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Chocolate mousse at Routier Albert Law

13 SF Restaurants Where You Should Never Skip Dessert

Restaurants where sweets can steal the show

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For some, dessert is only an afterthought, the saccharine postscript to a satisfying meal. But for others, dessert signifies something slightly more. If not the central motivation for going out to dinner, a distinctive dessert menu presents yet another opportunity for chefs to surprise and delight.

In a town studded with Michelin-starred meals, we've turned our eye to what may be dinner's most overlooked event: dessert. Here, we've selected San Francisco's restaurants with the most delicious dessert menus — if you happen to dine at one of these destinations, you'd do well to turn your after-meal attentions to the dessert menu.

There, you'll discover some of the most artful, sugar-spun creations that San Francisco has to offer; whether their delightful presentations (Juan Contreras's often performative iterations at Atelier Crenn), or their delectable imaginings of the tried and true American classics (Nicole Krasinski’s ice cream sandwiches at State Bird), these desserts may enchant your taste buds even more than your dinner.

The latest CDC guidance for vaccinated diners during the COVID-19 outbreak is here; dining out still carries risks for unvaccinated diners and workers. Please be aware of changing local rules, and check individual restaurant websites for any additional restrictions such as mask requirements. Find a local vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Atelier Crenn

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Pastry chef Juan Contreras's sugary additions to Dominique Crenn's whimsical, three Michelin-starred menu have included desserts like Aubergine Fumée, a confection of smoked eggplant and chai spices that seems part pastry, part performance piece as it arrives to the table on an elevated plate emitting a plume of steam. In the past, Atelier Crenn featured a dessert tasting menu that was meant to be enjoyed as a meal in and of itself.

Wildseed

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The newish and still buzzy vegan restaurant from the prolific Back of the House Group has a surprisingly satisfying dessert menu for a restaurant with such a healthy aura: No fewer than five desserts, plus two dessert cocktails, so even those who eschew animal products can dig into Meyer lemon cheesecake and a coconut chai with a vodka kick. 

Cotogna

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Cotogna is known best for its giant raviolo with a golden egg yolk buried in the center, as well as other fresh and filled pastas and spit-roasted meats. But the Cali-Italian favorite also has a deceptively simple dessert menu, courtesy of pastry chef Jenn Felton, that showcases produce from the restaurant’s own farm in rustic crostatas and gelatos. 

Gelato at Cotogna Cotogna

Lord Stanley

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The husband and wife team behind Lord Stanley have dreamed up a dessert menu that borrows from both Europe and New American cuisine. Occasionally, the menu leans savory, as with the charred nectarine halves dappled with finely sliced slivers of buttery Castelvetrano olives and bathed in olive oil.

Mister Jiu's

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Chinatown’s Mister Jiu’s fires on all cylinders, and new pastry chef Lauren Melhus’s program is no exception. Black sesame bavarian, sesame balls bursting with blueberry compote, and lemon verbena rice pudding with boozy cherries make a visit to this standout restaurant complete.

Octavia

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Chef Melissa Perello's mastery doesn't end when it comes to dessert. Her after-dinner menu features lemon verbena semifreddo with strawberries and buckwheat graham, as well as a malted chocolate cremeux with hazelnuts and salted muscovado chantilly.

Routier

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Star pastry chef Belinda Leong of B. Patisserie is known for her stunning arrays of kouign amann at the bakery. But Routier is the team’s new full-service, sit-down restaurant, which opened down the block during the pandemic. Savory chef John Paul Carmona dazzles with steelhead rillettes and lobster grand aioli, but bien sur, save room for dessert, when Leong slides in chocolate mousse, hazelnut crunch cake, and the financiers that dreams are made of. 

Routier Albert Law

State Bird Provisions

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Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski’s dim-sum inspired menu is just as delicious when it comes to dessert: with a selection of items like an olive oil ice cream sandwich with lemon macarons and pluots, along with a strawberry roll cake that bundles fluffy sponge cake up with slow-roasted strawberries, you'll do well to not get too full during dinner. The "World Peace" (a creamy shot of peanut muscovado milk) is equally unmissable.

Rich Table

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It's not without reason that Food & Wine Magazine dubbed Rich Table pastry chef Sarah Rich the "Best New Pastry Chef" of 2014 — her artful interpretations of sugary American classics display a cultivated craftsmanship that will work wonders on your palate, from a white chocolate and rose panna cotta with peaches and streusel, to a cherry ice with almond milk “ice cream” and candied almonds.

Californios

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In its new SoMa location with a spacious patio, chef Val M. Cantu’s Michelin-starred restaurant features inventive, mind-bending, regularly-changing desserts on its Mexican-inspired menu like pineapple paletas spun in coconut sugar and an entire course of chocolates.

U:Dessert Story

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It would be remiss to fail to mention U: Dessert Story, the restaurant that’s completely dedicated to Asian-American desserts, with two locations in the Bay. When you want to skip dinner entirely and go straight for dessert, sit down for the matcha crepe cake, mango sticky rice, and more, with elaborate plating and over-the-top drizzles, as seen on TikTok. 

Banana roll cake at U Dessert Story U Dessert Story

Tartine Manufactory

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No surprises here: A meal at Tartine’s large restaurant, bakery, and all-day cafe Tartine Manufactory must either start with, end with, or otherwise include dessert. James Beard award-winning Tartine pastry chef Elisabeth Prueitt’s creations like ice cream pie are as much a draw as any loaf of bread.

