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For us, a helping of Southern comfort doesn’t come cooler than ice cream or frozen yogurt, and in Nashville, Tennessee, they really know how to dish it out. For those with a sweet tooth, there’s plenty more in store – from fudge and doughnuts to banana pudding and cupcakes. No matter what your favorite dessert is, you’re sure to find something sweet to tickle your tastebuds in Nashville. These are our pick of the bunch.
You haven’t experienced a doughnut until you’ve tried the 100-layer leviathan from Five Daughters Bakery. It’s so exquisite that it takes four days to make just one. Calorie-counters, look away now. Once it’s cooked, it’s rolled in sugar, filled with cream and topped with glaze. You’re spoiled for taste but we particularly recommend vanilla sugar, chocolate sea salt or maple glaze. The bakery also features flavors of the month, including coconut cream pie, lemon blueberry and tiramisu.
Curious about the name? It nods to Lon and Annie Loveless, who set about serving fried chicken and biscuits out of their front door in 1951. Today, classic down-home Southern cooking is what you’ll still get at the Loveless Cafe. The menu also features a range of dessert options, such as cobbler and pie, as well as the madly popular, made-from-scratch banana pudding. We’ll say it – this is one of the very best sweet treats in Nashville, with a rich flavor and creamy texture, you simply have to try it.
There are milkshakes, and then there are downtown institution Legendairy’s milkshakes. Like ice-cream sundaes on steroids, they’re piled as high as is physically possible, with whipped cream, waffles, chocolate chip cookies or marshmallows – depending on what you order. Its bestseller, Rolling in the Cookie Dough, features cookie-dough ice cream, a chocolate-icing rim, whipped cream, cookie-dough bites, chocolate drizzle and a whole chocolate chip cookie wedged in on top. Make sure you bring an appetite.
This Mexican ice-cream parlor has flavors you won’t find anywhere else, at least not north of the US-Mexico border. Queso (cheese), rice and raisin, and tequila with sliced almonds are some of the more acquired tastes; meanwhile, piña colada, cereal milk – laced with crunchy cornflakes – and tamarind will also give you a sense of culinary adventure. But the most popular flavor is easily the mangonada, a sundae made from mango sorbet, lime juice and chamoy sauce – a fruity, spicy, salty concoction made with chilies and apricots. It’s tongue-tinglingly refreshing, not to mention addictive – if it’s your first, it won’t be your last.
There are few things more iconic in the South than a good pecan pie, and they don’t get much better than the ones from Sweet Creations. This family-run bakery is a bit of a local legend and the go-to place for a special-occasion pie. The chocolate chip version is rich, buttery and crammed full of caramelized pecans. It’s irresistible when still warm, but hold off until you can add a dollop of vanilla ice cream on top. Other pie highlights include its apple pie, sweet potato pie and pumpkin pie – a sellout around Thanksgiving and Halloween.
It’s the godfather of the modern chocolate bar. Before Snickers, Kit Kat, Bounty or Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut, there was the Goo Goo Cluster. Invented in 1912, this mound of caramel, marshmallow nougat, peanuts and chocolate represented the first time anyone had created a chocolate or candy product that consisted of more than one principal ingredient. Today, the recipe is still pretty much the same, with the addition of two other varieties – one with pecans instead of peanuts and one with peanut butter in place of nougat and caramel. All are equally impossible to resist.
Booze and doughnuts might not be the most obvious food combination – unless you’re Homer Simpson, speaking of which, you must try their Homer D’ohnut – but here, they go hand in hand to delicious effect. Not only is there an impressive number of taps for pouring locally brewed craft beers, but the signature doughnut sports a rich and smoky whiskey glaze. The beers are selected to complement the doughnuts’ flavor combinations. If you’d prefer a glass of wine or a cocktail with yours, they’ll do that, too.
You can feel the sugar rush before you even walk into this eccentric, homespun operation in suburban Turtle Creek. It features a freezer cabinet full of popsicles as luminous as lightsabers, pink and purple booths with tables plastered in comic-book cut-outs, and a ceiling hung like a funfair game with plush toys and tinselly decorations. It really has gone to town on the Willy Wonka vibes. Luckily, the ice cream is good enough to add substance to the style, while the home-made popsicles are fun and bursting with refreshing flavors. Cucumber and chili, soursop, and watermelon and cream are some of the more adventurous options in an impossible-to-pick selection of delights.
Fancy a sweet treat that’s as delicious as it is unique? The Baked Bear is the place for you. Here, the order of the day is an ice-cream sandwich – any way you like it. You choose the sandwich layers, from cookies to slabs of chocolate brownie, then the ice cream and, finally, the toppings. There are more than 1,500 combinations, such as sea salt peanut butter cookies with dark chocolate ice cream covered in mini M&Ms, or red velvet cookies with blackberry crumble ice cream and almonds on top. Get creative!
Alex Allen contributed additional reporting.