Denver's restaurants have flawlessly executed classic desserts, infusing originality and topping them with artistic flare. The last course may very well be the first thing on your mind.
CAKE AND SHAKE AT D BAR DESSERTS
D Bar's walls resemble Tiffany & Co.'s iconic robin's egg hue. But forget diamonds. These desserts are any girl's (or guy's) best friend. Food Network personality Keegan Gerhard and his wife Lisa Bailey opened D Bar with such offerings as "Cake And Shake" and "Milk & Cookies." The vanilla malt is so carefully prepared it slowly morphs into a delicacy, and the chocolate cake with manjari frosting is quite possibly the richest, creamiest slice ever. Watch the owners prepare desserts behind a modern bar until midnight on weekends. Everything from the presentation (the vanilla malt, peppered with chocolate-covered rice balls, balances on a mound of sugar in the slotted plate) to the ambiance and the case of lemon and peanut-butter-and-jelly cupcakes is a reminder that regardless of age, dessert never goes out of style.
CRÈME BRULEE AT CRUISE ROOM
Crème brulee: the classic dessert order. You know you can't DIY without risking serious bodily injury (a dessert requiring a blow torch, really?) and someone else at your table is probably craving it, too. At the Cruise Room, Denver's oldest bar, located in the historic Oxford Hotel, the crème brulee is as perfectly bronzed as a beach babe, the custard stays chilled and consistent all the way through, and the sultry, red-shaded jazz bar is conducive to enjoying this French dessert while sipping a vanilla-bean or white-chocolate after-dinner martini.
SOPAPILLAS AND (FRIED) ICE CREAM AT LAS DELICIAS/RIO GRANDE
Fried ice cream seems more counterintuitive than, say, fried dough. But the crunchiness of Las Delicias' ice cream, covered in corn flakes and deep fried, perfectly complements the airy, powdered sugar-dusted sopapillas. Drizzle with honey and you've got the hottest/coldest combo in Denver. If you're not quite ready for a double dose of deep fry, try the sopapillas with classic vanilla-bean ice cream at Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant .
BAKLAVA AT JERUSALEM RESTAURANT
It's no wonder baklava's origins are foggy. It seems that every known ethnicity would want to claim this delicious, age-old dessert. I've tried it at various Greek and Middle Eastern restaurants, but my favorite is Jerusalem Restuarant's. Each layer of the baklava's crunchy phyllo dough fully absorbs the simple sauce of butter, water, sugar, vanilla, honey and cinnamon to boast unceasing flavor. Chopped nuts, also the product of hours basking in the sweet sauce, add a muted crunch. So it's also no wonder that, located near the University of Denver, the restaurant has become a go-to for ravenous co-eds. The baklava glistens in a puddle of syrup as it arrives at your table, but after eating a well-seasoned lamb kabob or falafel, you'll be the one soaking it all up.
FUDGE AT ROCKY MOUNTAIN CHOCOLATE FACTORY
Ah, fudge — one of the few desserts you can eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner without facing social ridicule, particularly if you're a tourist visiting one of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory's original Colorado locations. (Or just pretending to be a tourist visiting one of its original Colorado locations.) Sure, the franchise is everywhere now. But we all know that it was once a little local treasure we called our own. So, if only for nostalgia's sake, go on. Get yourself a big hunk of fudge — and a box of truffles to boot.
PIE AT WEDNESDAY'S PIE
Cupcakes. Donuts. Cronuts. They've all had their day in the sun, but now it's the humble pie's time to shine! And the best place to get a slice (or a whole pie, should you be so inclined) is at Wednesday's Pie, a tiny pie shop tucked under Larimer Square. Check the old-fashioned chalkboard sign to find out which seasonal pies they're serving today: key lime, caramel apple, banana cream, Palisade peach or even pineapple ricotta. (Pssst: Wednesday's is also the front to Green Russell, Downtown Denver's speakeasy-style cocktail bar!)
ICE CREAM AT BONNIE BRAE ICE CREAM
Every city needs a retro-style ice cream parlor where a vintage sign hangs above perpetually chipper patrons, the line almost always stretches outside, and there are entirely too many options cluttering the board behind the counter. Denver's is Bonnie Brae Ice Cream. All 50-plus flavors are made right there on University Boulevard, and one scoop is the size of a typical ice cream parlor's two.
LITTLE MAN ICE CREAM
It's hard to miss Little Man Ice Cream in the Highlands neighborhood — just look for the 28-foot-tall milk can and you'll know you're in the right place. There's usually a line, but it's worth the wait for this handmade, locally sourced sweet. In addition to standards like butter pecan and mint chocolate chip, there are sample innovative flavors from Bhakti chai to salted Oreo. Little Man also offers vegan ice cream and sorbet for the dairy-averse, so it'll make everyone's day. You can also find Little Man Ice Cream at the Milkbox Ice Creamery in Denver Union Station.
MOLTEN CHOCOLATE CAKE AT CORRIDOR 44
Crossing any cultural, historical and intellectual barriers is the molten chocolate lava volcano tower delight found all over the state. A moist chocolate cake exterior with a gooey molten center, complete with powdered sugar, thinly sliced almonds or a mound of fresh fruit — it's everything the quintessential chocolate dessert should be. Whatever the name, wherever the restaurant, each provides an original take on the mouthwatering modern classic. Celebrate the success of this coco indulgence with Corridor 44's version, which is topped with whipped cream and berries.