Chocolate soufflé cake at Tartine Gentl + Hyers

Marlena Restaurant

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A Michelin-starred power couple opened Marlena during the pandemic: The husband-and-wife owners are savory chef David Fisher (Bird Dog, Sorrel) and pastry chef Serena Chow Fisher (Eleven Madison Park, Bird Dog). They’re doing an affordable prix-fixe menu for $65, which changes often, but whatever that last course is, it’s going to be good. And Serena Chow Fisher also tucks panna cotta and cookies into picnic baskets, and is currently selling ice cream by the pint, perfect for toting to nearby Precita Park.

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Atelier Crenn

Pastry chef Juan Contreras's sugary additions to Dominique Crenn's whimsical, three Michelin-starred menu have included desserts like Aubergine Fumée, a confection of smoked eggplant and chai spices that seems part pastry, part performance piece as it arrives to the table on an elevated plate emitting a plume of steam. In the past, Atelier Crenn featured a dessert tasting menu that was meant to be enjoyed as a meal in and of itself.

Wildseed

The newish and still buzzy vegan restaurant from the prolific Back of the House Group has a surprisingly satisfying dessert menu for a restaurant with such a healthy aura: No fewer than five desserts, plus two dessert cocktails, so even those who eschew animal products can dig into Meyer lemon cheesecake and a coconut chai with a vodka kick. 

Cotogna

Gelato at Cotogna Cotogna

Cotogna is known best for its giant raviolo with a golden egg yolk buried in the center, as well as other fresh and filled pastas and spit-roasted meats. But the Cali-Italian favorite also has a deceptively simple dessert menu, courtesy of pastry chef Jenn Felton, that showcases produce from the restaurant’s own farm in rustic crostatas and gelatos. 

Gelato at Cotogna Cotogna

Lord Stanley

The husband and wife team behind Lord Stanley have dreamed up a dessert menu that borrows from both Europe and New American cuisine. Occasionally, the menu leans savory, as with the charred nectarine halves dappled with finely sliced slivers of buttery Castelvetrano olives and bathed in olive oil.

Mister Jiu's

Chinatown’s Mister Jiu’s fires on all cylinders, and new pastry chef Lauren Melhus’s program is no exception. Black sesame bavarian, sesame balls bursting with blueberry compote, and lemon verbena rice pudding with boozy cherries make a visit to this standout restaurant complete.

Octavia

Chef Melissa Perello's mastery doesn't end when it comes to dessert. Her after-dinner menu features lemon verbena semifreddo with strawberries and buckwheat graham, as well as a malted chocolate cremeux with hazelnuts and salted muscovado chantilly.

Routier

Routier Albert Law

Star pastry chef Belinda Leong of B. Patisserie is known for her stunning arrays of kouign amann at the bakery. But Routier is the team’s new full-service, sit-down restaurant, which opened down the block during the pandemic. Savory chef John Paul Carmona dazzles with steelhead rillettes and lobster grand aioli, but bien sur, save room for dessert, when Leong slides in chocolate mousse, hazelnut crunch cake, and the financiers that dreams are made of. 

Routier Albert Law

State Bird Provisions

Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski’s dim-sum inspired menu is just as delicious when it comes to dessert: with a selection of items like an olive oil ice cream sandwich with lemon macarons and pluots, along with a strawberry roll cake that bundles fluffy sponge cake up with slow-roasted strawberries, you'll do well to not get too full during dinner. The "World Peace" (a creamy shot of peanut muscovado milk) is equally unmissable.

Rich Table

It's not without reason that Food & Wine Magazine dubbed Rich Table pastry chef Sarah Rich the "Best New Pastry Chef" of 2014 — her artful interpretations of sugary American classics display a cultivated craftsmanship that will work wonders on your palate, from a white chocolate and rose panna cotta with peaches and streusel, to a cherry ice with almond milk “ice cream” and candied almonds.

Californios

In its new SoMa location with a spacious patio, chef Val M. Cantu’s Michelin-starred restaurant features inventive, mind-bending, regularly-changing desserts on its Mexican-inspired menu like pineapple paletas spun in coconut sugar and an entire course of chocolates.

U:Dessert Story

Banana roll cake at U Dessert Story U Dessert Story

It would be remiss to fail to mention U: Dessert Story, the restaurant that’s completely dedicated to Asian-American desserts, with two locations in the Bay. When you want to skip dinner entirely and go straight for dessert, sit down for the matcha crepe cake, mango sticky rice, and more, with elaborate plating and over-the-top drizzles, as seen on TikTok. 

Banana roll cake at U Dessert Story U Dessert Story

Tartine Manufactory

Chocolate soufflé cake at Tartine Gentl + Hyers

No surprises here: A meal at Tartine’s large restaurant, bakery, and all-day cafe Tartine Manufactory must either start with, end with, or otherwise include dessert. James Beard award-winning Tartine pastry chef Elisabeth Prueitt’s creations like ice cream pie are as much a draw as any loaf of bread.

Chocolate soufflé cake at Tartine Gentl + Hyers

Marlena Restaurant

A Michelin-starred power couple opened Marlena during the pandemic: The husband-and-wife owners are savory chef David Fisher (Bird Dog, Sorrel) and pastry chef Serena Chow Fisher (Eleven Madison Park, Bird Dog). They’re doing an affordable prix-fixe menu for $65, which changes often, but whatever that last course is, it’s going to be good. And Serena Chow Fisher also tucks panna cotta and cookies into picnic baskets, and is currently selling ice cream by the pint, perfect for toting to nearby Precita Park.

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