716 Maple Rd, Williamsville, NY 14221
Web: Dessert Deli
Rating: [learn more]
Fantastic, attractive desserts focus largely on varied chocolate and fruit cake slices, as well as limited pie, cookie, cupcake, and candy choices. Full coffee and tea bar serves nice specialty drinks.
Fairly expensive given the portion sizes. Some dessert items, particularly the non-cake ones, aren't mindblowing.
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"Given many other sweet shop options... it's worth the extra drive, the extra dollars, and the extra pounds a visit entails; like most great things in life, all we could ask for is more."
To the best of our knowledge, and we've been hunting, there is no better sit-down dessert shop in the area than Williamsville's Dessert Deli, found on Maple Road at North Forest. In addition to a selection of elaborate custom decorated party cakes that could easily wind up in Food Network competitions - save perhaps for their similarity to prior designs - this small restaurant specializes in offering individual slices of cake, cupcakes, cookies, and small candies that aren't cheap, but are presented with visual panache. More importantly, each of the items is consistently delicious, so a table of four will quickly find itself discussing which of several shared cakes is the best, without reaching a consensus. We've visited a dozen times in the last six months, and we have yet to walk away disappointed.
The Story: Ignore the stuff on Dessert Deli's web site about daily lunches; they're no longer offered and, quite frankly, as unnecessary here as they were at Starbucks: if you come to a place called Dessert Deli, you're coming for the desserts and the coffee or tea, not for a sandwich. Make no mistake, you'll pay a bit more for cake here than at many local restaurants - it's not unusual to spend $7 per slice - but between the flavor and the appearance of the plate, each item here feels more like a piece of edible art than a mere snack. That's part of the reason there's often a line at the counter and the tables are at last half full whenever we visit; the place is especially busy on Ladies' Night Thursdays, when Dessert Deli allows two women to get two chocolate cake slices for the price of one. Don't try the old "how about two slices for a woman and a man?" question; the staff appears to be very familiar with it, and never seems to say yes. You'd be better off showing up with a wig, a dress, and a close shave.
Highs: After many visits, we have yet to try a bad dessert here - everything from the carrot cake to the many types of chocolate cake is a winner, and the sheer variety of chocolate and non-chocolate cake options makes repeat visits mandatory. To go through just a handful of the options we've tried, there's the Chocolate Raspberry Ganache Cake, a chocolate cake with whipped raspberry chocolate ganache inside and chocolate ganache outside - like all of Dessert Deli's substantially chocolate cakes, this one oozes decadence rather than offering restraint. You'll often find so many chocolate options - one "extreme," one "overdose," another mocha, and so on - that it'll be hard to choose between them; as noted above, reasonable minds will disagree as to which is right on a given night.
On the seemingly healthier side, there's a Carrot Cake that breaks the mold of standard cream cheese, spice and carrot-flecked cakes by adding delicious little pieces of pineapple. We've tried many carrot cakes, notably including Wegmans' wonderful but expensive Ultimate Carrot Cake, and though this one's more expensive on a per-piece basis, the pineapple makes the taste a little more memorable. While the Key Lime Pie doesn't stray much from the classic formula, offering a combination of tart mousse and and a tasty, almondy crust, that's a good thing in that it's not always easy to find this dessert freshly prepared and properly both sweet and sour.
Other items, such as small chocolates, cookies, and cupcakes, are also available at lower prices and tend to taste a little bit better than one would typically expect from each item, but not outstanding. The tea collection, with the notable exception of a freshly made and consistently wonderful sweet Indian Chai latte, is mostly served from bags; hot cocoa is, like the Chai, especially nice during the winter.
Lows: The only thing we'd change at Dessert Deli is the pricing - well, that and the gender-specific two-for-one deal on Thursdays. As noted, you'd do better on value to buy an entire Wegmans Ultimate Carrot Cake than two slices of the Carrot Cake here, but then, that's almost always the story with good dessert shops. We understand that we're paying a little for the presentation and the seating, which doesn't entail a mandatory tip for the service, and a small premium since the flavor is so consistently excellent, but you can get a decent dessert at many restaurants for a lower price.
The Verdict: Given many other sweet shop options, including any number that would cost less, we keep coming back to Dessert Deli - especially on Thursdays. In our experience, it's worth the extra drive, the extra dollars, and the extra pounds a visit entails; like most great things in life, all we could ask for is more.