Somehow, even after filling up on Tex-Mex (or barbecue, or a rising chef's farm-to-table creations), you still have room for dessert. We've all been there, haven’t we? Because Austin has hot or at least warm weather much of the year, my favorite sweet treats are mostly cool creations. Some are Austin traditions, like La Mexicana's dreamy tres leches cake and colorful sno-cones from Sno-Beach. Others are from innovative relative newcomers on the scene, like the artisanal ice cream makers of Lick and the creative kitchen of Uchiko. If your time in Austin (or just your calorie budget) is limited and you have to choose just one of these, you're in for a tough decision. Choco-holics should head directly to Holy Cacao, culinary adventurers to Uchiko or Lick (although Lick does have some more traditional flavors if you're not up for, say Roasted Beets & Fresh Mint). Kiddos will be happiest at Sno-Beach or Holy Cacao, while La Mexicana has the most distinctively Texas tastes.
La Mexicana Bakery
I had never heard of tres leches cake—a sponge cake soaked in different kinds of milk—before I moved to Austin in 1999, but with the first bite, I instantly regretted all the time I had spent not eating it. That cake was from La Mexicana, and theirs is still my pick for best local version of this delicacy.
Lick Ice Creams
You won't see flavors like Goat Cheese, Thyme and Honey, or Dark Chocolate with Olive Oil & Sea Salt on the flavor list at just any ice cream shop — and, indeed, you might be a little leery of them. But trust Lick. This sweet spot turns locally sourced dairy, and other meticulously chosen ingredients, into magic.
Sno-Beach Hawaiian Shaved Ice
If you visit in Austin during the warmer months (a.k.a. most months), a stop at this shaved-ice truck on Barton Springs Road is mandatory. The delicate texture of the ice will ruin you for lesser sno-cones. The myriad flavors—from almond to wedding cake—even include some good sugar-free choices.
I like how they think at the Holy Cacao dessert trailer: They decided it would be a good idea to put cake (choose from chocolate, red velvet, white or carrot) in a milkshake. And it was. If that sounds like too much, try the frozen hot chocolate or the cake balls.
“Fried milk” may sound like it belongs at the State Fair of Texas, but it's actually right at home at the hip and stylish Uchiko. It's an assemblage of flavors—including fried nuggets of sweetened condensed milk, blobs of sorbet that look like marshmallows and dark chocolate wafers—that's evocative, a little mysterious and a lot of fun.