The strip malls that line Bellaire Boulevard are deceptively plain. An ever-growing collection of restaurants, retail shops, and businesses, these tan buildings make up one of Houston’s most compelling dining neighborhoods.
Over the past couple of years, the neighborhood has also become a destination for over-the-top desserts of all kinds. In addition to the killer bowls of pho and Sichuan favorites, sweet-focused chains from Taiwan, Australia, China, and Japan are serving their ice cream, shave ice, macarons, waffles, and sweet dessert soups, and that doesn’t even come close to covering the area’s dessert diversity.
Jump in the car and head to Bellaire Boulevard — the sugar rush that awaits at these dessert destinations will definitely not disappoint.
85C Bakery Cafe
Where: 9750 Bellaire Boulevard
What to order: Sea salt coffee, all the pastries
This Taiwanese chain is taking over Houston’s dessert scene, and the sprawling selection of pastries, breads, and desserts is quickly winning a cult of devotees. The sea salt coffee (or tea) is a must — the salt helps cut the bitterness of coffee, making for a smoother drink — and so is piling up a tray with as many kooky pastries you can find.
On a recent visit, savory buns tinted black with slightly salty squid ink and piled high with bacon and cheese were flying out of the case, and the sweetened brioche studded with dots of cream cheese and sprinkled with coarse sugar is a consistently great breakfast standby.
- Where: 9889 Bellaire Boulevard
- What to order: Sea salt soft-serve
It’s true that this Australian import is mostly Instagram bait, thanks to its neon signs and giant angel wings mural that’s perfect for selfie-posing. But the ocean blue sea salt ice cream perfectly walks the line between salty and sweet, making it much more delicious than the average gimmick.
In addition to the sea salt soft serve, Aqua S offers rotating flavors that change constantly. Recent offerings include oolong milk tea, matcha, and pandan leaf. As far as toppings are concerned, the optional halo of cotton candy is mostly unnecessary, but toasted marshmallow and crunchy popcorn add nice contrast to a creamy, chilly cone.
- Where: 10603 Bellaire Boulevard
- What to order: Mango mille crepe cake
As its name might indicate, Mango Mango is obsessed with its namesake tropical fruit, featured in dishes like the intricately-layered mango mille crepe cake. Venture out of the dessert comfort zone with one of this shop’s sweet soups, like an ube dessert soup served with chewy mochi balls.
- Where: 11201 Bellaire Boulevard
- What to order: Pandan leaf waffles
Pandan leaf is frequently described as the “vanilla of Asia,” thanks to its complex flavor profile. At this sweet shop, the fragrant leaf is infused into waffle batter that’s tinted a pale green, and crisped to perfection on the waffle iron.
These waffles are best eaten warm, and washed down with a juice made of passionfruit and sugarcane. Need even more sweet? Head a mile west to Twisted Love, Coco Sweets’ sister shop, for swirls of soft serve in flavors like ube and durian.