If you’re just getting settled in Tacoma, dropping by for a visit, or you’re in a dessert rut, here’s a guide to my favorite sweet treats in our city and where to find them.
You might not be planning on ice cream, but a block or two away from Ice Cream Social you'll notice smiling people licking colorful scoops from freshly pressed waffle cones and the toasted vanilla fragrance unique to ice cream parlors wafting down the sidewalk. You'd better just go in and see what flavors they have. You're going to like it.
Ice Cream Social is friendly and sources local ingredients as much as possible. Find their "everyday flavors" such as Valhalla Coffee (from the roaster less than a mile up the street), salted caramel, or cookies and cream. Or, try a scoop from the "rotating flavors" like roasted banana, lavender, or cherry almond. If you're vegan, or eating a non-dairy diet, you're still in luck! They always have options for you too (coconut chocolate chip, strawberry sorbet...). There's also a Point Ruston location if you're looking for a treat while walking the waterfront.
2. North Tacoma: The Cookie from Metropolitan Market - 2420 N Proctor St
Once I’m on the subject of what's sweet and good in Tacoma, visions of The Cookie appear with its melted chocolate chips, walnuts, gooey center, and crispy edges. And it’s big, and it’s always fresh as though it has just come out of some perfect oven. Metropolitan Market's bakery has other beautiful desserts to offer, and there's also a gelato counter, so feel free to explore, but please try The Cookie!
3. Downtown: Date Night Dessert at en Rama - 1102 A St (photo by @enramatacoma)
The desserts at en Rama (a wood- paneled, stylish, yet cozy restaurant/bar in the old post office building downtown where you will also find beautiful cocktails and fresh pasta) are created by pastry chef Erin Powell. At en Rama the menu is seasonal, so go with an open mind and expect to enjoy whatever you order. It could be a Pavlova, with lemon cream, Puyallup blackberries, and basil. Or chocolate cake with pistachio butter and whipped cream. It will be delicious. You can also support Erin through her business Girl Loves Cake Desserts, and at the Steilacoom Farmers Market where she sells her confections.
4. Hilltop: Ice Cream Bar at Johnson Candy Co. - 924 MLK Jr Way
Support a third generation small family business; eat an ice cream bar! This is a seasonal treat, so look for it in the summer. Choose milk or dark chocolate, with almonds or without, filled with vanilla. Gretchen and I shared one at the Hilltop Street Fair this August as a pre-lunch dessert. It was a good choice. You'll also find truffles, candies, and chocolates year round at this sweet spot with its old-school sign; you can't miss it cruising on MLK.
5. Stadium District: Shake Shake Shake - 124 N Tacoma Ave (photo by @shakeshakeshaketacoma)
Too many ice cream tips? Sorry, but we haven't covered shakes yet! Take a walk around Wright Park, then over to Shake Shake Shake for a "classic" chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry shake. Or, order up one of the "deluxe" shakes like mocha banana malted, miso butterscotch, red licorice, or the Tacoma themed tiger shake, named for neighboring Stadium High's mascot, with salted caramel and Almond Roca from Tacoma's own Brown & Haley. You might want to walk around the park again afterwards; you know how it feels.
I'm stopping at 5 favorites, but of course there are other spots serving fun treats in this city: Frisko Freeze in Stadium for malts and shakes, Corina Bakery next to The Grand Cinema for layer cake, muffins, bars, and scones, Dolce Si at Point Ruston for Sicilian treats and gelato, Don's Ruston Market & Deli in Ruston for their soda fountain. It doesn't have to end here!
P.S. What about doughnuts? Almost every Tacoma neighborhood has its own go-to doughnut shop. We smell doughnuts in the air from the shop down the block when we let our dog out in the morning. A subject for another day.