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These eateries are exactly what they sound like — restaurants that specialize in bespoke treats and are open late. It’s a nice alternative to dinner and a movie.
“Sometimes my husband and I would just want to take a walk for something sweet,” said Mardhory Cepedas of Kouklet Brazilian Bakehouse. Launched as a pop up, Kouklet is evolving into a brick-and-mortar dessert cafe on East Passyunk this December.
The confectionery will specialize in bolos (aka cake rolls) and trifle pastries, part of Cepedas’s goal to showcase “the diversity of Brazilian cuisine beyond just barbecue.”
When it opens, Kouklet will add a new perspective to late-night sweets in the city. The majority of Philly’s dessert cafes deal in Asian-French fusion — think mille crêpes and tarts flavored with lychee or taro — part of a broader industry trend of treats inspired by Asian cultures across the U.S.
Where can you find this in Philly? Here’s a look at 10 dessert cafes around the city, where you can fill your evenings with pastries, shaved ice, dessert pizza, and decadent hot chocolates.
145 N. 11th St.; 1622 South St.
Hours: Chinatown: 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sun. – Thurs.; 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Fri. – Sat.
South Street: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sun. – Thurs.; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fri. – Sat.
An offshoot of Hunan-Szechuan restaurant Bai Wei (formerly Sakura Mandarin), A La Mousse is a local chain of small batch bakeries putting an Chinese spin on classically French and Italian confections. Menu staples include silky crepe cakes in flavors like matcha and taro, an ultra-thick panna cotta topped with lychee, and a suite of aromatic milk teas.
14 E. Moyamensing Ave. (Pennsport)
Hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tues. – Sat.; 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Co-owned by best friends and business partners Sarah Qi and Trista Tang, Cake & Joe is a coffee shop, bruncherie, and dessert cafe where flavors from France, Japan, China, and the United States intertwine. The menu includes plenty of chocolatey mousses and classic brunch staples (don’t miss the Benedict made with milk bread). Stars of the show are the riffs on milky Japanese soft drink Calpis.
1647 E. Passyunk Ave. (East Passyunk — opening soon)
Hours: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Weds. – Sun.
After acquiring the storefront next to Cantina Los Caballitos, baker/owner Cepedas is set to premiere the space as an all-day and evening bakery in December. Expect warm breakfast pastries in the morning and more elaborate sweets in the evening, with plenty of bolos, sonhos, and brigadeiros in the mix.
Can’t wait until December? Head to Kouklet’s Instagram for a weekly schedule of their pop-ups.
1013 Cherry St. (Chinatown)
Hours: 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily
The Philadelphia outpost of this NYC-based chain is best known for — you guessed it — mango desserts. The menu centers around sago, a Southeast Asian version of tapioca, topped with mango and a variety of fresh fruit and sweet jellies. Mango not your thing? The restaurant also serves oversized cream puffs, waffle ice cream sandwiches, and classic sundaes.
923 Race St. (Chinatown)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mon. – Thurs.; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fri. – Sun.
Matcha Cafe Maiko calls itself Philly’s first-ever storefront dedicated to all things matcha, and the green tea powder is incorporated into plenty of Instagrammable desserts. The matcha soft serve — which somehow always coalesces into a perfect swirl — sits atop shaved ice and chiffon cake parfaits or sinks to the bottom of rich floats.
1500 Walnut St. (Center City)
Hours: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Weds. – Thurs.; 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fri.; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sat.; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sun
Max Brenner is like Old Reliable, the place you take the kids to celebrate piano recitals, winning soccer seasons, and middle school graduations. The Philadelphia location is one of 50 globally and two stateside, and boasts a menu full of whimsical desserts, like a chocolate pizza slathered in peanut butter or a churro-centric fondue board.
125 N. 11th St. (Chinatown)
Hours. 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. Weds. – Mon.
This relatively new player on the dessert cafe scene serves dessert and brunch throughout the afternoon and evening, dealing in large portions, frothy lattes, and box cakes — tall, square slices layered with whipped cream and custard.
203 N. 9th St. (Chinatown)
Hours: 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sun. – Thurs.; 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fri. – Sat.
What started as a small tea house in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens, New York is now a chain of dessert cafes with locations in Philadelphia and Princeton. The vibe is warm and refined, with high tea served in the vibrant tones of rose and lavender milk teas, green tea-infused pastries, and nutty red bean ice cream.
1001 Arch St. (Chinatown)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sun. – Thurs.; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fri. – Sat.
Located a block from Reading Terminal Market, Snow Ice & Hot Dessert serves a cross section of chilled desserts from all around Asia. There’s Korean bingsu, shaved ice thickened with condensed milk and topped with anything from cake slices to oreos, and Japanese kakigori, an ice dessert that’s like a fluffier version of piragua.
1172 S. 9th St. (Passyunk Square)
Hours: 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. Weds. – Sun.
Owned by Rene Kobeitri (yes, the man behind the 510-foot-long cheesesteak), Rim Cafe is an Italian Market dessert institution best known the Volcano, a decadent hot chocolate that can be made affogato style, or topped with marshmallows or mixed with espresso. The menu is small, centering on crispy flavored cannolis and a selection of gelatos. If you go, expect lots of personal attention and conversation peppered by constant shouts of “Make it ‘appen!”