Dessert serves as a reason to linger with loved ones over a meal, to treat ourselves after a long day, or just as a reminder that there are sweet things in life. From home-grown Nashville classics like Goo-Goo Clusters and Tennessee Waltz cake to international delicacies highlighting Nashville’s diverse population, here’s where to find some of the best desserts in the city.Read More
13 Must-Try Desserts in Nashville
Because everyone knows there’s a second stomach designated just for dessert
Basbousa cake at Lyra
Sample Middle Eastern fare at husband-and-wife team Hrant Arakelian and Elizabeth Endicott’s Lyra on Eastland Avenue. Arakelian brings the Lebanese influence, but Endicott is the pastry chef; her basbousa cake (made from semolina batter) is sweetened with orange blossom water and topped with rose sugar and candied citrus. Cleaving the center with textural brilliance is a thick layer of ashta cream. The subdued brown and blue hues and visible wood-fire oven make the sophisticated cuisine feel comfortable.
Brookie at Noko
This East Nash ode to wood-fired Asian fare knows its way around some flames, but its desserts are no slouch, either. Of particular note is the brookie, a black sesame cookie and chocolate brownie mashup topped with a scoop of ice cream and miso caramel glaze. It’s soft, yet crunchy with a nuanced depth of flavor thanks to the miso in the caramel. If room allows, don’t pass up the ice cream trio with a Dole Whip-like pineapple flavor along with pandan and ube.
Tennessee Waltz cake at City House
James Beard Award-winning chef Tandy Wilson’s industrial-chic Germantown restaurant prides itself on straightforward, homey fare with desserts cut from the same cloth (or cake, in this case). Pastry maven Rebekah Turshen’s famous Tennessee Waltz cake exhibits incredibly thin layers of crumbly cake and white frosting encrusted in chocolate buttermilk pecan praline and drips with bourbon espresso caramel.
Skillet cookie at Lockeland Table
Rustic East Nashville eatery Lockeland Table offers not just one of the best happy hours in town, but a huge gooey chocolate chip cookie served in a cast-iron skillet that’s topped with vanilla bean Bravo gelato. Split the cookie with friends when you gather amidst the wooden tables and lush foliage of this tranquil neighborhood hangout.
Cannoli sundae at Ophelia's Pizza + Bar
Traditional cannolis are delicious, but make it a sundae and you’ve got a whole other beast. Situated in the heart of downtown, pizza bar Ophelia’s turns a classic Italian dessert inside out with a whipped ricotta ice cream sundae topped with pistachio, amarena cherries, and a crunchy house-made pizzelle that pairs perfectly with the restaurant’s date night ambiance.
CrazyShakes at Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer
While the burgers get their fair share of attention at downtown’s Black Tap, it’s the CrazyShakes that steal the show. There’s a bar area near the entrance strictly dedicated to concocting these larger-than-life milkshakes. But really, that’s a misnomer — these stand up as desserts all on their own. With a variety of options — from the Cakeshake with an entire slice of funfetti cake perched precariously on the cup to the Bam Bam shake loaded with a strawberry Pop-Tart and Rice Krispies treat — you’ll want to make sure you have a friend or four to help take one down.
B-52 cheesecake at Café Intermezzo
Escape the hustle and bustle of American urban life inside this dignified European coffeehouse located in SoBro. The bakery here offers over 23 different cakes and cheesecakes, making it difficult to choose just one, but the Oreo cookie crust cheesecake is a local favorite. The dessert is infused with coffee, Kahlua, and orange, and wrapped in layers of dark chocolate ganache and house-made chocolate buttercream. On top: a sprinkling of tiny white chocolate discs.
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Goo Goo Cluster cheesecake at Harper's
Globally-inspired SoBro steakhouse Harper’s serves up Nashville’s official candy as a New York-style cheesecake on a roasted peanut crust that’s topped with Goo Goo Clusters and chocolate ganache. Enjoy the classic hometown flavors in an elegant wood-and-leather dining room with a glass of wine.
Bomboloni at Luogo
Manhattan restaurateurs Anthony and Theresa Scotto bring the Amalfi Coast to the Gulch with Luogo’s airy dining space, light colors, and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. Their gluten-free, sugar-dusted Italian donuts are just as airy and light — they’re made-to-order, ready for dipping in chocolate and vanilla cream sauce, and worth the $16 price tag.
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Carrot cake at J. Alexander's Restaurant
With multiple Nashville locations, national chain J. Alexander’s sets the standard in classic Americana dining with hearty, unpretentious desserts straight out of a 1940’s first-class dining car (remember when trains were fancy?). Its famous carrot cake is soaked in a buttermilk syrup to guarantee moistness with every bite, generous enough for two (or three) people, and bursting with shredded coconut, pineapple, and pecans.
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Japanese shaved ice (kakigori) at Locust
Chef Trevor Moran’s loaf pan-shaped kakigori — a Japanese shaved ice dessert — carries delicate notes of honeycomb and passionfruit and is topped by a brightly colored sugared egg yolk that delivers interesting textural depth and flavor with each mouthful. The intimate 12 South restaurant combines Japanese concepts of precise simplicity and Scandinavian minimalism (Moran cooked at Noma for four years). Make reservations in advance — Locust books up fast.
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Oatmeal cookie sandwich at The Butter Milk Ranch
Fuel your Sunday brunch-and-shopping spree in 12 South with a rich, chewy oatmeal cookie sandwich filled with dulce de leche and brown butter frosting. The hip small-batch bakery is paneled in bright wood from top to bottom and doles out treats like heavenly croissants and Mexican hot chocolate from Wednesday to Sunday.
Baklava at Newroz Marketسوبر ماركت
On the outside, Newroz Market appears to be just one of the many grocery and shawarma spots serving Nashville’s Kurdish community in the Elysian Plaza shopping center. Nestled in the back of the grocery store behind aisles of olives and herbs is a small dine-in area where they offer simple kabobs and shawarmas as well as traditional sweets renowned in the community and well beyond. There are eight different varieties of baklava in different shapes and sizes; some are filled with pistachios, others with sweet cheese, but all are fresh and flaky.
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Banana pudding at the Loveless Cafe
Walking into the Loveless Cafe in southwest Nashville is like stepping into a Southern grandma’s kitchen — and few things are more Southern than homemade banana pudding. Like with everything else at the septuagenarian institution, it makes its banana pudding and vanilla wafers from scratch.