In Alexandria, we always have room for dessert. The city is known as a dream for cuisine with a booming restaurant scene in Old Town and off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods. And Alexandria is a top dessert destination, with a bevy of bakeries and sweets shops serving everything from old-timey candies to artisan gelato. (Our frozen treats even inspired the Washington Post to create an ice cream crawl around Old Town.)
From cupcakes to custard, popsicles and pies, to specialty treats for dogs, in Alexandria they are not “just” desserts—they are the stuff of sweet dreams. Want the scoop? Read on for our roundup of sweet snacks in ALX:
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Donut destination Sugar Shack’s Alexandria location is the latest hotspot in the Braddock/Parker-Gray area of North Old Town. Its designer donuts ranging from maple bacon goodness to red velvet will leave you in a glaze daze of happiness, while its hidden speakeasy Captain Gregory’s lets you enjoy a handcrafted cocktail alongside donut-inspired bites. (Tip: follow Sugar Shack Alexandria on Facebook or Twitter to learn how to get the free house doughnut of the day.)
Image credit: Casa Rosada Artisan Gelato
Inside a pink-colored house one block off King Street there’s a sweet oasis for tired taste buds. It’s Casa Rosada, a family-owned shop started by Argentine immigrants that serves creamy handcrafted gelato and sorbet in flavors like dulce de leche, malbec and chocolate granizado. Allergic to dairy, nuts or eggs? No fear—they’ve got gelatos and sorbets for you too.
New to lower King Street, Kilwins is another example of a nostalgia-inducing ice cream shop, where you can watch as the staff creates confections including traditional salt water taffy, fudge, caramels and chocolates. If the heavenly smell doesn’t bring out your inner kid, the taste will. Order a scoop of strawberry chunk or toasted coconut, then head two blocks down to the waterfront to enjoy your homemade treat.
Blüprint sells artisan chocolates made on-site inside a hundred-year-old building on King Street, where a micro-café lets you pair espresso, coffee or tea with truffles and bonbons in complex, whimsical flavors. Or you can order a drinking chocolate to go with your chocolate box, because there is no such thing as too much chocolate—take it from Martha Washington.
Blurring the lines between dessert and art, Fleurir offers chocolates handcrafted by a cuisine chef-turned-chocolatier in flavors like lavender shiraz and rosebud cardamom. The detailed designs on each truffle are so lovely you may think twice about eating them—oh, who am I kidding. You’ll eat them. And experience bliss few mortals have ever known.
Pop’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream
Zip back in time to when tall stools, checkered floors and a whole host of delicious flavors were the name of the ice cream game with a visit to Pop’s. Just one block from the waterfront on King Street, this old-fashioned ice cream parlor offers over 60 flavors, from traditional favorites to funky yet totally yummy, scooped into cones and sky-high sundaes.
Alexandria is all about authenticity, and this mom-and-pop ice cream shop on King Street serves it up in a waffle cone. Homemade ice cream in classic flavors like cinnamon, butter pecan, pistachio and rocky road, plus cookies and cobblers baked on-site for the last 25 years? Yes please.
Ben & Jerry’s
Everyone knows and loves two of my best pals, Ben and Jerry. Their creative and pop culture-inflected flavors are household names across the country, consistently churning out-of-this-world concoctions, oftentimes packed with chunks of rich chocolate, fruit or other candy pieces. And of course, being an institution, they’ve got your classics too, so there’s something for everyone.
Frozen Custard and Gelato
The beauty of this Wisconsin-style frozen custard shop on Del Ray’s Mount Vernon Avenue is that its ever-changing menu means no two visits are alike. Check the website for a flavor forecast that might include chocolate covered pretzel or lemon meringue pie or try other treats like a root beer float popsicle. Even your pup can partake with an all-natural “puppy pop.”
At this cozy neighborhood favorite, you’ll find espresso, sorbet, and pie (E.S.P.), aka the three best things on the planet, all under one roof. Sip on a Nutella latte while ogling the colorful sorbets (many with whole chunks of fruit) or live a little and order a cup of roasted plum sorbet or jasmine pear.
Cupcakes and Baked Goods
The cupcake craze may never die in Alexandria, where the locally-owned Lavender Moon whips up organic, small-batch fluffy bites that have amassed a loyal following. It’s hard to choose between flavors like Buttermilk Cupcake with Mexican Chocolate Pudding and Vanilla Bean with Lemon Curd, so don’t choose. Treat yourself and order two. Or three…
Find from-scratch cupcakes baked daily on King Street at this local institution, where fresh fruit, bourbon vanilla and other premium ingredients take your taste buds to infinity and beyond. The buttercream frosting, well, takes the cake, and the signature rosewater flavor is reason enough to make a date with this little cupcake.
Bittersweet is a neighborhood hangout for its specialty sandwiches and salad bar, but the real draw is its homemade desserts including cupcakes (the mini cupcakes are a crowd favorite!), seasonal pies, cakes and cookies. Plus, four-legged friends won’t feel left out when you treat them to the dog-friendly pupcakes.
Buzz, you had me at Cookie Monster cupcake. Of course, that’s not the only sweet treat you can dig into at this bakery, coffee shop and lounge, which takes you from morning to night with breakfast sandwiches and pastries; cupcakes, pies and cookies; beer handpicked by ChurchKey guru Greg Engert and wine from Planet Wine in Del Ray. All of this plus free wi-fi equals your home away from home.
Society Fair’s epicurean emporium is home to a bakery whose rich creations like coconut cake, Mississippi Mud Bars and homemade rice crispy treats are sure to satisfy any sweet tooth. Even “batter,” you can grab a glass of wine from the bar because why not have your cake and a drink too?
While several bakeries in Alexandria offer gluten free options, only Happy Tart in Del Ray is devoted exclusively to gluten-free baked goods including cakes, cupcakes, pastries, cookies and yes, tarts. Chef Emma converts the French pastry recipes she learned in culinary school into gluten-free recipes that will wow gluten-free folks and gluten-eaters alike. Pro tip: the macarons and chocolate éclairs are divine.
Dairy Godmother’s frozen custard sure hits the spot, but did you know that this Del Ray fixture also offers treats for your furry friend’s sweet tooth? Try the yogurt Puppy Pops, aka pupsicles, sure to cool down a hot dog.
The Dog Park
Did someone say sugar-free treats? The Dog Park’s bakery table is laid out with woof-worthy yums in a variety of seasonal shapes and colors. Tip: Try the yogurt-covered peanut butter “bonbons” to get a delighted yelp from Fido.
Find more information about ice cream shops, bakeries and other sweets spots in Alexandria here.