Where do Utahns go when they want a late-night treat — but would prefer not to hang out in a club?
The dessert bar, of course.
Dessert-only restaurants and cafes are part of a new eating trend along the Wasatch Front.
More than traditional ice cream shops — although most offer scoops of the cool, creamy treat as well — dessert bars feature an array of sweets from traditional cakes, cookies and pie to more creative experiments such as a chocolate banana taco or a chicken-and-waffle sundae.
If savory food is offered, it’s limited. Iced drinks, soda, coffee, tea and other nonalcoholic beverages also are sold.
If there is somewhere in America where the dessert-only concept seems certain to succeed, Utah is the place.
The Beehive State offers the trifecta of necessary ingredients: large families with many children; a well-known love of sugary treats; and a large population of Mormons, who are taught to abstain from alcohol.
Homespun in Holladay
Raelynn Potts debuted Auntie Rae’s Dessert Island in the bustling Holiday Boulevard shopping district in May 2015. It’s open Monday through Saturday until 10 p.m.
Guests can sit down for a slice of pie or cake, nibble on a brownie or dive into a homemade cookie sundae.
The afternoon tea service, which includes finger sandwiches and desserts, is another popular lure. The shop is also one of the few places to get pineapple soft serve ice cream outside of Disneyland and Hawaii, Potts said.
Auntie Rae’s marks a second career for Potts, who has a master of business administration and worked in administration at the University of Utah for 20 years before retiring.
As she planned her business, she wanted it to have three features. It had to be a place for people to gather. “It’s important for me that people interact and enjoy each other’s company.”
She wanted families to bring their children. To that end, the restaurant is an older, remodeled home that still sports a small nook off the main dining area where there are books and toys to entertain children.
Finally, it needed to be open late.
“There are a lot of people who don’t want to go to bars,” Potts said, “but they are usually the only thing open late.”
Auntie Rae’s Dessert Island • 4704 S. Holladay Blvd.; 801-679-3925 or auntieraesdessertisland.com. Open Monday-Saturday, noon to 10 p.m.
Sweets from the heart
The treats at Salt Lake City’s Doki Doki dessert cafe will transport visitors to the streets of Japan, Thailand, China and Vietnam, says its 26-year-old owner, Irie Cao.
It’s a hidden gem on the main level of the Stoneground Kitchen building across the street from Salt Lake City’s showcase Main Library.
Doki Doki — which translates to heartbeat — serves Japanese sweet crêpes and rolled ice cream.
“Desserts in Asia are different than America, “ Cao explained. “They are meant to be more refreshing,” with fresh fruits and a touch of sweetness.
The crêpes fit the description. Paper thin and airy, they are rolled into a cone, filled with fruit and ice cream and then drizzled with a choice of chocolate, caramel, peanut butter or Nutella.
Guests can watch staffers prepare the rolled ice cream — made on a cold metal sheet akin to a pizza pan. The process is as much fun to watch as the treat is to eat.
For something different, order the “cheese tea,” a cold tea topped with a whipped, salted cream cheese mousse. Thick and fluffy, the mousse slowly melds into the tea as it sits.
“Sip until you taste the tea,” Cao instructs a guest. “If you do it correctly, you’re supposed to get a foamy mustache.”
Doki Doki • 249 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City; 385-229-4339 or www.facebook.com/dokidessert. Open Monday-Thursday, noon to 10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, noon to 11 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 8 p.m.
Sweet tooth heaven
Josh Roberts and Scott Bonham said they spent four months trying to launch their dessert-only restaurant in Arizona. It never got off the ground.
“We came back to Utah, and things just fell into place,” said Roberts, a Utah native and the chief financial officer for Last Course, an ice cream and dessert studio with locations in Draper and Salt Lake City. A third store is expected to open soon in Farmington.
The studio sells more than a dozen desserts, including offerings like Foster’s banana taco: three cinnamon sugar shells filled with sautéed caramel pecan bananas and vanilla ice cream; and the deconstructed German chocolate cake served in a chocolate sphere that melts when hot caramel sauce is drizzled on top.
“There’s definitely some entertainment value,” said Paul Kuhn, a co-owner and executive chef.
Ice cream is available in more than a dozen flavors, including traditional vanilla, chocolate and strawberry as well as unexpected combinations such as cheddar apple and smoked maple bacon. There are several vegan options as well.
While the shops are open in the afternoon, customer traffic picks up in the evening and on weekends, said Roberts. “People like the idea. Not everyone can go have a $100 meal, but they can come have a nice dessert.”
And they don’t need an Uber or designated driver to get home.
Last Course • 115 S. Regent St., Salt Lake City, and 185 E. 12500 South, Draper; 801-410-4708 or lastcourse.com. Open Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight.