When it comes to dessert, we appreciate peak-season produce in a pastry or a textbook crème brûlée, but let’s be honest — nothing competes with a decadent chocolate dessert. Grand finales like Gary Danko's baked chocolate soufflé or Bix’s luscious warm chocolate brioche bread pudding can’t be beat for that thrilling closing bite. Skip the salad and save room for SF’s most indulgent chocolate treats.
Grand Marnier chocolate pot de crème at The Riddler
As if caviar, champagne and tater tot waffles aren’t indulgent enough, there is silky chocolate pot de crème spiked with a touch of Grand Marnier waiting for that next round of bubbles at Hayes Valley’s cheery ode to sparkling wine. Keeping with the theme, it’s served in an unused caviar tin and topped with dark chocolate pearls. Eating caviar straight out of a tin is normally a party foul, we're big fans when it involves chocolate caviar beads and luscious pot de crème.
528 Laguna St.; 415-589-7002
Hot chocolate at Recchiuti Confections at theLab
Hot chocolate in San Francisco essentially has two forms: the typical light and frothy kind and the resolutely rich hot chocolate that basically seems like liquefied dark chocolate bars. You may have heard your Francophile friends give soliloquies about the famous chocolat Africain at Angelina in Paris, and this is the style we’re talking about. While the sipping chocolate at Dandelion definitely is worth trying, the city's must-try cup is from our city’s chocolate maestro, Michael Recchiuti. Of course, it's served with a housemade marshmallow on top.
801 22nd St.; 415-489-2881
Baked chocolate soufflé at Gary Danko
Here’s a time warp for longtime San Francisco diners: Remember when Gary Danko was the chef at The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton? That was back in the early '90s, also around the time he created this now-iconic treat for a guest who requested a baked chocolate soufflé…that wasn’t even on the menu. Danko’s now-signature dessert is elegant and perfectly timed, arriving at your table with the cloudlike egg white dome still at its majestic peak. Then a hole is punctured and Belgian dark chocolate sauce and crème anglaise are added to the center, mixing beautifully with the airy chocolate custard core.
Price: The soufflé is an option on the restaurant’s three-course $89 menu. There are other fixed price options with more courses available.
800 North Point St.; 415-749-2060
Warm “PayDay” brownie at Al’s Place
In the world of extreme food mash-ups, combining a brownie and a candy bar doesn’t seem that crazy, right? After all of those somewhat healthy vegetable dishes at the Mission’s ultra-popular Californian spot, diners make a u-turn from "snackles" and black kale to this signature dessert. It combines a soft brownie, peanut butter ice cream and a caramel-peanut filling playing the role of a PayDay bar. The caramel mixes with ice cream, and then comes gushing out of the brownie like a soft egg yolk on avocado toast. It's a winner for your taste buds — and your Instagram feed.
1499 Valencia St.; 415-416-6136
Chocolate soufflé cake at Tartine
So, you really want to find peak chocolate decadence in San Francisco? Head to one of the two Tartine locations in the Mission for this regal three-tiered slice of unabashed chocolate paradise. A thin base of chocolate cake serves as the bottom layer for a substantial middle of irresistible flourless Valrhona chocolate mousse, topped by a thick helping of dark chocolate ganache. Soft, luxurious and not too sweet: It’s the birthday cake of every chocolate lover’s dreams.
Price: $6.25 per slice and $42 for six-inch cake
600 Guerrero St.; 415-487-2600
Warm chocolate brioche bread pudding at Bix
We should warn you that this one has been nicknamed by some as a “heart attack pudding.” Yes, dinner at Bix is an indulgent and celebratory experience, from the sumptuous supper club design to that second round of Manhattans, so why not spring for dessert? This is a simple but intense recipe where brioche soaks up dark chocolate and milk, then is coated with chocolate custard, and finally baked. It makes for a muffinlike surface and a dense brownielike interior. It's all topped with whipped cream and chocolate sauce for the closing mic drop.
56 Gold St.; 415-433-6300
Warm chocolate soufflé tart at Octavia
Melissa Perello’s ever-charming Pacific Heights New American restaurant has one of the city’s most formidable dessert programs, in large part because it goes seasonal with classics like profiteroles, éton mess or toasted angel food cake. But the showstopper dessert doesn’t care about seasons — it’s all about the chocolate. Chef de cuisine (and pastry virtuoso) Sara Hauman had the brilliant idea to transplant a chocolate soufflé into a tart shell for a textural clash of soft and crunchy. On the side, there's cocoa nib brittle and salted caramel ice cream waiting to add supporting dimensions of fun and indulgence until the last bite.
1701 Octavia St.; 415-408-7507
Chocolate pavé at Jardinière
Tortes, tarts, cakes…pavés? Learn about another chocolate dessert form at the Hayes Valley Cali-French classic. A pavé lies somewhere between a pot de crème and a torte, where it’s a solid and sturdy dessert but also light and airy like a mousse. Each bite of the pavé thrills with the powerful contrast of dark chocolate and espresso, completed by the bitter crunch of umami-rich cocoa nib tuile (that should be sold by the packet like peanut brittle).
300 Grove St.; 415-861-5555
Milk chocolate ganache and hickory ice cream at 1760
San Francisco dessert menus have more creative s’mores variations than actual s’mores nowadays. The best of them — and certainly one of the most artistic — has been on the menu at this Polk Gulch restaurant since opening night in 2013. It looks like the kind of s'more artist Mark di Suvero might sculpt: The tangle of milk chocolate ganache plays off the smoky tanginess of hickory ice cream and pippetted dots of bronzed marshmallow, finished with even more smoky notes courtesy of bourbon-enriched caramel. You won’t find a s’more like this on your next camping or glamping trek.
1760 Polk St.; 415-359-1212
Chocolate cremeux cake at One Market
Orange and chocolate are magical in tandem but strangely underutilized outside of chocolate-covered orange peels. Luckily, it's One Market co-pastry chef Jan Sy’s favorite flavor combinations, which he uses in this standout dessert. Along with blood oranges and a chocolate-orange sherbet, the cremeux fuses together distinct floral notes (from a specific Alpaco chocolate used for the dish) and herbal notes from Earl Grey incorporated in the whipped ganache and separate morsels of sponge cake. The flavor notes are indeed all over the place but beautifully tied together because of that dynamic duo: chocolate and orange.
1 Market St.; 415-777-5577
Crissy Field sundae at The Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop
If you're looking for a quintessential San Francisco chocolate indulgence, then just take one look at the overwhelming menu of sundaes at Ghirardelli Square and pick anything. We'll steer you towards the one that both chocoholics and Cookie Monster would approve of. The sundae uses vanilla and cookies ‘n’ cream as the base, topped with homemade hot fudge, chocolate chip cookie crumbles, whipped cream and, of course, some Ghirardelli milk chocolate–caramel minis. It’s appropriately named for the nearby recreational area; after this gigantic treat, a walk there sounds like a good idea.
801 Beach St.; 415-474-3938