gem of a coffeehouse in Old City offers a tantalizing selection of macarons. There are more than 2 dozen flavors daily including matcha green tea, almond praline, dark chocolate, raspberry marshmallow, and mint. Pictured above is a wonderful lavender honey macaron. Lavender and honey pair so well together, and the attractive light purple color and fresh soothing scent make the experience even more heavenly.
Although it’s tempting, do not simply grab a few macarons and leave. Take a seat, enjoy the zen-like ambiance, and savor an expertly made espresso drink. The rich Americano is delicious and pairs nicely with a sweet macaron. Also of note are their homemade pastries. Shown above is a tasty PB&J croissant.
Homemade Pop tarts
Where: Bakeshop on 20th
Location: Rittenhouse Square
Bakeshop on 20th is the premiere bakery in Old City. You really cannot pass this one up if you have a sweet tooth. The shop is located in the trendy foodie haven of Rittenhouse Square and has received much praise since opening. It has been noted in both Zagat’s and The Philadelphia Magazine. Readers of Eater Philly awarded the leaf chef the title of Pastry Chef of the Year in 2016. This local gem specializes in “healthier versions of childhood treats.” Everything is freshly made on-site using family recipes.
Soft cookies, muffins, brownies, babka, muffins, and seasonal pies…it’s treat overload! They even offer a few vegan and GF goodies so nobody has to feel left out (try the popular GF breakfast cookie). The homemade poptart pictured above is beyond outstanding. It’s nice knowing that you can indulge in a slightly healthier & less processed version of this guilty pleasure. They also serve coffee from La Colombe, one of Philly’s finest roasters, so no need to get your caffeine fix anywhere else.
Italian Thick cocoa
Where: Max Brenner
Location: Center City
Nothing completes a winter day in a cold Northeastern city like Philadelphia quite like a rich cup of hot cocoa. In Philly, the place to go to get your winter hot chocolate fix is definitely Max Brenner. This chocolate oasis offers more than enough chocolate delicacies to satisfy your sweet tooth. It’s like being in a Willy Wonka shop with chocolate fondues, desert waffles and crepes, milkshakes and sundaes, and even chocolate pizza on the menu. Really, anything chocolate you can dream up, you will find here.
Nothing really hits the spot quite like a decadent cup of cocoa, especially when it is blistering cold outside. And Max offers an option for every cocoa lover, whether you overload yours with marshmallows, prefer a dash of caramel, or prefer an energy boosting spicy kick. The Italian Thick is the way to go for anyone who loves the rich heavy natural taste of cocoa. Drinks are served in cute “warming mugs” designed to be held with 2 hands.
Note: Dairy-free soy milk available
Where: J’aime French Bakery
Location: Washington Square West
J’aime is a quaint upscale bakery/coffeehouse in the Washington Square section of Center City. Compared to more tourist coffee shops, J’aime is a nice laid-back alternative where you can enjoy a quiet cup of coffee and delicious French pastry. They offer a number of specialty treats including eclairs, croissants, madeleine, napoleon, apple turnover, crepes, amongst others.
The Pumpkin Tart pictured above, if available, is amazing. Otherwise, the delicious chocolate croissants always please. Wonderful La Colombe coffee is served so do get your caffeine fix here. Overall, J’aime is such a nice low-key place to enjoy good food and coffee, all while people watching.
Where: Anthony’s Italian Coffee & Chocolate House
Location: South Philly
Anthony’s is a classic 25+ year old local favorite to pick up fresh pastries in the South Philly region. It is located on the same street as the popular Italian market, one of the country’s longest running open air markets. Since the late 19th century, market vendors have been providing the community with fresh produce, fruit, seafood, and many other specialty goods. Anthony’s is a great stop before hitting the market.
Anthony’s is well known for their delicious assortment of homemade treats which includes everything from cannoli, croissants, tiramisu, Italian cookies, and sfogliatella. The apple turnover pictured above is a great choice for anyone seeking something on the lighter side. Pair it was a nice cup of coffee or a specialty espresso drink. During the warm summer season you need to try one of their frozen frappes!
A few more desserts to consider…
Italian ice – Come summertime, Italian ice is the best way to cool down on a hot day. You can find it just about anywhere. Try Italiano’s Water Ice, Pop’s Homemade Italian Ice, Rita’s Italian Ice, or D’Emilo’s Old World Ice Treats.
Ice cream – The Franklin Fountain is the place to go for your ice cream needs. The old-fashioned shop is conveniently located in Old City, and thus, the perfect stop after a hot summer day exploring. Tons of tempting sundaes, floats, and ice cream flavors on the lineup. They even offer a vegan option! Also well known for their winter hot shakes.
Frozen yogurt – Menchie’s is the best self service fro-yo bar in Philly. It’s a national chain, however, still the best choice in town. They offer a delicious rotating selection of creative flavors and tons of fantastic toppings. Love that they always have at least one vegan option!