Sweet Escape

Where date nights and road trips meet

By Samantha Stutsman

» Some among us would cross the desert for a dessert. Fortunately, there’s no need for such drastic measures. The south side is filling up quickly with local — and noteworthy — dessert shops, and with ice cream, cupcakes, cookies and cakes on menus throughout Johnson County, there’s plenty to choose from if you want to indulge in a treat with your sweetie.

But might we suggest a date night less traveled? To add a little extra adventure, sugar and zing to your romantic routine, hop in the car with your beloved and head to Cincinnati or Louisville. After all, fall is the perfect time to go for a drive; the leaves changing colors on the trees will brighten any crisp, cool autumn day. As for the sugar-laden delicacies each city offers its regulars and guests? They’re just the icing on the cake.


Sweet Surrender Dessert Café
1804 Frankfort Ave., (502) 899-2008, sweetsurrenderdessertcafe.com
It’s easy to surrender to the sweets at this café, which is nestled in a Victorian home built in 1894. Sweet Surrender Dessert Café opened in 1987. Jessica Haskell, who had worked at the café off and on for years, bought the spot in 2006. As visitors nosh away at the café’s popular offerings, which include bourbon caramel carrot cake or mocha concord, Haskell will make you feel right at home.

“I love what I do here. It’s great to be in a business where you’re making people happy,” Haskell says. “It feels really good when people come back.”

Homemade Ice Cream & Pie Kitchen 
10 area locations. (502) 459-8184, piekitchen.com
Before it was the pie kitchen, Homemade Ice Cream & Pie Kitchen was a lunch counter owned and operated by Mike and Gina Cox. Now owned by Adam and Mary Lee Burckle, the business has expanded to 10 kitchens, which fire up daily at 4 a.m. The menu features more than 100 dessert options, and customers are often overwhelmed by the endless selection of pies and cakes. Look for the award-winning Dutch apple caramel pie. Other favorites are the upside-down caramel cupcake, meringue pie and the seasonal peach ice cream.

The Comfy Cow
1301 Herr Lane, Suite 118, (502) 425-4979, thecomfycow.com
Featured on the Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food” in January, this 6,500-square-foot shop boasts an ever-changing rotation of flavors. Owners Tim and Roy Koons-McGee glean flavor inspiration from various sources, including their mother’s red velvet cake to smells wafting from the restaurant making bacon pecan brittle down the street. The Comfy Cow tips a hat to its Kentucky roots, using Old Forester Bourbon as the signature ingredient in the shop’s bourbon ball ice cream. Other fan favorites include cake-flavored batter up and dulce de leche.


Sweet Petit Desserts
1426 Race St., (513) 443-5094, sweetpetitdesserts.com
Sweet Petit owner Taren Kinebrew served in the Army National Guard for seven years while working as an analyst for IBM. In 2009, she took a new path and decided to open her own bakery; a third-generation baker, Kinebrew grew up learning kitchen wisdom from her grandmother. “By creating simple flavors and unique artistry, I encourage my customers to lose themselves completely in the sweet sensuality of it all,” she says. Sweet Petit’s menu includes cake pops, double-chocolate delights, red velvet bites and lemon squares.

Buona Terra
1028 Delta Ave., (513) 386-9356, buonaterragelato.com
This is a gelateria, crepery and bakery all rolled into one. Opened in 2012 Buona Terra, co-owned by Eric Roeder, Matt Wu and Stijn Van Woensel, has become a thriving sweet stop for Cincinnatians and Queen City visitors since its opening in 2012. Headlining the list of 10 signature gelato flavors is the white chocolate lavender. If you’re heading in for dessert crepes, make sure to try either the Belgian breakfast or the turtle mudslide.

Macaron Bar
1206 Main St., (
513) 813-8181, macaron-bar.com
New to the Cincinnati dining scene, this sleek bakery with a mod concept was founded in 2014. The business has quickly grown to three locations, one each in the Queen City’s Over-the-Rhine, Hyde Park and Kenwood neighborhoods. Nathan Sivitz, who trained in a macarons master class at Ecole Lenôtre in Paris, counts the rose, lemon, pistachio and salted caramel flavors among the shop’s best-sellers. He also offers classes at the company’s Over-the-Rhine location in case macaron lovers should want to master these difficult but worth it confections. Macaron Bar’s macarons are gluten-free and $2 a cookie. Patrick Moloughney and Sivitz are also focused on giving back to the community; 5 percent of their total revenue is donated to local nonprofit organizations. Beneficiaries include the Freestore Foodbank, Community Shares of Greater Cincinnati and GLSEN Greater Cincinnati.