Sweet Spots If You Find You Never Have Room For Dessert After Dinner, Try These Restaurants And Skip The Meal

On this Valentine’s Eve, we’re going to get sweet on you.

Whoever said “life is short, eat dessert first” was on the right track. Let’s amend that, though, to something like: “Dinner is filling. Who’s got room for sweets?”

That’s why we’re suggesting you go out for just dessert.

Think about it. No guilt - or indigestion - from stuffing yourself at the end of a big meal. It can make a date a deal, costing much less than dinner out. And it’s a sweet way to end the evening - gabbing about the movie or play you’ve just seen over a plate of ooey-gooey goodies.

With the demise of Espresso Delizioso, the area lost one of its top dessert and coffee haunts. (Yeah, the service was lax, but it was tough to beat that case filled with cakes and tarts from local bakeries. Not to mention the beatniky atmosphere.)

After scouring dessert trays around the area, I found these to be the sweetest spots for sampling high-calorie slices of heaven.

Take note, though. Some eateries frown on customers taking up table space if they’re just ordering dessert, especially during peak dining hours. It’s always a good idea to call ahead and find out what’s acceptable.

Europa 125 N. Wall, 455-4051

Settling into one of the antique chairs or sofas in this pub is truly a pleasure. It’s like a cozy conservatory, a lovely spot for quiet conversation.

All the desserts are made in-house. The selection changes frequently, depending on what’s selling.

Count on chocolate being hot.

“This is a big chocolate town,” said owner Janice Maas.

Chocolate lovers bliss out on a three-layer chocolate mousse cake or peanut butter chocolate pie. The white chocolate raspberry swirl cheesecake is another favorite.

Several new items have recently joined the lineup including an Irish coffee pie (it packs a punch, so keep it away from the kids), a luscious amaretto-peach cheesecake and a tangy lemon tart. The tollhouse pie and carrot cake are longtime standbys.

Europa gets bonus points for being open until midnight seven days a week and for pouring port by the glass (it’s a perfect partner for chocolate) but gets marked down slightly for serving coffee in hard-to-handle dainty glass mugs.

Lindaman’s 1235 S. Grand Blvd., 838-3000

What a selection! The case is always deep in chocolate.

The ever-changing cast of characters at this venerable South Hill joint includes a dozen selections daily ranging from a simple white-wine cake to a decadent pot au creme, which tastes like a melt-in-your-mouth truffle. Or a stick of chocolate butter.

“We’ve been moving toward lighter, leaner entrees, but that doesn’t apply to the desserts,” said owner Merrilee Lindaman.

Chocolaty treats top the best-sellers list at Lindaman’s.

“If it’s not chocolate, people aren’t interested,” Lindaman said. “People will come in and get a Diet Coke and something chocolate.”

The distant second is homestyle fruit pies. These days, that might mean huckleberry, peach or marionberry, made with frozen fruit.

However, a dessert-loving friend reported that her slice of apple pie was a big disappointment. Looked good, tasted flat.

I recently puckered up to a tangy Key lime pie. It had a great, crumbly graham-cracker crust. The filling was a smooth dance between sweet and tart.

Grahams Six Grapes port is available by the glass, and you can always count on a good cup of coffee. The place closes by 9:30 p.m., though.

Beverly’s Coeur d’Alene Resort, 208-765-4000

This special-occasion restaurant attracts diners who want the full-on experience - from appetizers to that last bite of cheesecake. (Followed by brandy and stogies in the cigar lounge.)

Yet, it is possible to stop in strictly for sweets in this stylish setting.

This is one of the few places in the region with an on-site, trained pastry chef. Jim Barrett’s desserts take on a polished quality.

I’m a big fan of the souffles - Godiva chocolate, Grand Marnier or huckleberry. (Hold the cream sauce.)

But other interesting indulgences come in the form of a “firecracker” and a “bag.” These edible shapes have become the restaurant’s signature sweets. They’re stuffed with a variety of fluffy mousses and look almost too good to eat.

Cheesecake is the big favorite at Bev’s. The one topped with huckleberries is so very Idaho.

Another attraction is the superb wine list and the showy coffee service. Your java is accompanied by containers of whipped cream and bits of chocolate to sprinkle. (Heck, that alone could pass for dessert.)

