by Tyler A. Thomas
I have to admit something. I have an addiction. I am addicted to sweets. I love the smells. I love the taste. I love the tiny spot in my stomach that always has a vacancy. It has not always been like this. But coming out of the pandemic and raising two kids, “what’s for dessert?” is a constant topic around our table. There’s something about that “palate cleanser” as my dad would call it. That final sweet sensation to finish off a meal, it’s always on the top of my mind. And Lincoln is no stranger to the sweets game. Searching to score something sweet is easy. Maybe it’s a Midwest thing, but dessert and sweet concoctions span every menu and food venue. I can’t include everything I’ve indulged in over the past year here, but I’ve rounded up some of my favorites for this piece to help you raise your sugar levels and achieve that feeling of sweet satisfaction.
For more than 105 years, the UNL Dairy Store on East Campus of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, has served up spoonfuls of freshly made ice cream. I still remember my first experience with Scarlet and Cream, vanilla ice cream with ribbons of strawberry puree, at my first campus experience as a new Husker. This ice cream is part of my DNA and my family story. My wife and I served it at our wedding and to this day, I’ve sampled many of the unique flavors they offer daily, but I always end up ordering a generous scope of the traditional option. The feeling of nostalgia always gets me. One other ice cream spot a favorite of Lincolnites is Ivanna Cone, in the Haymarket, at 701 P Street in the Creamery Building, which is open until 9.00 p.m. everyday. Their fans queue up in the summer, and actually even in the winter for the fresh locally churned ice cream that is hard to beat.
The Chocolate Season is a Chocolaterie and Espresso Bar serving up artisanal chocolates and other confections. But I like to visit for Waffle Weekends. Each weekend, they have a special menu featuring hot and fresh Belgian waffles with flavor combinations. From the Caramel Apple waffle to the Berry Almond, to my favorite the Churro Waffle. The Chocolate Season’s flaky Belgian waffle is the perfect vessel for sweet cocoa nibs, vanilla whipped cream, a dusting of cinnamon sugar and plenty of melty butter. My kids know it’s a “stay home day” when we load up and head to The Chocolate Season for a Waffle Weekend!
When I am looking for an impressive gift or can’t make up my mind Lulubee Artisanal Chocolates are some of my favorites. There’s something about walking into their south Lincoln shop and seeing each chocolate morsel lined up perfectly. You feel like you’re in a museum reading the descriptions, you almost forget that each of the items can be yours! Plus, it’s one of the freshest experiences you can have; from one angle you watch the chocolatiers make your sweet snack and from another you can pick out your favorites and pop them in a perfect to-go box. I take these to holiday parties or bring them home on the weekend for a weeks long after dinner treat.
I love burgers, fries and freedom and Honest Abe’s four locations across the city serve it all up everyday. But Abe’s also shakes it up with their out of this world ice cream based shakes. If you’re a traditionalist, you can experience a chocolate malt or vanilla shake. But, you’ve got to give the Bananarama a try. It’s packed with ice cream, banana pudding mix, nilla wafers, banana candies and whipped cream. It’s honestly bananas! If bananas aren’t your thing, you can’t go wrong celebrating your birthday anytime of year with the Birthday Cake Shake featuring ice cream, vanilla cake milk, birthday cake milk, sprinkles and whipped cream. It’s like a funfetti cake you can enjoy with a straw!
Venue Restaurant is one of the top fine dining restaurants located in east Lincoln and features a killer menu with fare from steaks and scallops to General Tso’s brussel sprouts and house made pastas. You can’t go wrong with items from any of their menus, from their craft cocktails and craft beers to their chef-inspired dinner menu. But no matter how satisfied you are with what you eat and drink, you can’t miss out on dessert and Venue’s Salted Caramel Cake takes the cake! Three layers of Devil’s food cake with layers of caramel buttercream topped with fleur de sel and salted caramel sauce. It’s a rich indulgent dessert that is perfect for sharing, or not. In the restaurant it’s served beautifully on a fine dining plate with extra caramel drizzle and whipped cream. Or get it packaged to-go and don’t miss out on the devilish treat anytime.
There’s nothing like walking into a bakery and being pelted with smells of confections, your ears buzzed by the sounds of mixers and ovens clanging and having your eyes assaulted by everything staring at you from the pastry case. To me these are the feelings of sweet satisfaction!
Goldenrod Pastries is Lincoln’s premiere inclusive bakery with a mission to have their sweets, “enjoyed by as many people, with as many diets, as possible. Gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan treats.” Their case is a work of art ranging from cakes and bars to mini loaves, slices of cheesecake to apple cider donuts and peanut butter glazed cocoa buns. Need to feed a crowd or can’t make up your mind? Me neither. Grab one of their signature big pink boxes and be prepared to fill it up, you won’t be disappointed.
A few other bakeries to satisfy your sweet tooth include the Rabbit Hole Bakery at 800 P Street, which offers handmade delicious, sweet creations for every occasion and Pan Dulce Mexican Bakery at 821 S. 11th Street. Butterfly Bakery at 4209 S. 33rd Street is another can’t miss! Be sure to try the chocolate cigars or mini cakes.
As you can see exploring Lincoln is exciting and can be any kind of adventure you want to make it. I prefer to eat my way through the city and as I’ve mentioned, I have a self-diagnosed sugar addiction. And while I’ve shared some of my family’s favorite sweet spots, I encourage you to explore the city and sample for yourself. There’s a spot for everyone and don’t forget to save that all important space for dessert––happy searching!