Mizuna 214 N. Howard, 747-2004

This innovative vegetarian restaurant recently added an inviting wine bar. It’s a sophisticated spot to sample a flight of wines from the Northwest and California. Some of the crisp, fruity rieslings make fine complements to the treats.

The temptations here include offerings from the stellar Take the Cake bakery, as well as a dessert made in-house. (I only wish there was a larger list.)

The creations from chef Tonia Buckmiller are vegan, which means they contain no animal products.

You feel downright virtuous savoring the mango-lime cheesecake with a coconut-ginger crust (it’s made with tofu and, yeah, you’d never know the difference), fruit tarts or the airy peach-lemon mousse.

I’m partial to the homey coconut cake, which tastes like a leaner version of pound cake. And a recent dalliance with bread pudding was love at first bite. While light, it was intensely flavorful with a hint of orange. The presentation was nice, too, with delicate slivers of orange zest and a sprig of fresh mint decorating the plate.

Luna 5620 S. Perry, 448-2383

It’s not always easy to snag a table at this popular place. But slip in later in the evening and succumb to one of the pastries, made in-house.

I’m not big on chocolate - does that make me out of touch with the rest of Spokane? - but when I heard the macadamia nut and chocolate chip tart had just come out of the oven, I couldn’t resist.

The chocolate was balanced by the crunchy nuts and the flaky crust. It was incredible. And the plate, painted with swirls of chocolate, was a knockout, too.

Other choices on the “finale” menu include pumpkin cheesecake with praline topping, Key lime pie, tiramisu, creme brulee and fruit cobblers, which are warmed and served with ice cream.

Bonus points for serving French press coffee and having four different ports by the glass. (There’s also half bottles of dessert wines available.)

Niko’s 321 S. Dishman-Mica Road, 928-9590

Where else can you get a Turkish coffee and a gorgeous Greek pastry?

Maybe there are other spots that offer this cross-cultural option, but what makes Niko’s noteworthy is the huge variety of ethnic desserts made by owner Amal Elaimy with help from her daughter-in-law, Abir.

Peek in the display case and you’ll likely find the ubiquitous baklava and its cocoa-based cousin, chocalava.

Other traditional Greek pastries include a burma (flaky phyllo dough with nuts and spices covered in honey), halva (dates rolled in toasted sesame seeds and herbs) and a buttery cookie called kourabiethes.

A spicy-orange version of that is the crumbly melomakarona, which serves as a nice complement to the sweet, dark Turkish coffee.

Something simple, but deliciously different served at Niko’s, is ice cream topped with rosewater jelly.

The only disappointment was a dry carrot cake that the menu promised was “the best carrot cake ever.”

Honorable mentions

The chocolate or fruit-filled crepes at Le Crepe in NorthTown mall are tres bien.

Float away on a lemon cloud or the soda fountain stuff at The Elk.

And there’s Clink’s incomparable burnt cream. (But please bring back the pear-bread pudding.)

Cafe Roma has just introduced flambe desserts to its lineup.

“Grandma’s bread pudding” at Tomato Street sounds so comforting.

The creamy custard pies and the two-bit coffee at Nordstorm’s cafe are worth a look.

Luigi’s makes its own tortoni, an Italian-style treat with vanilla ice cream, almonds, Amaretto and maraschino cherries.

Among Cafe 5-Ten’s signature sweets is a balsamic vinegar ice cream. (Yes, ice cream flavored with vinegar.)

At Cannon Street Grill, they carry a selection of sweets from Pastry and More in Coeur d’Alene including the popular lemon lush and a double Dutch chocolate cake with ganache (a creamy chocolate glaze).

The chocolate mousse cassis cake at Cucina! Cucina! is a moist devil’s food layered with creamy mousse. But the best part is the pool of tart raspberry sauce that surrounds it.

Try the exotic mango ice cream and a cup of spicy chai at Taste of India.

The atmosphere is supermarket stark, but grab an organic espresso at Huckleberrys and drool over the outstanding selection of pastries from the best bakeries in town including Take the Cake, The Rocket, Fery’s Catering and Cobblestone.

Finally, for those who favor savory over sweet - check out the cheese plate at Combray in Pullman.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 photos

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